All Americans, particularly children and young adults have a lot they can learn from the bravery and patriotism on display in the U.S. Navy.
Take for example, the story of Sailor Doris “Dorie” Miller, ship’s cook, Third Class. Miller was still a teenager when he enlisted in the Navy in 1939. Back then, the military was still segregated, and black sailors like Miller were kept from combat roles. The only job open to Miller was as a mess attendant and cook. As a result, Miller didn’t receive the same combat training that white sailors received. But that didn’t stop him from jumping into the danger on December 7, 1941, when his ship was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
Miller was doing laundry on that infamous morning when the call to battle stations rang out. At first, Miller ran to the closest anti-aircraft battery, only to find a Japanese torpedo had destroyed it. One of his fellow sailors, seeing how large and strong Miller was, told him that the Captain was injured on the bridge, and they needed someone big to carry him.
Miller ran through enemy aircraft fire and flying shrapnel towards the bridge, where he carried the Captain to safety. When Miller returned to the ship’s deck to await further orders, he saw an unmanned Browning 50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun. He was never trained on how to use this gun, but no one else was using it... and someone had to shoot down those Japanese torpedo planes. So, Miller manned the gun and proceeded to shoot down plane after plane. In the confusion of the battle, it’s unknown how many planes Miller actually shot down, though some accounts have it at four or five.
After running out of ammo, Miller began carrying wounded sailors to safety. Time after time, he ran back onto his sinking ship, exposing himself to shrapnel, gunfire, and thick, oily smoke to save his fellow sailors. He gave no thought for his own life. His courage saved scores of lives that day. As a result of his heroic actions, Miller became the first black sailor to receive the Navy Cross.
These are the kinds of stories we should be telling our nation’s young people. America’s young people need positive role models. They have a lot to learn from the examples of the American Sailor. You may have grown up hearing stories of tremendous sacrifice from heroes like Dorie Miller. But while these heroes were once household names when you and I were young, they are all but forgotten today. That’s why it’s so important that we build the new National Museum of the American Sailor as quickly as possible.
Navy: Together We Served is for all U.S. Navy Sailors who served or who are currently serving. You will find shipmates you served with, view their service profiles and photographs, and create a visual record of your military service you can share.
Naval History and Heritage Command's Navy Art Collection includes over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and engravings consisting of naval ships, personnel, and actions from all eras of U.S. naval history.