When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Miller was doing laundry below decks on the USS West Virginia. When the alarm called the ship’s crew to battle stations, Miller headed a gun magazine amidships. A torpedo had damaged the magazine. Miller began carrying the wounded to safety. Among those he attended to was the ship’s commander, Capt. Mervyn Bennion, who was mortally wounded. Miller then manned a .50-calibre antiaircraft gun, for which he had no training, and continued firing on the enemy until he ran out of ammunition and received the order to abandon ship.
Miller’s actions during the attack earned him a commendation from Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and the Navy Cross, which was presented to him personally by Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, on May 27, 1942. Miller died in 1943 when a torpedo sank his ship, the escort carrier Liscome Bay, off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. On June 30, 1973, the navy commissioned a frigate, the USS Miller, in his honor.
Listed below are 8 Facts every American should know about Dorie Miller:
He’s the first enlisted Black American to ever have an aircraft carrier named after him.
2. The carrier will be the second navy vessel to honor Dorie Miller.
3. As a Black sailor in 1941, Miller wasn’t supposed to fire a gun.
4. Miller’s legend would have been lost if not for the Black press.
5. Miller’s story changed the navy and military forever, paving the way for desegregation in the service.
6. Some congressional leaders believe Miller’s Navy Cross should be upgraded to a Medal of Honor.
7. Miller was later killed in action in World War II and never lived to see the lasting effects of his heroics.
8. On February 4, 2010, the US Postal Service issued a Distinguished Sailors commemorative stamp in four designs; Dorie Miller was one of four sailors honored.