Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Pearl Harbor Day Texas Veteran Naval Salute to Doris Miller

Doris Miller -Medal of Honor Recipient
Petty Officer Doris Miller, USN
Medal of Honor Recipient
Pearl Harbor Day is celebrated in the United States of America on December 7th. Military historians would argue that the bombing of Pearl Harbor Naval Base [Hawaii], by the Japanese Imperial Government was the spark that ignited America's entry into World War II [WWII]. President [FDR] Roosevelt described December 7, 1941, as "a Day that will Live in Infamy!"

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]
Navy Officer Doris Miller (1941)

Doris Miller's legacy

Miller survived the Pearl Harbor attack; he did not survive the war. He perished aboard ship...a result of a Japanese submarine torpedo attack. Petty Officer [P.O.] Miller's naval service is a testament to duty, honor, and country. He did not accept the reality that Negroes [Blacks/African-Americans] were part of a separate yet equal era...military forces were not integrated at that time. Yet today, America's Military exemplifies, epitomizes, and encourages affirmative action and diversity of forces. Transcending race, our military sees women, minorities, and orientation as characteristics rather than as identifiers.

The Doris Miller legacy speaks clearly to me. His legacy reminds me of the overcoming of micro and macro challenges. Personal challenges, career challenges, economic challenges -- and yes, National and Geopolitical challenges. How could a "lowly cook" become a war hero and a Medal of Honor (MOH) awardee? Perhaps the answer lies within interpretation. A "lowly cook" has a responsibility higher than that of a general [flag officer] officer. Miller provided bodily nourishment to the naval forces via his service as a cook. Miller's service as a cook transcended that [mis]perceived lowliness (as a cook).

Could it be that Miller was a Navy Cook with a MOH mentality? Or perhaps a MOH hero bodily-amoured as a Navy Cook? I don't believe that P.O. Miller focused on the role-splitting...he simply did-what-he-had-to-do. Whether it was frying eggs...or shooting down Japanese warplanes. Miller did what he had to do.

How will you remember Pearl Harbor day [this year]? Will Doris Miller occupy an area of your thoughts? Will you appreciate the sacrifice of this country's war Veteran (or war veterans of any country)? May I make a simple suggestion to you? Just be the best that you are...and after that, take one additional step of greatness. Greatness equals Service...Serving Others; that's what Doris Miller was. He was a Great Servant!