Sixty-nine years ago, on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the US base at Pearl Harbor, leading to the American entry in World War II. Doris "Dorie" Miller, an African-American sailor who joined the navy even though the government only permitted him to serve as a ship's cook (third class), went to the deck of his ship, the USS West Virginia, when the attack began.
He saw that the captain had been wounded and carried him to safety. Miller next joined in the defense of his ship. He hadn't been trained in weapons use, only to do laundry and cook meals, but he took over an anti-aircraft machine gun, a Browning, firing it until he exhausted its ammunition. In his estimated 15 minutes of firing the Browning, he brought down between four to six attacking planes.
Miller and his fellow sailors had to abandon the ship, and he survived the battle to receive the Navy Cross. He was the first African American awarded the Navy Cross.
In 1943, while serving aboard the USS Liscome Bay, Miller was killed in action. Thirty years later, the Navy remembered Miller's bravery and named a frigate in his honor--the USS Miller.