A black mess attendant was a Pearl Harbor hero. Now an aircraft carrier will have his name.Breaking News
tags: military history, naval history, Pearl Harbor
It was just before 8 a.m. aboard the USS West Virginia, anchored in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when the first torpedo hit.
Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller was deep into the day’s laundry when the blast sent one of his lieutenants racing to sound the alarm.
Miller, the 19-year-old son of Texas sharecroppers, was just two years into his naval service. He enlisted hoping to see the world and perhaps come home with the prospects of a good job. The Navy was segregated, and mess was the only duty in which black men like Miller were allowed to serve. He had no gunnery training; in the heat of battle, he would be expected to feed ammunition to the white man operating one of the ship’s .50-caliber Browning antiaircraft machine guns.
The torpedo blast destroyed Miller’s ammo that day, and he was forced to the deck, where he carried injured sailors to safety. But even without gun training, Miller knew he could do more to save his crew. He jumped behind one of the unmanned Brownings, swung it skyward and fired until his belt was empty and crew members were ordered to abandon ship.
Asked later about his heroics, Miller was collected.
“It wasn’t hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns,” Miller said at the time, according a biography of Miller by the Naval History and Heritage Command. “I guess I fired her for about fifteen minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”
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