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Pearl Harbor - DORIE MILLER

DORIE MILLER (Illustration) American History African American History Disasters Famous Historical Events Famous People Film Social Studies World History Tragedies and Triumphs Ethics World War II

Whitehead Hoag created a pin honoring Dorie Miller’s bravery on December 7, 1941. This illustration depicts the images on that vintage pin.

 

Doris ("Dorie") Miller's normal job on the West Virginia was serving as a Messman.** But he did not give normal job responsibilities a second thought on the morning of December 7.

Leading the Japanese torpedo raid, Lt. Murata’s target was Dorie’s ship. Although a dud bomb was later found on board, Murata scored a direct hit on the West Virginia. With Captain Bennion mortally wounded and the ship burning, Dorie Miller did what so many men did that morning.

Totally disregarding his own safety, he initially helped the captain and then manned one of the ship’s machine guns until he was ordered off the bridge. The West Virginia was sinking. Dorie could do no more.

But the country did something for Dorie. He was awarded the Navy Cross for valor "above and beyond the call of duty." On May 27, 1942 Admiral Nimitz pinned the Navy Cross on Dorie. The accompanying citation summarizes his heroism:

For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a 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 directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.

Dorie, however, did not receive a Medal of Honor for his heroism. No African-American, no matter how brave his actions, received the Medal of Honor during World War II. It was later, in 1997, when President Clinton bestowed the nation's highest military honor on seven African-American WWII veterans.

Only one of the seven honorees - Vernon Baker - was still alive in 1997.

Recently, the West Virginia has once again made news. A new interpretation of old evidence has caused historians and scientists to believe the West Virginia suffered from more than Murata’s strike.

Japanese 2-man mini-submarines were in the harbor. Experts, using today’s technology to examine a photo taken by a Japanese pilot, believe one of those midget subs is just barely visible above water.

Some of the torpedo wake in the picture may have been caused by that midget sub. And, it is believed, at least one of her torpedoes struck the West Virginia. (It is also believed that a mini-sub was the first Pearl Harbor casualty.)

No Japanese torpedo or bomb struck the American oil supply on Oahu. The electrical grid was also spared. Because they were undamaged, the United States was not as crippled as the Imperial government had hoped.

But President Roosevelt was quick to act. On December 8th he gave one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century.

 

** A note about why sailors, such as Dorie Miller, worked as Messmen. African-Americans had long-endured racial prejudice in the U.S. military. Not only was there segregation, men of color were assigned menial jobs. See, for example, this chapter from "Red Tails" which references government-created documents attempting to justify prejudicial federal-government actions. It wasn't until President Truman issued Executive Order 9981—on July 26, 1948—that the U.S. military was integrated. Further, Messmen were denied the right to wear the traditional anchor on their uniforms (as reflected by the lack thereof on Miller’s uniform when Admiral Nimitz awarded him the Navy Cross). 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5139stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jan 12, 2016


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