Much bravery—in the midst of immense tragedy—took place on December 7, 1941. One of those stories stems from the courage of Doris “Dorie” Miller, who was serving a noncombat role in the U.S. Navy at the time of the attack. This is one of the most intriguing Pearl Harbor attack facts, and a true American story of heroism.
Pearl Harbor Attack Facts: The Story of Doris “Dorie” Miller
Doris Miller couldn’t take a combat position in the Navy for the simple fact that he was African-American. Instead, he enlisted as a kitchen worker for the Navy.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Miller—a former football player and boxer—saw the Japanese fighters overhead and immediately took action. He carried injured Americans to a safer location, and then did something even more remarkable—making this one of the most incredible Pearl Harbor attack facts you’ll ever hear.
Miller saw the Japanese continuously dive-bombing the United States Naval Fleet when he returned from rescuing his fellow Navymen. Without a second thought, he then grabbed a 50-caliber Browning antiaircraft machine gun and began shooting at the enemy planes. Without any weaponry training whatsoever (due to segregation), Miller still managed to shoot down three or four Japanese aircraft.
Forever hailed a hero, Miller was also the first African-American to be awarded the U.S. Navy Cross. He received the honor in 1942.
The kitchen worker-turned-WWII hero endured a heartbreaking end, but once again representing his country. In the spring of 1943, Miller was called back to serve on the USS Liscome Bay, which was operating in the Pacific near the Gilbert Islands. On November 24, 1943, a Japanese submarine fired a torpedo at the ship, which exploded its bomb magazine. The carrier sank in a matter of minutes.
Doris Miller’s legacy lives on for his achievements as a minority, as an American and as a war hero. In 2010, he was commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp—and several structures around the country bear his name. One such tribute, Doris Miller Park, is a military housing community in Honolulu.
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