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Although the West Virginia was fitted with an array of weapons, Miller was not trained on how to fire any of them. The gun to which he was assigned to help load ammunition was damaged by Japanese torpedoes. As the ferocious attack continued, he made his way to another part of the ship to await further orders. The ship’s communications officer ordered Miller to help move a mortally wounded Capt. Mervyn Bennion to safety. That’s what I do I pet cats I play guitars and I know things shirt, hoodie, tank top
Later, Miller was asked to help load one of the anti-aircraft guns. When the communications officer who gave that order became distracted, he looked back and saw Miller firing one of the guns, as though he had done it all his life. Miller fired at the attacking Japanese planes until he was out of ammunition. We do not have an exact number of how many planes Miller downed, but his exhibit at the National African American History Museum in Washington, D.C., credits him with destroying two.
“It wasn’t hard,” Miller would say later. “I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about 15 minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”
The Navy initially tried to cover up Miller’s heroics, but too many people had witnessed his courage to bury his bravery. The NAACP and Pittsburgh Courier newspaper applied pressure to get Miller the recognition he deserved. Efforts to award him the Medal of Honor were defeated in Congress. Not one member of the Texas delegation pushed for him to receive any honors.
At the intervention of Roosevelt, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross the following spring by a fellow Texan, Adm. Chester W. Nimitz. Many believe to this day that he still deserves a Medal of Honor. Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has been a tireless leader in this fight. She expressed this sentiment when she wrote to me in April that getting him this honor “continues to remain one of my highest priorities in Congress.”
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