Dorie Miller, a Black hero who after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 1941 carried several Navy comrades to safety and then manned a machine gun against the Japanese, was awarded a Navy Cross for his efforts. There is a current campaign to have President Obama award him the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
May 16, 1942
The Navy Department announced Monday that President Roosevelt has awarded the Navy Cross to Dorie Miller, mess attendant, “for his distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety” during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Miller, a native Texan, with no opportunity for technical training in the navy, nevertheless manned a machine gun during the attack on December 7 until his wounded commander ordered him to abandon the bridge of their stricken ship.
On April 1, Secretary of the Navy Knox commended the young hero in a letter and Miller who last week was in California, has been advanced in rating as a preliminary reward for his bravery.
Last week the Senate voted down a bill introduced by Senators James M. Mead and Alben W. Barkley, both Democrats of New York and Kentucky, respectively, which would have authorized a Congressional Medal for Miller.
Knox Disapproved Medal
Secretary Knox, however, had disapproved legislation to award a Congressional Medal to Miller. The views of Mr. Knox were made known in a letter to Senator David I. Walsh, chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, opposing this bill.
Opposition to the award of the Congressional Medal to Miller is said to be based upon the fact that such an honor carries with it for life the privilege of the floor of the House of Representatives.
Despite this opposition, plans are already being made to continue the request that the award be made.
Edgar G. Brown, director of the National Negro Council in a statement Tuesday said, “Despite the action of Secretary Knox recommending against the award of a Congressional Medal to Miller, colored people of the nation are appealing to Congress to support the measure introduced by Senator Mead and Congressman John Dingell (Dem. Michigan) to accord the same honor to this colored American regardless of race, creed, or color as to other heros of the nation.
“Secretary Knox also failed in the first release of the Navy Department to note even that Miller was in the engagement at Pearl Harbor, though he cited more than 200 others for bravery and heroism.
“The favorable action of President Roosevelt is very acceptable. The National Negro Council, however, will continue to urge Congress to support efforts to see to it that Miller received a Congressional Medal and the privilege and right of the floor of Congress for the rest of his life which are accorded with such recipients.”
The last holder of the Congressional Medal was Master Sergeant George H. Wanton, who died in 1940. Sergeant Wanton, a native of Paterson N.J., was a member of the Tenth Cavalry.
During the Spanish-American War he distinguished himself by saving the lives of sixteen captured comrades at the risk of his own.