Doris Miller – The Pearl Harbor Hero

doris miller image
Written by Tinaya Sallie

The Pearl Harbor attack is one of those unfortunate events that will stick with many people for years to come. Even if you weren’t there, just being able to hear or read about such an ordeal is quite a load, especially if you are one with a vivid imagination.

Born in Texas on the 12th of October in 1919, Doris “Dorie” Miller was the first and only child to a fairly poor couple of sharecroppers, Connery and Henrietta Miller. Doris pretty much stood out in any group he was placed in, standing at 5’ 9” weighing 200 pounds. He was a regular fullback on his high school football team after being expelled because of his numerous fights over racial issues. In 1939 at 20 years old, he enrolled in the US Navy and served as a Mess Attendant Third Class, then became the chef on board after being moved to the USS Virginia battleship. He continued to move up the ranks and got transferred to various locations and on his return to the USS Virginia in August 1940, he was a towering figure at 6’ 3”.

On the 7th of December 1941, on a mission in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the USS Virginia was attacked by over 200 Japanese planes strapped with bombs. Alarms were sounded and everyone rushed to their assigned battle stations. Miller’s station was already destroyed from the blasting. Because of his enormous size, he was sent on deck to hastily retrieve his injured comrades and bring them to the quarterdeck for protection. He was then ordered to retrieve his captain Mervyn Bennion, but went he went back for him, Bennion was reluctant to leave his post and succumbed to his injuries.

The attacks continued and by this time, Miller was ordered to help Frederic White and Ensign Delano load the #1 and #2 Browning .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns. Delano was quite surprised when he looked back and saw that white had already loaded both guns a Miller was at the helm of one, firing at the Japanese war crafts. After the bombing subsided, Miller rescued a few of his shipmates who were thrown overboard in the gun fight. But given the degree of damage to the USS Virginia, they were all forced to abandon ship. A total 130 people were killed with 52 were wounded.

Reports of the battle and Miller’s bravery quickly spread and he was awarded with the highest military honor of the United States, the Medal of Honor. He later on continued to receive several commendations from esteemed ranks within and outside the military. On the 13th of December 1941 he got reassigned to the USS Indianapolis. During his time there, he got various promotions and gave talks at various naval locations.

He was ten transferred again to the Liscome Bay escort carrier which was subsequently attacked during the Battle of Tarawa on the 24th of November 1943. The ship was blown up an eventually sank after being hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine, leaving only 272 survivors with Miller among the rest of the crew that was presumed dead.

Doris Miller racked up many more awards including the American Defense Service Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Purple Heart Medal just to name a few. This hero went down in a blaze of glory and his name will forever be remembered for his acts of valor and dedication to his country in moments of crisis.


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Tinaya Sallie

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