WACO TX — National hero, and Waco-native Doris 'Dorie' Miller has forever brought honor to the Waco community. Every aspect of Miller's brave actions in World War II are considered extraordinary.
He was an African-American and a cook in the Navy in 1941 - and he still fired at Japanese planes. He had no training. No one expected him to rise above and beyond when the Japanese unexpectedly attacked.
Born to Waco-area sharecroppers in 1919, Miller grew up and enlisted in the Navy at the cusp of World War II.
Years into his service, his ship, the USS West Virginia, was anchored in the pristine waters of O'ahu on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
According to Miller's ancestors, he was collecting soiled laundry when he felt a blast pierce his ship. They explained he rushed to the deck to find his captain gravely injured and a large deck gun unmanned. Without hesitation, or any formal gunnery training, Miller manned the gun, firing upon the attacking Japaneses planes.
For his bravery, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, making history as the first African American to don the medal.
His great nephew, Thomas Bledsoe explained that "what he did is such an impact to not only to minorities, but also people who are not, because its a story about an individual that stepped up and did something great."
Bledsoe said that what makes Miller's story extraordinary is that he was untrained in artillery, as African American service members in his division weren't given formal gunnery training.
Bledsoe said, "its really about an individual can do something that's not expected of them and go beyond the call of duty, so his story and his actions of taking the gun and shooting at the Japanese planes is such a great story because he was just a cook."
Nearly two years after the Pearl Harbor attacks, Miller was killed in action when his ship was attacked during the Battle of Makin.
Miller's Family said his memory not only honors minorities, but all who go above and beyond during times of need.
"Stepping up in that moment and not looking at what society's boundaries have placed and going above and beyond, that is really a great testament to Black History Month and for individuals overall" Bledsoe said.