Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
"December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy," were words spoken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that became forever embedded in the minds of patriots across our land, igniting and launching a nation into the fiery trenches of battle. Those of the greatest generation proved that when the peace of this nation is threatened, our people will stand up and fight, bringing the thunder of God upon our enemies. Defending freedom and liberty was the battle cry of the sailors and soldiers that died at Pearl Harbor.
One such patriot was Texan Doris “Dorie” Miller. In 2001, the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Cuba Gooding, Jr. became Navy Cook Third Class Miller in the movie Pearl Harbor. Like the movie Titanic, critics complained that we already knew the ending. However, Gooding’s star power appealed to a younger generation, who seem to know little about our past, and told the story of the day that changed the world and a country boy from Texas who did the incredible.
Miller was born in Waco, Texas, in 1919. As a child, he worked on the family farm and helped in the kitchen. In high school, he was a good student and a football player. He received the nickname "raging bull" because of his short and stocky build.
At the age of 20, Miller enlisted in the United States Navy. During this time, the Navy was integrated, but segregated responsibilities. Because of his race, Miller was assigned to be a cook on the ship.
Miller began his military career as a Mess Attendant, Third Class. He rapidly achieved the ranks of Mess Attendant, Second Class and First Class and was later promoted to Ship's Cook, Third Class. Miller's first assignment was the USS Pyro, an ammunition ship. In 1940, Miller was transferred to the Battleship USS West Virginia. It was on that very ship that Miller experienced the day that continues to live in infamy.
On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was collecting laundry when he heard the battle stations alarm sound signaling that the unthinkable was taking place, the United States was under attack. As the Japanese made their treacherous descent on Pearl Harbor, he ran on deck and helped carry wounded crewmen.
Moments later, an officer ordered Miller to aid the critically wounded captain of the ship. After dragging the captain to safety, Miller manned a 50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship. Miller, who had never been trained or expected to operate a machine gun, is credited with shooting down at least two Japanese planes and was one of the first to down enemy aircraft in WWII.
On May 7, 1942, Admiral Chester Nimitz presented the Navy Cross to Miller. In Miller's honor he said, "This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I'm sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts."
More than a year later, on Nov. 24, 1943, while aboard the USS Liscome Bay, Miller’s courageous life came to an end. During Operation Galvanic, his carrier was cruising near Butaritari Island when it was struck by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. The ship sunk within minutes.
On that day, 646 sailors, including Miller, gave up their lives for our country. He was officially presumed dead a year and one day after the carrier went down. For his actions, Miller was entitled to many medals including the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal - Fleet Clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
I am always intrigued by the stories of these war heroes and the folks of their generation. There isn’t one of them that cannot recall the exact moment and place they were when they heard the news. That was a time in our country when everyone came together, unified in defending our country and dedicated in preserving peace in our homeland. Until September 11th, this was the deadliest attack on US soil.
We don't always choose war, but we must always choose victory. To those who served our country then and now, we thank you for your sacrifice and we honor your service by remembering that freedom is worth fighting for. Texans, like Miller, have always answered the call and continue to do so in record numbers. One out of every ten people wearing the uniform of the United States is from Texas. God bless Texas!
And that’s just the way it is.