The Navy initially did not publicize Dorie Miller’s heroic actions, but news of what Miller did quickly spread throughout the United States in both Black and white communities. The NAACP wrote to the secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, urging him to recognize and honor Dorie for his heroics. The influential African American newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, sent a reporter to investigate and learn more about who this hero was. That same publication started a letter-writing campaign to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to recognize Dorie.
Efforts to award Dorie the Congressional Medal of Honor were defeated in Congress. Secretary Knox, who never had been friendly to the concept of an integrated Navy, was satisfied with simply awarding Dorie a congratulatory letter. Thanks to the personal intervention of Roosevelt, in May 1942, Dorie was awarded the Navy Cross by fellow Texan fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, and was promoted to Mess Attendant First Class.
After a nationwide publicity tour, in spring 1943, Dorie was called back to service on the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay. A few months later, in November of that year, a Japanese submarine fired a single torpedo into the ship, striking it in the worst possible location and detonating the ship’s ammunition and fuel. The subsequent explosion ended the lives of 644 men, with only 272 survivors. Unfortunately, Dorie Miller was one of those lost. In just 23 minutes the ship was gone. At first, Dorie was listed as among the missing, but a year later, he officially was declared dead.
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