By: Nevaeh Richardson
This week in Know Your History, we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Doris “Dorie” Miller. Doris “Dorie” Miller was a United States Navy cook third class who was killed in action during World War II. He was the first black American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest decoration for valor in combat after the Medal of Honor.
Miller was born in Waco, Texas, on October 12, 1919, to Connery and Henrietta Miller. He was named Doris, as the midwife who assisted his mother was convinced before his birth that the baby would be a girl. He was the third of four sons and helped around the house, cooked meals and did laundry, as well as working on the family farm. He was a fullback on the football team at Waco’s Alexander James Moore High School.
Miller served aboard the battleship West Virginia, which was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. During the attack, he helped several sailors who were wounded, including the seriously wounded captain of the ship, and while manning an anti-aircraft machine gun for which he had no training, he shot down Japanese planes. Miller’s actions earned him the medal, and the resulting publicity for Miller in the black press made him an iconic emblem of the war for black Americans. In November 1943, Miller was killed while serving aboard the aircraft carrier Liscome Bay when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin in the Gilbert Islands.
The destroyer escort/Knox-class frigate USS Miller (reclassified as a frigate in June 1975), in service from 1973 to 1991, was named after him. On January 19, 2020, the Navy announced that a Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, CVN-81, would be named after Miller. The ship is scheduled to be laid down in 2023 and launched in 2028.