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Doris "Dorie" Miller was born on this date in 1919. He was an African American sailor and World War II hero.
He was born in Waco, Texas, the son of Henrietta and Conery Miller. He had three brothers, one of which served in the Army during World War II. Miller attended Moore High School in Waco, played fullback on the football team, and worked on his father's farm.
On September 16, 1939, Miller enlisted in the U.S Navy as Mess Attendant, Third Class. On December 13, 1941, Miller reported to USS Indianapolis (CA-35). He later was promoted to Ship's Cook, Third Class. Following training at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, he was assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1).
He was transferred to the USS West Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship's heavyweight boxing champion. In 1940, he had temporary duty aboard USS Nevada (BB-36) and was serving on the West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Miller was collecting laundry when the alarm for general quarters sounded. 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 (untrained to use the weapon) described firing the machine gun during the battle: "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." Heavily damaged by the ensuing explosions, and suffering from severe flooding below decks, the crew abandoned ship while the West Virginia sank. Of the 1,541 men on West Virginia during the attack, 130 were killed and 52 wounded. Subsequently, the ship was repaired, modernized, and refloated, and served in the Pacific Theater to the end of the war.
The Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox commended Miller in April 1942, and in May he received the Navy Cross, which was personally presented to Miller on board aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) for his extraordinary courage in battle. He returned to the west coast of the United States in November 1942. Assigned to the USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) in 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 in November 1943.
During that time while cruising near Butaritari Island, a single torpedo from Japanese submarine I-175 struck the escort. The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, sinking the warship within minutes. Listed as missing following the loss of that escort carrier, Dorie 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, and 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.
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