Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement
History - African American Studies - Military History - Texas History
6 x 9, 160 pp.
35 b&w photos. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 12/26/2017
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
Price:        $24.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement

Thomas W. Cutrer and T. Michael Parrish

On the morning of December 7, 1941, after serving breakfast and turning his attention to laundry services aboard the USS West Virginia, Ship’s Cook Third Class Doris “Dorie” Miller heard the alarm calling sailors to battle stations. The first of several torpedoes dropped from Japanese aircraft had struck the American battleship. Miller hastily made his way to a central point and was soon called to the bridge by Lt. Com. Doir C. Johnson to assist the mortally wounded ship’s captain, Mervyn Bennion. Miller then joined two others in loading and firing an unmanned anti-aircraft machine gun—a weapon that, as an African American in a segregated military, Miller had not been trained to operate. But he did, firing the weapon on attacking Japanese aircraft until the .50-caliber gun ran out of ammunition. For these actions, Miller was later awarded the Navy Cross, the third-highest naval award for combat gallantry.

Historians Thomas W. Cutrer and T. Michael Parrish have not only painstakingly reconstructed Miller’s inspiring actions on December 7. They also offer for the first time a full biography of Miller placed in the larger context of African American service in the United States military and the beginnings of the civil rights movement.

Like so many sailors and soldiers in World War II, Doris Miller’s life was cut short. Just two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Miller was aboard the USS Liscome Bay when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. But the name—and symbolic image—of Dorie Miller lived on. As Cutrer and Parrish conclude, “Dorie Miller’s actions at Pearl Harbor, and the legend that they engendered, were directly responsible for helping to roll back the navy’s then-to-fore unrelenting policy of racial segregation and prejudice, and, in the chain of events, helped to launch the civil rights movement of the 1960s that brought an end to the worst of America’s racial intolerance.”

THOMAS W. CUTRER is professor emeritus of history at Arizona State University and the author of several books, including Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861–1865. T. MICHAEL PARRISH is the Linden G. Bowers Professor of American History at Baylor University and the author of Richard Taylor: Soldier Prince of Dixie.

What Readers Are Saying:

"Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement tells the life of a titan among men. When darkness fell on Hawaii during that fateful day in 1941, Dorie Miller stood as a beacon of hope. He signaled to the Japanese empire and to the rest of the world that the most beautiful diamonds emerge from the severest of pressures. . . . We appreciate his life and legacy, and we hope to have the courage to face adversity with the same tenacity as Mr. Dorie Miller.”—Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

“Miller’s story, tragically ended by his death in action two years after he became a national hero, is artfully utilized in Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement to tell an even larger story. The history of integration and segregation of the US Navy, with an iconic Texan hero interwoven into it, should prove popular.” Bill O'Neal, State Historian of Texas



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