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Mess Attendant 2nd Class Miller, Doris

When the captain of West Virginia was hit by debris from the strike on Tennessee, Lieutenant Commander Doir C. Johnson (Johnson, Doir C.) considered the problem of moving the wounded man in the confined conditions of the battleship's signal bridge. He summoned the biggest, strongest man he could think of, Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller, the ship's heavyweight boxing champion. (At that time African-Americans were not permitted to serve as combat sailors, but were allocated to kitchen and officers' mess attendant duties.) By the time Miller arrived it had been decided not to move Captain Bennion (Bennion, Mervyn). Ensign Victor Delano had, in the meantime, been organizing men to bring two machine guns into action and had it in mind that Miller would pass the ammunition. In the event Lieutenant Freddy White and Miller manned the guns against the continuing Japanese air strikes. Johnson was much impressed with the mess attendant's fighting spirit and performance, so he recommended him for the Navy Cross. On 27 May 1942 the award was made by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Doris Miller was the first African-American in the World War II Pacific theater to receive such recognition.

See also: Bennion, Mervyn; Tennessee; West Virginia

You can find out more about the war in the Pacific in the following Osprey books:

CAMPAIGN 62 Pearl Harbor 1941; CAMPAIGN 18 Guadalcanal 1942; CAMPAIGN 30 Midway 1942; CAMPAIGN 77 Tarawa 1943