Doris Miller, known as "Dorie" to shipmates and friends, was
born in Waco, Texas, on 12 October 1919, to Henrietta and Conery Miller.
He had three brothers, one of which served in the Army during World War
II. While attending Moore High School in Waco, he was a fullback on the
football team. He worked on his father's farm before enlisting in the U.S.
Navy as Mess Attendant, Third Class, at Dallas, Texas, on 16 September
1939, to travel, and earn money for his family. He later was commended by
the Secretary of the Navy, was advanced to Mess Attendant, Second Class
and First Class, and subsequently was promoted to Ship's Cook, Third
Following training at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia,
Miller was assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1) where he
served as a Mess Attendant, and on 2 January 1940 was transferred to USS West
Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship's heavyweight boxing
champion. In July of that year he had temporary duty aboard USS Nevada (BB-36) at Secondary Battery Gunnery School. He returned to West
Virginia and on 3 August, and was serving in that battleship when the
Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Miller had arisen at 6
a.m., and was collecting laundry when the alarm for general quarters
sounded. He headed for his battle station, the antiaircraft battery
magazine amidships, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it, so
he went on deck. Because of his physical prowess, he was assigned to carry
wounded fellow Sailors to places of greater safety. Then an officer
ordered him to the bridge to aid the mortally wounded Captain of the ship.
He subsequently manned a 50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun
until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.
Miller described firing the machine gun during the battle, a weapon which
he had not been trained to operate: "It wasn't hard. I just pulled
the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns.
I guess I fired her for about fifteen minutes. I think I got one of those
Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us."
During the attack, Japanese aircraft dropped two armored piercing bombs
through the deck of the battleship and launched five 18-inch aircraft
torpedoes into her port side. Heavily damaged by the ensuing explosions,
and suffering from severe flooding below decks, the crew abandoned ship
while West Virginia slowly settled to the harbor bottom. Of the
1,541 men on West Virginia during the attack, 130 were killed and
52 wounded. Subsequently refloated, repaired, and modernized, the
battleship served in the Pacific theater through to the end of the war in
Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on 1 April
1942, and on 27 May 1942 he received the Navy Cross, which Fleet Admiral
(then Admiral) Chester W. Nimitz, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet
personally presented to Miller on board aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) for his extraordinary courage in battle. Speaking of Miller,
This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has
been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I'm sure that
the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.
On 13 December 1941, Miller reported to USS Indianapolis (CA-35), and subsequently returned to the west coast of the United States
in November 1942. Assigned to the newly constructed USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) in the spring of 1943, Miller was on board that escort carrier
during Operation Galvanic, the seizure of Makin and Tarawa Atolls in the
Gilbert Islands. Liscome Bay's aircraft supported operations ashore
between 20-23 November 1943. At 5:10 a.m. on 24 November, while cruising
near Butaritari Island, a single torpedo from Japanese submarine I-175 struck the escort carrier near the stern. The aircraft bomb magazine
detonated a few moments later, sinking the warship within minutes. Listed
as missing following the loss of that escort carrier, Miller was
officially presumed dead 25 November 1944, a year and a day after the loss
of Liscome Bay. Only 272 Sailors survived the sinking of Liscome
Bay, while 646 died.
In addition to the Navy Cross, Miller was entitled to the Purple Heart
Medal; the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.
Commissioned on 30 June 1973, USS Miller (FF-1091), a Knox-class
frigate, was named in honor of Doris Miller.
info from http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq57-4.htm
Below Miller is seen receiving the Navy Cross from Admiral Chester W.
Nimitz aboard the USS Enterprise on May 27, 1942