In March, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson re-introduced a piece of legislation to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to Navy war hero, Doris “Dorie” Miller. He acted courageously — saving lives while risking his own and helping prevent a Japanese invasion during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Miller is from Rep. Johnson’s hometown, Waco.
Rep. Johnson asked me if I’d help her secure the Medal of Honor for the Waco native. When I heard the story, I jumped at the chance.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the Navy to blacks, but the only positions they could hold were mess attendants, stewards, and cooks.
Miller enlisted in 1939 at the age of 19 and became a cook third class on the USS West Virginia. On Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the West Virginia was in port. He was doing laundry duty when the first of eight torpedoes hit the ship, and he heard the call to battle stations.
He raced up to the deck and heard the captain had been wounded, so he ran up to the bridge. Miller carried the captain down to first aid and then helped other wounded sailors to safety.
As he avoided the strafing on deck, Miller saw an anti-aircraft gun not being used, so went over to it and began shooting. Although he hadn’t been trained on the .50-caliber machine gun, he downed one of the attacking planes. He then rescued other sailors before the ship sank.
Miller died in 1944 aboard the USS Liscome Bay when it was torpedoed in the South Pacific by the Japanese. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross, which is awarded for courage under fire.
He was portrayed in the film Pearl Harbor by Cuba Gooding Jr.
Waco has been generous in honoring Miller, putting his name on a city recreation center, a YMCA facility, a cemetery and a former elementary school. In February, the VA Hospital was renamed in his honor and a U.S. postage stamp has been issued in his honor.
Reps. Jake Pickle, Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland and Craig Washington worked to bestow this honor since before Rep. Johnson entered Congress in 1993. It’s time to correct the omission by passing Rep. Johnson’s legislation and award Miller the Congressional Medal of Honor.
If you would like to help, you can sign a Change.org petition and you may write a letter to President Barack Obama, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500.