The Hero of Pearl Harbor, the Dorie Story

The Story of Doris Miller, WWII Hero

The Hero of Pearl Harbor

The Story of Dorie Miller, the Hero Who Saved Pearl Harbor

78 Years Ago, on December 7th 1941 Japan attached Pearl Harbor in Hawaii prompting Americas entry into World War Two. Dorie Miller  became the first American Hero of World War Two due to his courageous actions on that day.

Dorie’s Early Life

Miller was born in Waco, Texas, on October 12, 1919, to Connery and Henrietta Miller. He was named Doris, as the midwife who assisted his mother was convinced the baby would be female.  He was the third of four sons and helped around the house, cooking meals and doing laundry, as well as working on the family farm. Miller was a good student and was a fullback on the football team at Waco’s A.J. Moore High School. 

On January 25, 1937, at age 17, he began attending the eighth grade again. Forced to repeat the grade the following year, Miller decided to drop out of school.  He filled his time squirrel hunting with a .22 rifle and completed a correspondence course in taxidermy. Miller applied to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, but was not accepted. At that time he was 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighed more than 200 pounds (91 kg).

The Navy Calls

Miller worked on his father’s farm until shortly before his 20th birthday. On September 16, 1939, he enlisted in the United States Navy. Following training at Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, he was promoted to Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the few ratings open at the time to African Americans. 

After training school, he was assigned to the ammunition ship Pyro and then was transferred on January 2, 1940 to the battleship West Virginia. It was on the West Virginia where he started competition boxing, becoming the ship’s heavyweight champion. Miller was promoted to Mess Attendant Second Class on February 16, 1941. In July of that year he was on temporary duty aboard the Nevada at Secondary Battery Gunnery School. He returned to the West Virginia in August 1941.

It is speculated that Miller’s nickname “Dorie” originated from a typographical error. After he was nominated for recognition for his actions on December 7, 1941, the Pittsburgh Courier released a story on March 14, 1942, that gave his name as “Dorie Miller”.  Since then, some writers have suggested it was a “nickname to shipmates and friends.”

 

His Pearl Harbor story…

The Hero of Pearl Harbor, the Navy Cook who shot down seven Japanese Planes 76 years ago on Dec 7th 1941. Dorie Miller would be recognized as the First Hero of World War Two in America. He could have spent the rest of the war in promotional and recruitment activities, but he elected to return to active duty where he died in combat exactly two years later on December 7th 1943 in the Battle of Makin Island.

“Dorie” Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943) was a cook in the United States Navy noted for his bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor awarded by the U.S. Navy at the time, after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

His citation: distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard of his personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller despite enemy strafing and bombing, and in the face of serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety and later manned and operated a machine gun until ordered to leave the bridge.”

 

Officially Recognized

Dorie Miller was recognized as “The First Hero of World War Two”. Miller was recognized as one of the “first heroes of World War II”. He was commended in a letter signed by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on April 1, 1942, and the next day CBS radio broadcast an episode of the series, “They Live Forever”, which dramatized Miller’s actions.

On May 27, 1942 Miller was personally recognized by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise. Nimitz presented Miller with the Navy Cross, the third-highest award for gallantry during combat that the Navy awarded at the time. Miller was cited for: “distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard of his personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

Heroic Deeds

While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller despite enemy strafing and bombing, and in the face of serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety and later manned and operated a machine gun until ordered to leave the bridge”. Dorie Miller was one of the few Black Men to be heavily publicized for his heroic actions and became a symbol for the Navy’s Recruiting drives in World War Two. Dorie Miller could have spent the remainder of the War involved in USO Promotional activities Instead he elected to return to active duty where he died in the Battle of Makin Island on December 7th 1943. 

On May 27, 1942 Miller was personally recognized by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise. Nimitz presented Miller with the Navy Cross, the third-highest award for gallantry during combat that the Navy awarded at the time. Miller was cited for: “distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard of his personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

One of Many

Dorie Miller was one of the few Black Men to be heavily publicized for his heroic actions and became a symbol for the Navy’s Recruiting drives in World War Two. Dorie Miller could have spent the remainder of the War involved in USO Promotional activities.  Instead, he elected to return to active duty where he died in the Battle of Makin Island on December 7th, 1943.

The City of Waco Texas is creating a monument to this man. Here is a link to the Doris Miller Memorial https://dorismillermemorial.org/donate/

 

Sources: UIHistorian- Peter Crowell Anderson, Navy Times, Encyclopedia Brittanica, Wikipedia

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Peter Crowell Anderson
About Peter Crowell Anderson 6 Articles
Peter Crowell Anderson joins The Founding Project as a Historian and Writer. Peter holds a Bachelor of Science in Historical Studies & Fine Arts from Boston University | Boston, MA Class of 1983 Anderson is employed as the Business Development Director of M1 Data and Analytics handling the Political Communications Division. In addition, Anderson is involved with these additional organizations: Member, American Conservatives of Color Member, Black Republicans Member Florida Republican Executive Committee for Broward County

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