Doris Miller was born on October 12, 1919, in Waco, Texas, and had three brothers, one of whom served in the Army in World War II. He enlisted in the Navy on September 16, 1939 and over the next two years worked his way from mess attendant up to ship’s cook, third class. In January, 1940, he was transferred aboard the battleship USS West Virginia, and became the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion. When the battleship was hit by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Miller first tended to the wounded and carried them to safety, then manned a Browning anti-aircraft gun against attacking Japanese planes. Despite having no training, he managed to down at least one of the enemy planes, and was awarded a Navy Cross for his actions, presented to him on May 27, 1942, by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
With the West Virginia out of action (it would be refloated and repaired, and was back in action in time to support the US landings in the Philippines), Miller was reassigned to the cruiser Indianapolis, and then to the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay in spring of 1943, a ship which later saw action in the Battle of Tarawa. He was killed in November of that year when the Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine.
Doris Miller’s actions at Pearl Harbor were portrayed in the movie Pearl Harbor. Miller was played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.
The Knox-class frigate USS Miller, commissioned in 1973, was named in his honor.