Rally on Friday evening to support Medal of Honor for Dorie Miller

Rally on Friday evening to support Medal of Honor for Dorie Miller

A chance encounter at the Seven Eleven in Ossining four years ago can be directly connected to  Friday’s rally at Torpy Field at 6 p.m. The rally is to gain support for awarding a Medal of Honor to African-American Dorie Miller, a solider in World War II.

The circuitous route from a convenience store to Peekskill’s rally came about when  Martin McDonald, executive director of the Black Diamonds Academic Success program, overheard former US Congressman Joe Dioguardi speaking in the store. “I was half listening,” said McDonald recently and then he and Dioguardi started a conversation and “he asked me if I ever heard about Miller,” recalls McDonald. When he admitted that he didn’t know anything about Miller, Dioguardi explained how he was on a mission to secure a Medal of Honor for the African American serviceman’s acts of bravery and courage during World War II.

It couldn’t have been a more fortuitous encounter for Diguardi as McDonald invited him to speak to the group he leads, the Black Diamonds, and in the four years since they’ve been engaged in the cause they’ve petitioned, researched and planned events educating the public about Miller. Friday’s rally will be the fourth event the group has organized.

The Black Diamonds Academic Success Program was founded to help young men of color succeed academically in high school and be well prepared for life after graduation. The group meets weekly to discuss topics related to academic success, manhood, cultural identity, economic empowerment, social justice, and civic engagement.

The group is planning a pre-Memorial Day rally on Friday and is reaching out for support to increase the number of people attending the rally. Their goal is to have at least 500 people to attendance at the rally to show support of awarding Miller the Medal of Honor. Diguardi will be a speaker, explaining how he’s been involved with this cause for that past 30 years. In addition, members of the Multicultural SD1 Dorie Miller Memorial Post 213 from Brooklyn will be on hand.

“We believe that justice delayed is justice denied,” said Zachary Allen, student president of the Black Diamonds Academic Success Program. “We are calling on concerned citizens and organizations to join us in our rally to support Dorie Miller and to demand that he be awarded the Medal of Honor he deserves.”

James M. SoRelle, History Professor at Baylor University contributed the research below to the Doris Miller Memorial in Waco, Texas website.  He was born Doris Miller in Waco, Texas, on October 12, 1919, the son of sharecroppers Connery and Henrietta Miller. Miller entered A. J. Moore High School in Waco and became the school’s star fullback. As the third of four sons in a family engaged in subsistence farming, he was forced to drop out of school. He supplemented the family income by working as a cook in a small restaurant in Waco during the Great Depression.

Less than a month before his twentieth birthday, Miller enlisted in the United States Navy at its Dallas recruiting station. Following bootcamp training in Norfolk, Virginia, he was assigned to the USS West Virginia as a messman.

On December 7, 1941, Mess Attendant Second Class Doris Miller was collecting soiled laundry just before 8:00 A.M. When the first bombs blasted his ship at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Miller went to the main deck where he assisted in moving the mortally wounded captain.

He then raced to an unattended deck gun and fired at the attacking planes until forced to abandon ship. It was Miller’s first experience firing such a weapon because black sailors serving in the segregated steward’s branch of the navy were not given the gunnery training received by white sailors. Although news stories have credited Miller with downing from two to five airplanes, these accounts have never been verified and are almost certainly apocryphal. Miller himself told Navy officials he thought he hit one of the planes. Navy officials conferred the Navy Cross upon Miller on May 27, 1942, in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

Following a Christmas leave in 1942, when he saw his home and family in Waco for the last time, Miller reported to duty aboard the aircraft carrier Liscome Bay as a mess attendant, first class. During the battle of the Gilbert Islands, on November 24, 1943, his ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Pacific Ocean, and Miller perished. At that time, he had been promoted to cook, third class, and probably worked in the ship’s galley. In addition to conferring upon him the Navy Cross, the navy honored Doris Miller by naming a dining hall, a barracks, and a destroyer escort for him. The USS Miller is the third naval ship to be named after a black navy man.

In Waco a YMCA branch, a park, and a cemetery bear his name. In Houston, Texas, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, elementary schools have been named for him, as has a Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in Los Angeles. An auditorium on the campus of Huston-Tillotson College in Austin is dedicated to his memory. In Chicago the Doris Miller Foundation honors persons who make significant contributions to racial understanding.

Peekskill’s Black Diamonds Academic Success Program has gained support from the Peekskill City School district, Peekskill NAACP, Rotary Club of Peekskill, City of Peekskill Youth Bureau, American Legion Post 274 of Peekskill, Multicultural SD1 Dorie Miller USN Memorial Post 213- Brooklyn, NY, African American Men of Westchester, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church and others. Members of the Peekskill police and fire departments will be on hand to support with hot dogs and drinks for attendees.

For more information on the Black Diamonds Academic Success Program or to show your support for their mission, visit their website or contact Martin McDonald at 845-490-4931.