Monday, July 8, 2013

Doris "Dorie" Miller - Hero

Doris "Dorie" Miller.   His friends called him Dorie.   Born in Waco, Texas in 1919 he worked on his fathers farm and joined the Navy in 1939.   He wanted to travel and earn some money for his parents, Henrietta and Conery Miller.   But how did he get the first name of Doris?   I don't know.   Could it be that his father gave him that first name so he would group up tough to take on life's challenges?   We all remember that Johnny Cash song about A Boy Named Sue.

There were probably a lot of truisms in the lyrics of that song.   And Dorie did grow up tough and strong.  He was a fullback on the football team while attending Moore High School in Waco, Texas.
When he joined the Navy in 1939 he was a mess attendant and assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro.  

Now it is bad enough being assigned to an ammunition ship, but the ships name Pyro is the Greek word for fire.   And the last thing that you want on a ship loaded full of ammunition is fire.   I would have found it very unnerving.   Interestingly, the ship made it through the war without incident.
On January 2, 1940 he was transferred to the Battleship USS West Virginia.

He was the heavyweight boxing champion on board the USS West Virginia.   Being the champion meant that he was the toughest sailor on board.   Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrayed Dorie Miller in the movie Pearl Harbor as the heavyweight boxing champ on board the ship.


Just like Steven Segal in the movie Under Siege, he was one tough mess attendant.  

Steven Segal was a cook aboard the USS Missouri in that movie.   

But a tough cook, much like Dorie Miller.

One big difference, Steven Segal was an actor in a movie but Dorie Miller was a real life hero.  

In the picture at the very beginning of this blog, that medal on the chest of Dorie Miller is the Navy Cross, a very high honor awarded for heroism in battle.  

And it was presented to Dorie by none other than Admiral Nimitz himself in a ceremony held on board the USS Enterprise. 

And Admiral Nimitz himself personally pinned the Navy Cross onto Dorie Miller's uniform.   Another high honor.

There is only one medal higher than the Navy Cross and that is the Congressional Medal of Honor.   But why would the Navy Cross be presented to Dorie Miller for heroism?   What did he do?   Here is the answer.   He was a mess attendant on board the battleship USS West Virginia and it was at anchor in Pearl Harbor (yeah, you know what's coming).  
It was December 7, 1941.   Not the place to be.   Dorie arose at 6:00 am and began gathering the laundry.   The alarm for General Quarters sounded.   Dorie Miller responded to his battle station which was the anti-aircraft ammunition storage room.   The room had been destroyed by a torpedo and so Dorie proceeded to the deck.   There were wounded sailors and he started carrying them to safety.   He was then ordered by an officer to go to the bridge and aid the mortally wounded Captain Bennion, Captain of the ship.  

        Captain Bennion
Once Captain Bennion was in a safe area and being tended to, Dorie returned to the deck and manned a 50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun.   Portrayed here by Cuba Gooding, Jr. in a scene from the movie Pearl Harbor.

Dorie did shoot down a Japanese plane.  Again Dorie Miller is portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the movie Pearl Harbor.

Dorie fired the machine guns for about 15 minutes until he ran out of ammunition.

After having two armor piercing bombs penetrate through the deck and after being hit by five 18-inch aircraft torpedos, the USS West Virginia was sinking and the crew was ordered to abandon ship.   Once again, Cuba Gooding, Jr. portraying Dorie Miller.

The USS West Virginia sunk until her deck was even with the water.   The great battleship had settled onto the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

His ship was sunk and so the USS West Virginia did not need a mess attendant and Dorie was a hero for his courage under fire.   His image was put on recruiting posters.

He gave speeches like the one here at the Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois.


Dorie Miller was transferred to the cruiser USS Indianapolis on December 13, 1941.  

We all remember the USS Indianapolis was the ship that carried the uranium core to Tinian island for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.   And then on the return trip the USS Indianapolis was sunk on July 30, 1945 by a Japanese submarine with a terrible loss of life.
But Dorie had already been transferred during the spring of 1943 to the aircraft carrier USS Liscome Bay.

On November 24, 1943 at 5:10 am the USS Liscome Bay was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-175.   Minutes later the room where the bombs for the planes were stored exploded.   Minutes later the aircraft carrier sank.   Of the 916 crewmen on board the carrier, 644 died, including Dorrie Miller.   Only 272 men survived.
To honor Doris Dorrie Miller a frigate was commissioned as the USS Miller.  

The post office issued a postage stamp on February 4, 2010 honoring Doris Miller.

But a very nice honor was afforded by a reenactor who portrayed Doris Dorrie Miller.   A really nice gesture.   This was at the National Archives 2007 Fourth of July celebration.   The woman was portraying Rosie the Riveter.  

It is good to remember those who have given so much and not let their memory fade away.   There is much more about Dorrie Miller and so please do an internet search on Doris Miller and read the whole story in detail about Dorrie.    Have a good day.    Lew


CantaRanas said...

Hi Lew . Thank you for the thoughtful article and great pictures.
I just learned about this brave young man through some pictures I found at a swap meet. I googled his name and was so inspired by his story.
Thank you for helping keep his name alive in our collective memory and our American history.

Lew said...

I would really like to see the pictures that you got of Dorie Miller. Would you be able to scan them and email them to me? I would appreciate it.