One special man stands tall in my mind – Navy Cook Third Class, Doris “Dorie” Miller. For me, Dorie was a fellow Texan and fellow naval veteran.
A native of Waco, Texas, Dorie enlisted in the Navy Sept. 16, 1939. He served on a series of naval vessels in the South Pacific theater.
Dorie was stationed aboard the USS Virginia at the time Japanese aircraft attacked our fleet moored inside Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
All ‘hands’ have battlestation assignments, but Dorie’s was destroyed by the time he got to it. He found himself manning a 50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship. Said Cook Third Class Miller,
“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.”
Another fellow Texan who also stands tall in my mind, Admiral Chester Nimitz, personally presented Dorie the Navy Cross aboard the USS Enterprise on May 27, 1942. The Navy Cross is the second highest military decoration for valor that may be awarded to a seaman for “extraordinary heroism in combat”. 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.
On his final assignment, this young man who joined the Navy to see the world, perished along with all but 272 shipmates when a Japanese sub hit the magazine of the USS Liscome Bay.
On November 24, 1943 the USS Liscome Bay took Dorie to a watery grave. The War Department notified his parents the following day, classifying him as “missing in action”. One year later, he was officially declared dead.
Honor didn’t end with the medals. In 1973, the Navy commissioned a new frigate the U.S.S. Miller.
Welcome home, Dorie Miller.