WACO, Texas (NNS) -- Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Deputy Commander Rear Adm. Keith Jones dedicated a new memorial in Waco, Texas, Dec. 7, honoring World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller.
“It’s because of Petty Officer Miller and countless other Sailors, officers and enlisted, that I’m able to stand her today wearing this uniform, serving in America’s Navy…” Jones said.
Miller, a mess attendant, was on the battleship USS West Virginia (BB 48) at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Dec. 7, 1941. On that day, Miller had arisen at 6 a.m., and was collecting laundry when the alarm for general quarters sounded. He headed for his battle station, the anti-aircraft battery magazine amidships, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it, so he went on deck. Because of his physical prowess, he was assigned to carry wounded fellow Sailors to places of greater safety. Then, an officer ordered him to the bridge to aid the mortally-wounded captain of the ship. He subsequently manned a .50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.
When Miller enlisted in the Navy, African Americans were not allowed to serve in combat positions, which emphasizes Miller’s true courage and patriotism in the face of danger.
During the attack, Japanese aircraft dropped two armor-piercing bombs through the deck of the battleship and launched five 18-inch aircraft torpedoes into her port side. Heavily damaged by the ensuing explosions and suffering from severe flooding below decks, the crew abandoned ship while West Virginia slowly settled to the harbor bottom. Of the 1,541 men on West Virginia during the attack, 130 were killed and 52 wounded. Subsequently refloated, repaired, and modernized, the battleship served in the Pacific theater through the end of the war in August 1945.
Dorie Miller was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross, at the time the third-highest honor awarded by the Navy and currently the second highest. He was also awarded the Purple Heart.
“Petty Officer Miller went on to be praised as one of the first heroes of World War II," Jones said. "He even showed up on recruiting posters, and shared his experiences with black Sailors as they graduated from boot camp. … The Navy went even further and named a warship in his honor, the USS Miller (FF 1091), a Knox-class frigate that served until the early 1990s. And, today, beyond the Navy, there are schools, buildings, streets and parks named after him across the nation.”
“Let us never forget the veterans and family members of that day at Pearl Harbor,” Jones added, “the Americans who fought and sacrificed so much. Let us take strength from their example and wisdom from their history.”
NAVSUP's mission is to provide supplies, services, and quality-of-life support to the Navy and joint warfighter. Headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. Additionally, NAVSUP is responsible for food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.