The attack on Pearl Harbor was a huge moment in our history. It was a time of tragedy and loss but also sacrifice and heroism. It was also a time of segregation, and one of the most notable heroes fought against an enemy from overseas as well as racism at home.
Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris (Dorie) Miller certainly didn’t expect what happened that morning. Working mess duty on the USS West Virginia, he did not plan to become a hero and the face of change in the early stages of the civil rights movement.
He had no gunnery training, and as an African-American in the 1940s, was not permitted to serve in a combat role. However, when the attack began, he acted without hesitation.
As Japanese warplanes carried out their surprise attack, Miller jumped into the middle of the fight. Taking over one of the unmanned Browning machine guns on the battleship, he fired on enemy planes saving countless lives that day.
Miller went on to receive the Navy Cross Medal for his heroic actions. He was the first African-American to be awarded this honor. In 2020, he was honored once again as a $12.5 billion aircraft carrier was named for him.
Unfortunately, this honor was posthumous as he gave his life in service two years after the Pearl Harbor attack. Dorie was not only a hero that day in 1941 but he was an inspiration to many and still represents the best of America.
We must remember heroes like Doris Miller for their actions but also for the impact they have on future generations. We owe so much to the great men and women who have spent their lives in service. Members of the greatest generation gave so much. Help us give back here.