On this day in history, December 7, 1941, Doris “Dorie” Miller, a Black cook onboard the USS West Virginia, heroically took over a machine gun and fired at Japanese planes during the infamous surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. Miller became one of the first heroes of World War II, but was never recommended for or awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Doris “Dorie” Miller, was a Messman Third Class that the United States Navy noted for his bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor awarded by the U.S. Navy at the time, after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The Navy Cross now precedes the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. Miller’s acts were heavily publicized in the black press, making him the iconic emblem of the war for blacks and was their “Number One Hero” and so energized black support for the war effort against Japan. Nearly two years after Pearl Harbor, he was killed in action when USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin.