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Navy Celebrates Dorie Miller’s Heroics During Pearl Harbor Attack

Dec. 9, 2016 | BY Lisa Ferdinando , DOD News

Navy Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross, was celebrated here yesterday for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack and his service to the nation.

The plaque honoring Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller is seen, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
The plaque honoring Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller is seen, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
The plaque honoring Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller is seen, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Honoring Plaque
The plaque honoring Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller is seen, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando
VIRIN: 161208-D-BN624-491

At the rededication of a plaque at the housing complex named after Miller, Navy Rear Adm. John Fuller told those attending the ceremony how the young sailor on the USS West Virginia acted with exceptional valor when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

"As we contemplate Dorie Miller's bravery on Dec. 7, 1941, and his sacrifice for our freedom, let's consider the gift he and other World War II veterans, sailors, soldiers, airmen, Coast Guard and Marines gave us," Fuller said.

"We have peace and freedom for ourselves, for our families, all because of their sacrifices. We must protect that gift," he said.

Ginger Knowles with the Alpha Kapp Alpha Sorority looks out from the crowd during the ceremony to rededicate a plaque named after Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Ginger Knowles with the Alpha Kapp Alpha Sorority looks out from the crowd during the ceremony to rededicate a plaque named after Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Ginger Knowles with the Alpha Kapp Alpha Sorority looks out from the crowd during the ceremony to rededicate a plaque named after Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Rededicate Ceremony
Ginger Knowles with the Alpha Kapp Alpha Sorority looks out from the crowd during the ceremony to rededicate a plaque named after Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando
VIRIN: 161208-D-BN624-404

Celebrating Valor on Pearl Harbor Day

Fuller, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii, and of Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, said after the battleship USS West Virginia was struck by the Japanese, Miller, assigned as a mess attendant aboard the ship, helped carry the injured and then manned a machine gun.

"Miller went topside, carried wounded on his shoulders, made several trips up and down, wading through waist-deep water, oil-slicked decks, struggling uphill on slick decks," Fuller said.

A boxing champion and football player, Miller, of Waco, Texas, later manned a .50-caliber machine gun -- with no training on it -- and displayed expertise and skill in targeting the enemy, the admiral said.

Navy Rear Adm. John Fuller, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii, and of Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, takes part in the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Navy Rear Adm. John Fuller, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii, and of Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, takes part in the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Navy Rear Adm. John Fuller, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii, and of Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, takes part in the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Takes Part
Navy Rear Adm. John Fuller, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii, and of Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, takes part in the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando
VIRIN: 161208-D-BN624-002

The Pacific Fleet commander, Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz, presented the Navy Cross to Miller in 1942. Miller was killed in action during the Battle of Makin in 1943 with more than 600 others when a Japanese torpedo sank his ship, the USS Liscome Bay.

'Beautiful Young Man'

When Miller served, the only job for African-Americans was mess attendant, which included duties such as swabbing the decks, shining officers' shoes, and cooking, Fuller said.

But despite the treatment of African-Americans at the time, Miller exemplified the ideals on which the nation was founded, and he and other ground-breaking African-Americans in military history continue to inspire the nation, he said.

"We stand on their shoulders and remember their struggle from decades ago," Fuller remarked.

Navy retired Chief Petty Officer Carl Clark, 100, attends the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of his friend, Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. Miller, who was on the USS West Virginia, was honored for his bravery during Pearl Harbor, becoming the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Navy retired Chief Petty Officer Carl Clark, 100, attends the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of his friend, Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. Miller, who was on the USS West Virginia, was honored for his bravery during Pearl Harbor, becoming the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Navy retired Chief Petty Officer Carl Clark, 100, attends the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of his friend, Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. Miller, who was on the USS West Virginia, was honored for his bravery during Pearl Harbor, becoming the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Attends Ceremony
Navy retired Chief Petty Officer Carl Clark, 100, attends the ceremony to rededicate a plaque in honor of his friend, Navy Mess Attendant Second Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 8, 2016. Miller, who was on the USS West Virginia, was honored for his bravery during Pearl Harbor, becoming the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando
VIRIN: 161208-D-BN624-461

Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Carl Clark, 100, a World War II veteran who was stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, said he became friends with Miller because all the black mess attendants hung out together.

"It's beautiful to be here and see all these beautiful people honoring my friend, Dorie Miller," Clark said.

He described Miller as a "beautiful young man" who was the kind of guy who "took a lot of chances, you could always see that in him," as exemplified in his actions on Dec. 7, 1941.

'One Man Can Make a Difference'

Miller has an enduring legacy, Navy Capt. Stanley Keeve, commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said.

"His actions of that time still resonate with us here today, 75 years from them," he said, adding, "He was living proof that one man can make a difference."

The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority hosted the rededication of the plaque that sits on a grassy yard on a corner of a residential housing unit. The event on a drizzly afternoon included a Hawaiian blessing, a hula dance and a historical reading.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)