Tall, strong, disciplined and an excellent marksman, Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller had all the traits of a model military man. But despite the looming threat of global war in 1939, racial discrimination imposed significant limits on areas of service for African Americans in the military. Miller’s admirable bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbour, however, went far beyond his official title of cook.
Born in Waco, Texas, Miller worked on the family farm from an early age, became an excellent small game huntsman with his brothers, and played fullback on his school’s football team. He was devoted to his country, and after several unsuccessful attempts to join different sectors of the military, he managed to enlist in the US Navy as a mess attendant. He steadily worked his way up the ranks until he was promoted to ship’s cook, third class, and was transferred to the USS West Virginia, where – while he couldn’t put his muscular 6’3” stature to any official use – he made a name for himself as the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion.