Dorie Miller became the first Black sailor
to be awarded the Navy Cross because he disobeyed orders during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Ordered
to save himself from the blazing U.S West Virginia on December 7, 1941, then mess
attendant instead ignored bullets from attacking dive-bombers and torpedo planes to carry
his wounded commander to safety.
Then, in violation of orders prohibiting
Blacks from firing weapons, Miller used an anti-aircraft battery to fire at the
planes. It was one of several stories recited by Admiral Archie Clemins, the Pacific
Fleet commander, during an hour long service at the USS Arizona Memorial on the 55th
anniversary of the Japanese attack that ushered the United States into World War II.
"Through his name, we are reminded that heroism and valor transcend racial and
ethnic bounds and that, as Americans, our strength lies in our ability to help one another
in time of need," Clemins said.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz awarded
Miller, of Waco, Texas the Navy's highest honor after the attack. Two years later,
Miller was dead, lost at sea when the USS Liscome Bay was torpedoed off the Gilbert
Islands. A new Navy housing area now bears his name. Several hundred military
officials, survivors of the attack and members of veterans organizations gathered on the
stark white memorial, which lies over the sunken Arizona. Flowers were dropped onto
the harbors choppy water. Gusty winds forced the cancellation of a traditional fly
over by Hawaii Air National Guard planes. The Japanese attack sank 21 Navy ships,
destroyed 185 military planes and killed 2,290 military personnel at bases throughout
Hawaii, along with 48 civilians. Japan lost 29 planes and 5 midget submarines.
Revised: July 18, 2013.