Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum


Doris Miller
U.S. Navy

Doris Miller

Doris  “Dorie” Miller was born in Waco, Texas, on October 12, 1919. . While attending Moore High School, he was a fullback on the football team. He worked on his father's farm before enlisting in the U.S Navy at Dallas in 1939.

Following training at the Naval Training Station in Norfolk, VA, Miller was assigned to the USS Pyro (AE-1) where he served as a Mess Attendant, and was transferred to the USS West Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship's heavyweight boxing champion.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Miller was collecting laundry around 6 am when the alarm for general quarters sounded. He headed for his battle station only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it. He went on deck and was assigned to carry wounded fellow sailors to safety. Then an officer ordered him to the bridge to aid the mortally wounded Captain of the ship. He subsequently manned a 50 caliber anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.

Miller described firing the machine gun that he was not trained to operate: "It wasn't hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others… I guess I fired her for about 15 minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us."

Japanese aircraft dropped two bombs through the deck of the battleship and launched five 18-inch aircraft torpedoes into her port side. Heavily damaged and suffering from severe flooding below decks, the crew abandoned ship while the USS West Virginia slowly settled to the harbor bottom. Of the 1,541 men aboard, 130 were killed and 52 wounded. Subsequently repaired and modernized, the battleship served in the Pacific until the end of the war in August 1945.

Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy on April 1, 1942. On May 27, 1942, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief  of the Pacific Fleet, presented the Navy Cross to him for his extraordinary couragei. Nimitz remarked:
This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I'm sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.
On December 13, 1941, Miller reported to USS Indianapolis (CA-35), and subsequently returned to the west coast in November 1942. Assigned to the newly constructed USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) in the spring of 1943, Miller was on board this escort carrier during Operation Galvanic in the Gilbert Islands.  At 5 am on November 24, a torpedo from a Japanese submarine struck the carrier near the stern. The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, sinking the warship within minutes. Listed as missing following the loss of that escort carrier, Miller was officially presumed dead on November 25, 1944. Only 272 sailors survived the sinking of Liscome Bay, while 646 died.

In addition to the Navy Cross, Doris 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.

Commissioned on June 30, 1973, the USS Miller (FF-1091), a Knox-class frigate, was named in honor of Doris Miller.

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