As the nation honors the past on the 75th commemoration of the dawn of World War II, I am requesting that you write to the President about awarding the Medal of Honor to World War II Messman Attendant Second Class Doris Miller for his acts of valor during the December 7th, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor which indeed made him a hero of epic proportions.
World War II Messman Attendant Second Class Doris Miller
“But sometimes even the most extraordinary stories can get lost in the passage of time,’ President Obama told a group of about 60 that included Army family, military members and Medal of Honor recipients Nov. 6, 2014 . “This medal is a reminder that no matter how long it takes, it is never too late to do the right thing.”
Seventy four years is a very long time. Since April 19, 1942, thousands have requested that the U.S. Navy recommend Doris Miller for the Medal of Honor. It is never too late to do the right thing.
The president’s bold acknowledgement of the 24 Army veterans who deserved Medals of Honor but were denied them due to racism is part of President Obama’s broader effort to highlight racial injustice and cultural awareness.
President Obama made an effort to correct an historical act of discrimination when he awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest commendation for combat valor, to a group of Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans who were passed over because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.
The unusual presentation culminated a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress into past discrimination in the ranks and will hold a particular poignancy when conducted by the nation’s first African-American president.
Although the review predates Obama’s tenure, he has made great strides addressing discrimination in the military.
In 2002, Congress called for a review of war records from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to ensure that soldiers deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice.
The reassessment sent a host of candidates through the various service boards that decide on Medal of Honor recipients and then to the Joint Chiefs for approval. Two dozen veterans — all from the Army — emerged as worthy of an upgrade to the Medal of Honor.
The Navy did not forward Messman Doris (Dorie) Miller’s name.
No Blacks won the Medal of Honor during World War II until in 1997 President Clinton awarded it to seven black soldiers, all but one posthumously, who an Army study commission concluded were denied their due because of the Army’s “racial climate.”
In the last several Congresses, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and members of both parties in Congress, has filed legislation to waive the statute of limitations so that Miller could receive the Medal of Honor.
In a denial letter to my request “The Navy has concluded that the Navy Cross, the highest award that can be approved and awarded by the Secretary of the Navy, appropriately recognizes Petty Officer Miller’s heroic actions,” said Lt. Mike Kafka, a Navy spokesman. Kafka said those seeking to upgrade Miller’s award can offer new evidence or ask the Navy to look at the case anew, a request Johnson may make.
Absolutely we ask again! This is not new evidence. Racism is the Birth Defect of the United States of America.
First let me say, Lt. Mike Kafka apparently did not do any research. In 1941 NO Black Messman held the rank of Petty Officer. At the time of Doris Miller’s actions the Navy was totally segregated.
World War II African-American sailors were stripped of their dignity, their “somebodyness”. Regardless of their education they were expected to be messmen, stewards and cabin boys, not trained for combat.
They did not even wear the traditional Naval Anchor on their uniforms. Secretary of the Navy (Colonel) Frank Knox, (former publisher of the Chicago Daily News and the 1936 G.O.P. vice-presidential nominee) wrote “The policy of not enlisting men of the colored races for any branch of the naval service but the messmen branch was adopted to meet the best interests of general ship efficiency.”
“Even as Hitler espoused the theory of the “Superior Ayrian Race”, the United States Military practiced the theory of “African-American mental inferiority”. The Army War College study of 1940 described the Afro-American as having ‘less developed mental capacities.” The Navy was accepting African-Americans on a limited basis as messmen/stewards. The Marines were accepting NO African-Americans. According to Historian Duane B. Bradford, “during the first six months of 1940, the Army admitted 30 African-Americans total into all of its schools.”
Doris Miller, a product of the segregated Military, never gave Jim Crow a thought as he braved strafing enemy planes to help remove his mortally wounded Captain Mervyn Bennioin to a place of safety.
The lack of combat training did not stop Miller. This noble spirit, running between the flames and crashing metal, taking the machine guns in hand as his ship mates were dying all around him on the blood soaked deck of the battleship West Virginia. He shot down 5 of the 29 downed Japanese planes that rained bombs from the sky on the December “day that will live in infamy”.
How can the Navy state that Doris Miller’s denial of the Medal of Honor was not racist? America at this time was deluged with atrocities . . .lynching of Negroes, drowning of “Coolies”, downright genocide of Native American Indians, bombing of synagogues, and women were chattel & mortgage.
BENNION, MERVYN SHARP (posthumous), Captain, U.S. Navy, USS West Virginia, Pearl Harbor, T.H., 07 December 1941. This is the man Dorie Miller attempted to move on the deck of the USS West Virginia. Captain Bennion received the Medal of Honor and the Navy says there is no reason to upgrade Dorie’s Medal.
From December 7, 1941 until August 9, 1945, The Pacific War was a Navy War. The Navy only awarded 52 Medals of Honor during WWII and only 14 were enlisted men. That shows the Navy’s level of discrimination was not only based on race but also on rank.
Of the 111,606 causalities, 252,142 wounded and 21, 580 POWs, the Navy only awarded 66 Medals of Honor.
The story of the Navy’s institutional racism is not something I read in a book or saw in the movies, I have spent the past 40 years with my husband who is a retired Submariner. While I was not an eye witness to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I was privileged to know men who were on the West Virginia with Doris Miller. I know the story of Dorie Miller and hundreds of men like him.
Doris Miller will always be gratefully remembered by Americans. To his heroism and the heroes of others like him, white and black, we owe our lives and our nation. While the official Navy records still do not credit Miller as having shot down any enemy aircraft. Miller’s heroism helped to call worldwide attention to the evil practice of segregation in the military.