On a hot Sunday afternoon in early October in the San Fernando Valley, California, I met with Commander Stephen Sherman at a Denny's Restaurant, to discuss a very important man, Dorrie Miller, or as Dorrie preferred Dorris Miller. To the uninitiated, Dorris was a messman on the Battleship Arizona the day the Japanese made a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. This was back when the US Navy was segregated, and African Americans were allowed only the most menial assignments. Mr. Miller grabbed a fifty caliber machine gun, a gun he was not trained to shoot and shot down four Japanese aircraft before he ran out of ammunition.
Dorrie received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the nations third highest medal awarded to persons serving in the armed forces, however, despite his success that day, Dorris was denied the country highest award, The Medal of Honor. Fifteen European American sailors received the Medal of Honor that day, not a single individual of color received such accolades.
Commander (Stephen Sherman), as his friends passionately call him, is the only known friend still alive who knew Dorris. The Commander is now eighty-eight years young, he still proudly wears his uniform, he is slender and muscular, he stands about five foot eight and he could probably out bench press men in their twenties. His quest these days is for the Navy to posthumously award Dorris Miller the Medal of Honor. The Commander travels the Nation speaking on behalf of Dorris, educating and encouraging people to honor a man who wanted to be treated with dignity, as was the case of the African American race at the time.
"The time is now", the Commander explains, "for the Navy to finally recognize Dorris Miller and award him the Medal of Honor". My Blog will follow the Commander in his journey to recognize a true hero who saved countless lives on that day, "a day that will live in infamy" President Roosevelt once said.
On that October day in Los Angeles, the Commander educated me about the times, the Jim Crow segregation in the armed forces, the pain he endured as a second class citizen in his own country. Though I was aware of Dorris Miller, Miller remains a footnote in most history books, even in the African American community. When the Commander dies, a very important piece of history dies with him. This is why I plan on following the Commander, documenting his quest for a selfless endeavor, the Medal of Honor not for himself, but for a friend who has been dead for over sixty-six years. This is the ultimate gift to a friend.