An aerial view of the USS Arizona Memorial, which honors the Sailors and Marines who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Photo: Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Jayme Pastoric / U.S. Navy

Clara Caufield: Dorie Miller, a WWII Black Hero

As I have mentioned before, after ten years of chunking out weekly columns, sometimes the old creative well runs a little dry. However, due to the internet presence of Native Sun News Today, I have made many new friends and fans, scattered across the county and indeed the world – one person from Africa of all things.

I ask that friend about Swahilis, great warriors and he asks me about Northern Cheyenne, great warriors as well, we often noting the commonality of those experiences and warrior cultures. The Swahili, for example beat back the formidable English several times, armed with only long spears and great courage, just as our ancestors beat back the 7th Cavalry against all odds.

One of the best of my new email buddies is Dennis Malloy, up-state New Yorker, a faithful reader and now telephone friend, except he does not like stories or columns about Vietnam Vets with sad endings, him nearly one himself. Each week, usually on our Sunday morning call, he is curious about my next column.

Doris "Dorie" Miller, Mess Attendant Second Class, USN (1919-1943) is shown just after being presented with the Navy Cross by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, on board USS Enterprise (CV-6) at Pearl Harbor on May, 27, 1942. The medal was awarded for heroism on board USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor Photo: U.S. Navy

“Duuno,” I usually say. “After all, I still have 24 hours to come up with that. This week, I’m a little stumped.”

“Do you ever write a column upon request? This one from an old fat Irish guy about a black guy - a true hero? That Vet got mentioned on our local TV for about two minutes, but he deserves more than that. NSNT does get around and maybe could give him a little more credit.”

“That would be a new twist,” I laughed. “What is it?”

So, he told me about Dorie Miller, a black guy from back east who served in WW 11 on a ship as a cook. Dorie apparently was a very large feller and an excellent cook, content with that duty. However, in 1943, the ship he served upon was attacked by Japanese planes, during Pearl Harbor, immediately killing many of the sailors.

Dorie, the fat jolly black cook somehow raced to up decks, grabbed artillery (maybe, they think, machine guns), downing three Japanese planes, saving the lives of many of his comrades in the process. However, the planes had severely damaged their ship which was sinking.

Cook Dorie Miller than went bottom side, shoving several skinny sailors through port holes to safety. He, however, was too large for that escape, going down with the ship.


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