What you should know about Doris Miller's life and legacy

Lisa McLean
January 30, 2020 - 11:20 am
Interesting facts about Doris Miller

Naval History and Heritage Command

Doris Miller was a WWII hero to many. In a time when troops were segregated and opportunities were few for men and women of color, Miller didn't let racism stop him.  He was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for valor. A Mess Attendant 2nd Class in the Navy, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. Without any prior training, he manned a machine gun on the USS West Virginia and returned fire against Japanese planes, even downing a few.

Here is a list of some things you might not know about this hero: 

  • Miller was born in Waco, Texas, on October 12, 1919.
  • He was named after the midwife who delivered him.
  • His nickname was “Dorie”.
  • He was the third of four sons.

Doris Miller
National Archives

  • He was a fullback on the football team at Waco's A.J. Moore High School.
  • Adm. Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, personally awarded the Navy Cross to Miller
  • CBS Radio broadcast an episode of the series "They Live Forever," which dramatized Miller's actions.
  • He was featured on the 1943 Navy-recruiting poster "Above and beyond the call of duty",
  • African-American organizations campaigned to have Miller recognized for additional awards.
  • Miller was awarded several medals for his bravery: the Purple Heart Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
  • Miller has two ships named after him:
    • The USS Miller – a frigate – launched in 1972, decommissioned in 1991
    • The USS Doris Miller  - to be launched in 2028 and commissioned in 2030

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly, right, poses for a group photo with the Miller family after the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81)
Seaman Apprentice Molly Crawford

  • Miller died in action in 1943 on the Liscome Bay after a torpedo hit the ship he was aboard in the Gilbert Islands.
  • He was also one of four Naval heroes featured on U.S. postal stamps in 2010.
  • Miller has numerous sites, streets, parks, and schools named after him throughout the United States
  • Miller has been represented in several Hollywood Films


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Reach Lisa McLean: lisa@connectingvets.com 

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