From the American Revolution to the Spanish-American War

What African American became a hero during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?

Doris (Dorie) Miller (1919–1943) was the first national black hero during World War II. He was honored with the Navy Cross in 1942, after pressure from newspapers and civil rights groups. Miller was a U.S. Navy messman first class on the battleship Arizona at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. He manned a machine gun and shot down at least four Japanese planes despite the fact that, as a messman, he had not been trained in the use of a weapon. He moved his wounded commander to a safe place before going into action and stopped firing only when he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship. His career in the U.S. Navy was cut short by wartime tragedy. He was among the crew of the carrier USS Liscome Bay when it sank at sea after being struck by a torpedo on November 24, 1943. Thirty years later, in June 1973, the U.S. Navy commissioned the USS Miller (a destroyer escort) in his honor. Born in Waco, Texas, to parents who were sharecroppers, Miller joined the U.S. Navy when he was nineteen, thinking that he would be eligible for fighting service. He, like all other black sailors, was assigned to a menial job in the only rank that was then open to blacks in the navy. Miller was denied promotion after his heroic deeds, and returned to his old navy duties after receiving the Navy Cross medal for gallantry, becoming the first black so honored.


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