Distinguished Sailors –
Issue Date: February 4, 2010
First-day City: Washington, D.C.
December 7th, 1941, began with a normal morning’s work of collecting laundry for Doris “Dorie” Miller, Mess Attendant on the U.S.S. West Virginia. That changed suddenly as Japanese planes attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. When the alarm for general quarters rang, Miller raced to his battle station, but a torpedo had destroyed the anti-aircraft gun there.
Miller was a large, strong man. He was the heavyweight boxing champion on the ship, and had played fullback in high school. With his battle station ruined, he put that strength to use helping an officer carry wounded sailors to safety, including the captain of the West Virginia.
With no other wounded in sight, Miller then manned a .50-caliber anti-aircraft gun – even though he’d never been trained in its use. That didn’t prevent him from shooting down three confirmed Japanese planes, with three more unconfirmed. As torpedos blew through the deck, the crew was ordered to abandon ship. Miller dived overboard as the West Virginia settled to the harbor floor.
Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest medal in the service. He served for two more years in World War II before perishing when the U.S.S. Liscome Bay was sunk by a submarine.