Matching family tree profiles for Ma3c Doris Miller, Navy Cross
About Ma3c Doris Miller, Navy Cross
Doris "Dorie" Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943) was a Messman Third Class 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. The Navy Cross now precedes the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. Miller's acts were heavily publicized in the black press, making him the iconic emblem of the war for blacks—their "Number One Hero"—thereby energizing black support for the war effort against a colored Japanese enemy. Nearly two years after Pearl Harbor, he was killed in action when USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin.
On December 7, 1941, Miller awoke at 0600. After serving breakfast mess, he was collecting laundry when the first of nine torpedoes to hit the West Virginia was launched at 0757 by Lt. Commander Shigeharu Murata of the Japanese carrier Akagi. Miller headed for his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine amidship, only to discover that torpedo damage had destroyed it.
He went instead to "Times Square", a central spot where the fore to aft and port to starboard passageways crossed, and reported himself available for other duty. Miller was spotted by Lieutenant Commander Doir C. Johnson, the ship's communications officer, who ordered the powerfully built sailor to accompany him to the bridge to assist with moving the ship's Captain Mervyn Bennion, who had a gaping wound in his abdomen where he had apparently been hit by shrapnel. Miller and another sailor lifted the skipper and, unable to remove him from the bridge, carried him from an exposed position on the damaged bridge to a sheltered spot behind the conning tower. The Captain refused to leave his post and questioned his officers about the condition of the ship, giving various orders. The Captain remained on the bridge until his death.
Lieutenant Frederic H. White ordered Miller to help him and Ensign Victor Delano load the unmanned #1 and #2 Browning .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns aft of the conning tower. Miller wasn't familiar with the machine gun, but White and Delano told him what to do. Miller had served both men as a room steward and knew them well. Delano expected Miller to feed ammunition to one gun, but his attention was diverted, and when he looked again Miller was firing one of the guns. White had loaded ammo into both guns and assigned Miller the starboard gun.
Miller fired the gun until he ran out of ammo, when he was ordered by Lieutenant Claude V. Ricketts along with Lt. White and Chief Signalman A.A. Siewart to help carry the Captain up to the navigation bridge out of the thick oily smoke generated by the many fires on and around the ship. Bennion was only partially conscious at this point and died soon after. Japanese aircraft eventually dropped two armor-piercing bombs through the deck of the battleship and launched five 18 in (460 mm) aircraft torpedoes into her port side. When the attack finally lessened, Lt. White ordered Miller to help move injured sailors through oil and water to the quarterdeck, thereby "unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost."
With the ship heavily damaged by the bombs, torpedoes and following explosions, the crew prevented her from capsizing by counter-flooding a number of compartments, and the West Virginia sank to the harbor bottom as her crew—including Miller—abandoned ship.