73 Years Ago Today

 

Doris “Dorie” Miller was a Mess Attendant working on the USS West Virginia. Like most mornings, he rose before dawn for a dreary day of hauling trash, scrubbing dishes and prepping food for the battleship’s cook. While collecting the crew’s laundry, the General Quarters alarm sounded. Ships have drills all the time — even on Sunday mornings — but a sailor still must answer the call.

However this time he couldn’t get to his designated battle station. The torpedo-twisted metal proved this alarm was for real.

With nowhere else to report, Dorie ran to the deck to see what was happening. Being a former fullback for his Waco, Texas high school, one of the officers told him to carry the wounded to safety. Soon he was told the ship’s captain was seriously wounded and trapped on the bridge. After bringing the mortally-wounded officer through the fire and blood to a safer place, Dorie saw a .50 caliber Browning without a gunner.

Dorie was just a hash-slinger. He wasn’t trained on pistols, let alone anti-aircraft guns. But his shipmates needed him.

“It wasn’t hard,” Dorie explained. “I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about 15 minutes. I think I got one… they were diving pretty close to us.” He stayed at the gun until he ran out of ammo. Then he refused to leave his new post until he was ordered to abandon ship.

Dorie earned the Navy Cross that day, pinned to his chest by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. A couple of years later, Dorie’s new ship was sunk by a Japanese sub. This time, he didn’t make it.

In his honor, a new warship was named after Dorie. FF-1091, the USS Miller. The photo above holds a special resonance for me. Miller is giving a speech standing on the same warped floorboards I marched across with my Navy bootcamp drill team in Great Lakes, Ill. Thankfully, I never had to fight active battles, but enjoyed the luxury of merely maintaining the peace.

Since my submarine was based out of Pearl Harbor, I often looked across the waters and skies and wondered what it must have been like that awful Sunday morning 73 years ago today. Thanks to heroes like Petty Officer Miller, I never had to experience a day of infamy firsthand.

A version of this article was published Dec. 7, 2012.

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  1. Indaba Member
    Indaba
    @

    Great reminder of bravery.

    • #1
  2. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    I am very glad to see this post. I was just looking at the news (for the first time today) and was suddenly aware that something was really missing. I was horrified. As if this had been forgotten.

    Check and you’ll see. No mention anywhere. Quite as if this did not, in fact, prove to be a day that would live in infamy.

    This does really seem to be one of the few places left where people haven’t totally lost their minds.

    • #2
  3. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    I woke up today, happened to check the date on my computer, and said to myself “That’s right, it’s December 7th”.  And I paused for a few seconds, and thought about it.  Even us relatively young punks remember, sometimes.  I kept it in mind on a run later in the morning, 18 degrees out, balky knee, and remembered not to complain or whine to myself about conditions.  It’s just wrong to complain.

    Bing hasn’t forgotten.  The website, not the crooner.

    • #3
  4. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Thank you for posting this. I had never heard this story of such a brave man before.

    • #4
  5. Gloating Inactive
    Gloating
    @Gloating

    I read this post today and then shared it with my husband. There aren’t many of these brave men left who were there that day. I hope and pray we never forget their courage, their honor and their plain guts. Thank you for posting this.

    • #5
  6. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Great story, and a great way to remember Pearl Harbor.

    • #6
  7. user_130720 Member
    user_130720
    @

    Great story. Thanks. I too looked for some mention in the “press.” Nothing.
    I celebrate Pearl Harbor because my friend’s dad survived: counterfactual: no friend.

    This date also causes me to reflect on my belief that but for Pearl Harbor the battleship admirals would have run the Pacific show for awhile, and likely our VJ day would be celebrated on a later date each year.

    • #7
  8. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Claire Berlinski:I am very glad to see this post. I was just looking at the news (for the first time today) and was suddenly aware that something was really missing. I was horrified. As if this had been forgotten.

    Check and you’ll see. No mention anywhere. Quite as if this did not, in fact, prove to be a day that would live in infamy.

    This does really seem to be one of the few places left where people haven’t totally lost their minds.

    Someone on Facebook is criticizing Obama’s daughters. Priorities.

    • #8
  9. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    My great-grandfather, William Alexander Vance (1898-1974), was a cook on the USS Phoenix. My dad still repeats what he told him: “I was standing on deck smoking a cigarette thinking about what I wanted to do with my Sunday when those Japs decided what I would be doing every Sunday for the next four years.”

    • #9
  10. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Claire Berlinski:I am very glad to see this post. I was just looking at the news (for the first time today) and was suddenly aware that something was really missing. I was horrified. As if this had been forgotten.

    SearchCompared

    • #10
  11. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Pastor included a remembrance and a special petition in the General Prayer of the Church this morning.

    I was pleased by that.

    • #11
  12. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    Derek Simmons:Great story. Thanks. I too looked for some mention in the “press.” Nothing. I celebrate Pearl Harbor because my friend’s dad survived: counterfactual: no friend.

    This date also causes me to reflect on my belief that but for Pearl Harbor the battleship admirals would have run the Pacific show for awhile, and likely our VJ day would be celebrated on a later date each year.

    But for Enterprise being somewhere else, and Midway, etc….but yes, you’re absolutely correct.  Good example of fighting the current war using the strategies of the last one.  It was pretty clear after a few months post-Pearl that battleships were much more targets than offensive weapons (aside from shore bombardments and the like).

    • #12
  13. lunaticrex@gmail.com Inactive
    lunaticrex@gmail.com
    @LunaticRex

    Thanks Jon. I always try to remember to read Miller’s story on this day. Later I’ll read the Doolittle’s Raid story again. Our troops were (and are) the best in the world.

    • #13
  14. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Only 9 remaining survivors from the USS Arizona, but the reunited today in Hawaii.

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/12/07/pearl-harbor-survivors-reunite-in-hawaii-to-mark-73rd-anniversary-attack/

    Bless them.

    • #14
  15. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    Thanks for that, Jon, I wouldn’t have known where that picture was taken, I too trod those same boards Oct.’64 – Jan ’66. As I understood it, a lot of those building were from WWI. At the time Pearl Harbor seemed like ancient history until my ship was moored up in  the West Loch and I could see rusting hulks across the way that were still there from the attack 25 years earlier.

    • #15
  16. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Julia PA:Only 9 remaining survivors from the USS Arizona, but the reunited today in Hawaii.

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/12/07/pearl-harbor-survivors-reunite-in-hawaii-to-mark-73rd-anniversary-attack/

    Bless them.

    The CBS Sunday Morning show did a little feature on the reunion as well.

    • #16
  17. Giantkiller Member
    Giantkiller
    @Giantkiller

    It was a surprise to see a large photo of Dorie Miller on Ricochet.  My first ship was FF1091 USS Miller; we all knew the story and saw his photo on the quarterdeck bulkhead every day.  Actually, it was a lousy photo – didn’t do Miller justice.  The one you published here is much better.

    Thanks for remembering Pearl Harbor and Miller’s heroic actions.

    • #17
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