On this day in 1941, Doris (“Dorie”) Miller took down three Japanese planes in the Pearl Harbor attack.
Born on October 12, 1919 in Waco, Texas, Miller attended Moore High School where he played as a fullback on the football team. Before enlisting in the U.S. Navy as a Mess Attendant, Third Class, he worked on his father’s farm.
Miller served on the ammunition ship USS Pyro and was later transferred to the USS West Virginia, where he became the heavyweight boxing champion of the ship.
He was later commended by the Secretary of the Navy, leading to his promotion to the position of Mess Attendant, Second and First Class, and subsequently promoted to Cook, Third Class.
Miller was serving on the West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. He had woken up in the early hours of the morning and discovered that the ship was badly damaged by a torpedo.
Because of his physical strength, Miller was assigned to transport wounded sailors to safety. He then helped the badly wounded Captain of the ship and manned a machine gun until he ran out of ammunition. Although he had not been trained to use the weapon, Miller stated, “
“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.”
Miller was then assigned to the newly built USS Liscome Bay. In November of 1943, a torpedo from a Japanese submarine destroyed and sunk the warship. Miller was presumed dead the following year, on the anniversary of the attack. 646 sailors died, while only 272 survived the attack.
Miller was honored with the Navy Cross; the Purple Heart Medal; the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.
The USS Miller was named in honor of Doris Miller on June 30, 1973. In 1991, a bronze commemorative plaque was dedicated to him on the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor.