Doris Miller was born October 12, 1919 in Willow Grove. Known to his friends as "Dorie", he was named by the midwife who delivered him and who was sure that the baby would be a girl.. He attended A. J. Moore High School in nearby Waco and enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1939. On December 7, 1941 he was a Mess Attendant Second Class serving on the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor.
Miller was collecting laundry aboard the ship when the Japanese bombing began shortly before 8:00 AM. He was assigned to carry wounded sailors to safety and to load a pair of unattended Browning .50 caliber anti-aircraft guns. He then fired at incoming planes until running out of ammunition, even though black sailors serving as stewards were not given the gunnery training that white sailors received.
On May 27, 1942 he was presented the Navy Cross personally by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, who said "This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I'm sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts."
|At Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
During the Battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands on November 24, 1943 the Liscome Bay was hit by a Japanese torpedo and sunk in the Pacific Ocean. There were 272 survivors out of 900 men on board. On December 7, 1943 Miller's parents were notified that their son had been killed in action.
The Navy has honored Miller by naming a destroyer, dining hall, and barracks after him. There are schools, streets and community buildings named in his honor across the country from Hawaii to New York. He was portrayed by Elvin Havard in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! and by Cuba Gooding Jr. in Pearl Harbor.