News, WW2

Doris Miller: President Urged to Posthumously Award the Medal of Honor

  • Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller was a cook who manned the guns during the Pearl Harbor attack
  • Miller received the Navy Cross award but did not receive the Medal of Honor.
  • Linda Thomas from Virginia is asking President Biden to give Miller the Medal of Honor
  • Thomas is actively making efforts for the recognition of black servicemen who lost their lives

Doris Miller was born on 12th October 1919, in Texas. Miller’s selflessness on 7th December 1941, saved several lives. This is the story of a Naval serviceman who is no less than a national hero of the United States of America.

Doris Miller and His Heroic Services

Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939. He had only two goals: to see the world and send a couple of bucks back home. However, the military offered limited positions to African Americans at that time. As a result, Miller was forced to join as a mess attendant. Nevertheless, his job title did not stop him from saving his mates while putting his own life on the line.

December 7th, 1941 was just another Sunday morning for Miller. The serviceman was doing his rounds aboard the battleship West Virginia collecting soiled laundry. Suddenly the ships alarms sounded. The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service had launched an attack on Pearl Harbor.

Miller was quick to respond. Braving fire and the risk of drowning he carried wounded sailors to safety.

A Proud man.
Despite African-Americans only being eligible for certain roles within the Navy Doris was still featured in this 1943 U.S. Navy recruiting poster.

Despite being ordered to abandon ship, Miller went on to man an anti-aircraft machine gun. Amazingly, although black sailors were not permitted to use the weapon, he chose to take matters into his own hands. He kept the gun manned until it ran out of ammo. He was credited with shooting down between 4 and 6 Japanese aircraft. All this of this was achieved without any formal training. Therefore, it was a significant achievement. Sadly, in November 1943, Miller lost his life aboard USS Liscome Bay during the Battle of Makin against the Japanese. He was 24 years of age.

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Miller was the first African-American recipient of the Navy Cross for bravery. The cross is the highest decoration of valour presented by the U.S Navy. In contrast, it is the second highest in the United States after the prestigious Medal of Honor.

On 19th January 2020, the U.S. Navy announced that a Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would be named after Miller. The U.S. Navy will launch the aircraft carrier in 2029. 

The Mission of Getting a Posthumous Medal of Honor to Miller

Linda Thomas is the former President of the Virginia NAACP. She has been on a mission to get Doris Miller the Medal of Honor. Thomas firmly believes that Miller receiving the award would empower other black servicemen and women.

It has been eight decades since the heroic act of Miller. Yet, congress has failed time and again to grant Miller the Medal of Honor. Linda wants to change that.

Illustration of Doris Miller
Illustration of Doris Miller defending the fleet at Pearl Harbor (Charles Alston, Office of War Information and Public Relations)

Since 1863, 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded. Out of those, less than 3% have been awarded to African-Americans. The total number of black recipients is only about 100. Back then, the military saw black people as second-class citizens, unfit for combat or leadership. Thus, the military only allowed them to serve as laborers, cooks, or mechanics. Miller was one of many.

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Sen. James Mead and Rep. John Dingell Sr. recommended Miller for the Medal of Honor. However, President Roosevelt only approved the Navy Cross in May 1942. According to Thomas, the military “fell short” in honouring Miller’s bravery.

Doris Miller proudly wearing his U.S. Navy Cross in May 1942.

Contributions to Linda’s Mission

In 2000, Rep. Eddie Johnson from Texas introduced a bill to waive the time limitation for awarding the Medal of Honor. But, unfortunately, the legislation to honour Miller did not come to pass.

Thomas has written dozens of letters to the Senate and House of Representatives members. Linda mentioned in an interview, “My goal is to bring enough attention and public conversation. So much that it will not escape the view of the President.”

According to an NAACP, Sen. Tim Kaine was quick to support the cause. Sen. Kaine mentioned that his job is to ensure “our veterans receive the recognition they deserve.” “This has to be done. This must be done,” says Thomas.