Today in Texas History – June 30

From the Annals of the Navy –   In 1973, the USS Miller was commissioned. The Knox-class frigate was named in honor of Doris “Dorie” Miller.  Miller was from Waco and was stationed on the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.     That day, he had arisen at 6 a.m. to begin work. When the Japanese attack occurred, he reported to his battle station. Miller, an excellent athlete as a former football player and Navy boxing champion, he was asked to assist injured crewmen to safer quarters.  Black servicemen were not allowed combat roles at the time.  The injured included the mortally wounded ship’s captain.  Miller returned to deck and  was ordered to assist with ammunition for the 50-caliber Browning antiaircraft machine guns being used to shoot down the Japanese planes  still dive-bombing the harbor.  Miller in turn manned an abandoned gun  on which he had never been trained and remarkably shot down three or four enemy aircraft. His days of squirrel hunting on his family farm apparently paid off.  He fired until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship. The West Virginia was slowly sinking.  Of the 1541 men on board during the attack, 130 were killed and 52 wounded.

Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox for his actions and was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary courage in battle.  Miller, the first African-American to ever receive the honor, was then sent on a tour in the States to raise money for war bonds.  He was called back to serve on the new escort carrier the USS Liscome Bay. The ship was operating in the Pacific near the Gilbert Islands when on November 24, the ship was hit by a single torpedo fired from a Japanese submarine.  The torpedo detonated the bomb magazine on the carrier and the ship sank within minutes.  Miller was not among the 272 men who survived the attack.

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