|Petty Officer Doris Miller, USN|
Medal of Honor Recipient
To be clear, the Pearl Harbor attack was a sucker punch; with response to the element of surprise, Petty Officer [Doris] Miller performed a military action that merited the awarding of the Medal of Honor (the military's highest combat award). Miller, a Negro seaman, was a cook [mess attendant] in the Navy galley. Petty Officer Miller was a Waco, Texas native.
On December 7, 1941, Miller awoke at 0600. After serving breakfast mess, he was collecting laundry when the first of nine torpedoes to hit the West Virginia was launched at 0757 by Lt. Commander Shigeharu Murata of the Japanese carrier Akagi. Miller headed for his battle station, an antiaircraft battery magazine amidship, only to discover that torpedo damage had destroyed it. Miller fired the gun until he ran out of ammo, when he was ordered by Lieutenant Claude V. Ricketts along with Lt. White and Chief Signalman A.A. Siewart to help Miller carry the Captain up to the navigation bridge out of the thick oily smoke generated by the many fires on and around the ship. Bennion was only partially conscious at this point and died soon after. Japanese aircraft eventually dropped two armor-piercing bombs through the deck of the battleship and launched five 18 in (460 mm) aircraft torpedoes into her port side. When the attack finally lessened, Lt. White ordered Miller to help move injured sailors through oil and water to the quarterdeck, thereby "unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost." Heavily damaged by the bombs, torpedoes and following explosions, the crew prevented the ship from capsizing by counter-flooding a number of compartments, and the West Virginia sank to the harbor bottom as her crew—including Miller—abandoned ship. [Source, Wikipedia]