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SEAMAN (1919-1943)

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.