FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — When Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Doris “Dorie” Miller, a cook aboard the battleship USS West Virginia, was below deck cleaning laundry.
When the bombs began dropping, he made it to the main deck and helped remove wounded Sailors — including the ship’s captain. At that time, Black Sailors — segregated to the stewards’ branch — were not trained to fire weapons aboard the ship, so it was Miller’s first time operating a machine gun when he fired at the aircraft.
Adm. Chester Nimitz presented Miller with the Navy Cross May 27, 1942. Miller was killed in action during the Battle of Makin in November 1943.
In observance of Black History Month, military resale patrons can enter a sweepstakes that honors Miller’s legacy as the first African-American Sailor to be awarded the Navy Cross.
Through the “Celebrates Your Service” sweepstakes, authorized commissary and exchange customers can participate for a chance to win one grand prize of a $5,000 scholarship or one of three $1,000 scholarships.
In an homage to Miller, there will be a battleship display at the Commissary with instructions on how to enter the sweepstakes, said Rachelle Davidson, Fort Leonard Wood Commissary store director.
“I believe sharing Miller’s extraordinary acts of bravery and unity help educate our younger generations of young Soldiers and military children,” Davidson said.
Marine Sgt. Maj. Michael Saucedo, senior enlisted advisor to the DeCA director, praised Miller for his valor.
“Dorie Miller’s actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor represent the best traditions of our military,” Saucedo said. “Today, we stand on the shoulders of heroes like Miller, and the Defense Commissary Agency is proud to help share their stories.”
Miller’s legacy is marked by several additional historic milestones:
— Miller’s image appeared on a Navy recruiting poster, and in November 1942 the Navy returned him to the United States for two months to promote war bonds.
— On Nov. 24 1943, Miller perished with nearly 650 of his shipmates when a Japanese submarine torpedoed his ship, USS Liscome Bay, during the Battle of Makin. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
— Shortly after Miller died, the Navy began an officer-training program for Black Sailors and in March 1944 the service commissioned its first Black officers, known as the Golden Thirteen.
— The Navy honored Miller by naming a dining hall, barracks and a destroyer escort for him. A YMCA branch, park and cemetery are also named after him in his hometown of Waco, Texas.
— The Doris Miller Foundation in Chicago honors those who make exceptional contributions to racial understanding.
— On Jan. 20, 2020, the U.S. Navy officially named its future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, the USS Doris Miller.
“Dorie Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation,” said then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly during the Navy’s ceremony announcing the naming of the future aircraft carrier. “His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue to stand the watch today.”
There is no purchase required to participate in the sweepstakes. From now until Feb. 28, participants can text the keyword “SERVICE” to the short code 26739.
To read more information about the sweepstakes, visit the DeCA website at https://commissaries.com/our-agency/newsroom/news-releases/legacy-service-feb-1-28-commissary-exchange-patrons-can-enter.