Our hometown has a WWII hero – Doris Miller. There is a beautiful Memorial to him and his valor in the downtown area. We have stopped a couple of time – once when it first opened several months ago and then again a couple of days ago when we noticed they had the water added to the memorial.
Who was Doris Miller?
Doris Miller was a young man whose family were sharecroppers or subsistence farmers in the Waco, TX, area in the 1930s. Doris helped as much as he could, including working as a cook, but he desired to enroll in military service when war was on the horizon. The military was segregated at this time and he was only allowed to enlist in the Navy in a limited capacity. Following bootcamp, he was assigned as a messman to the USS West Virginia, stationed in Pearl Harbor.
He was doing his normal work when the first bombs began to fall on December 7. He went on deck and found many already wounded. He helped move the captain, who had been mortally wounded. He then went to an unmanned antiaircraft gun and began firing at incoming aircraft, though he had no training for it, as African Americans serving where in the stewards’ branch were given no gunnery training. The reports as to how many aircraft he hit are unsubstantiated, including Miller himself not being sure. He manned that station until he was out of ammunition and required to abandon ship, as the USS West Virginia was sinking.
Miller’s quick actions and level-headed thinking were rewarded with the conferring of the Navy Cross on May 27, 1942, at a ceremony in Pearl Harbor. He spent some time as a recruiter and then was assigned to the USS Liscome Bay. He was aboard ship when it was torpedoed during the Battle of Makin, off the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific. Miller did not survive this attack.
The Doris Miller Memorial Park is a beautiful site. The statue of Miller is bigger than life, as it seems his personality was. Miller is saluting an American flag, flying in the breeze. The ship hull that is behind Miller is made of many bright silver pieces of metal all joined together and meant to remind us that “many sailors make a ship.” It is surrounded by a shallow flow of water.
This is a peaceful, beautiful place on the edge of the river and along the walking trail that goes along the river. It is worth a short stop if you make your way to Waco. Doris Miller is an American hero. You can read about him in several places:
There are many other places you can read about Doris Miller. These are just the ones that I chose.
Lori, At Home.