A Man Named Doris

Navy Recruiting Poster.

It’s MLK Day. The sixties was a great era for acronymic names: JFK, RFK, and LBJ all knew MLK. He was often a burr in their saddle, but they respected him.

On this holiday, I’m honoring MLK by writing about a Civil Rights hero: Doris “Dorie” Miller.  He served in the segregated World War II era Navy as a mess man. Despite that, he became a hero by manning a gun station on the deck of the USS West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor. To use contemporary terminology, he ran toward danger. He went down with his next ship in 1943.

An aircraft carrier, to be launched in 2028, is being named in his honor today. Carriers are typically named for presidents, which puts Miller in the company of FDR and JFK among others. I had to keep the acronymic theme going somehow.

The story of Doris Miller proves the utter stupidity of the racist stereotypes of his day: that African Americans were too stupid and cowardly to serve in combat. Today’s stereotypes are different but equally pernicious.

I hope y’all are proud of me for not making any Boy Named Sue references until now. It was a struggle and I almost made it. Here’s how he got the name according to Miller family lore:

“Grandmother thought she was having a girl. And it wasn’t a girl! Doris turned out to be a boy, so that’s where that name came from.”

He made all the Doris’ in the world proud.

That concludes this de-facto Not Everything Sucks post. The last word goes to David Martin with this wonderful piece for CBS Sunday Morning:


3 thoughts on “A Man Named Doris

  1. I rewatched “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the weekend, and weirdly enough, there’s about a 3-second segment showing him taking over the gun from his dead shipmates. You know it’s him because he’s African American and is obviously dressed as a cook. That movie’s 50 years old, so apparently his story was familiar at least among people who had studied the Pearl Harbor attack. I’m glad it’s finding a wider audience today.

    1. We leave TCM on for the cats. We came home from a den day when it was on so I watched it too. Doris really rocked that gun albeit for a very short time.

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