Tags: Mess | Attendant's | Heroism | Pearl | Harbor | Honored

Mess Attendant's Heroism at Pearl Harbor Honored

Friday, 25 May 2001 12:00 AM

"He truly was a Texas-sized hero," state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Kyle, said at the ceremony on the front steps of the state Capitol as sailors in dazzling white uniforms stood at attention and U.S., Texas and Navy flags flapped in the stiff breeze.

"His courage and heroism make him stand out in the history of this state."

Miller, a 22-year-old mess attendant second class, was doing the ship's laundry on the USS West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked U.S. warships at Pearl Harbor.

Miller carried the ship's badly wounded commander, Capt. Mervyn Bennison, to safety as Japanese fighters buzzed the ship. Even though the Navy's strict segregation forbade training black sailors in gunnery tactics, Miller manned a deserted machine gun and shot down at least two, and as many as six, Japanese planes.

Six months later a fellow Texan, Adm. Chester Nimitz, awarded Miller the Navy Cross for "extreme courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack."

"This is a long time coming," said Henrietta Miller Bledsoe, Dorie Miller's niece. "I would hope, especially for our race, that we have black kids, and kids in general, realize from his example that you can be someone even if you're appointed to be someone else, that you can be imaginative, you can be aggressive."

Family members said they hope the newly released movie "Pearl Harbor," where Miller is portrayed by actor Cuba Gooding Jr., could teach a new generation of Americans about Miller's commitment and courage.

"The true Hollywood ending would be for Congress to award Dorie Miller the Medal of Honor," state Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, said. A measure is pending in the House of Representatives to bestow the award on Miller, who was the first black to win the Navy Cross.

Bledsoe finds no irony in the fact that the state where rigid segregation once prevented Miller from achieving his goals Friday honored him as a hero.

"You have to put everything in perspective," she said. "It was 1941. We have come a long way since then."

Miller was killed in November 1943 when the aircraft carrier Liscombe Bay was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine at the Battle of Tarawa.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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He truly was a Texas-sized hero, state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Kyle, said at the ceremony on the front steps of the state Capitol as sailors in dazzling white uniforms stood at attention and U.S., Texas and Navy flags flapped in the stiff breeze. His courage and...
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2001-00-25
Friday, 25 May 2001 12:00 AM
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