Skip to content

BlackFacts Minute: Dec. 7, 1941, Hero ‘Dorie’ Miller Defends US Ships During Pearl Harbor Attack

VIDEO: Doris “Dorie” Miller started in the mess room but ended up with a Navy Cross for his valiant defense of Pearl Harbor.

BlackFacts Minute: December 7, 2021

On this day in 1941, Doris “Dorie” Miller defends U.S. ships during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the first black American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the highest decoration for valor in combat after the Medal of Honor.

Less than a month before his twentieth birthday, Miller enlisted in the United States Navy. Following boot camp training in Norfolk, Virginia, he was assigned to the USS West Virginia as a messman, an enlisted man on temporary duty in the sailors’ or officers’ dining quarters who serves food, clears the tables and other duties. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was doing laundry below decks. During the attack, he helped several sailors who were wounded, and while manning an anti-aircraft machine gun for which he had no training, he shot down several Japanese planes.

Produced in association with

Edited by Claire Swift and Kristen Butler

Recommended from our partners