Legacy for justice
In writing the book, Brizill not only uncovered what happened while Miller was alive, but also the impact he had and continues to have even after his ultimate sacrifice.
Brizill explained that while the United States and its allies were fighting fascism abroad, America had its own challenges brewing at home that made life particularly difficult for black members of the military.
“In World War II, AfricanAmericans had to fight two wars: we had to fight racism at home and our enemies overseas,” he said.
With the country initially being slow to award Miller for his service, Brizill said it took the hard work of civil rights organizations to push for any level of recognition.
“He had some powerful people advocating for him, powerful civil rights and African-American organizations advocating for him,” Brizill said. “The fact that he got the Navy Cross was because of a pressure campaign that was put on the military and the president at the time, President Roosevelt.”
A few years after Miller’s story was revealed, President Harry S. Truman integrated the armed forces by way of an executive order.
Brizill said the AfricanAmerican experience in World War II laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement in ‘50s and ‘60s, as organizations launched pressure campaigns to secure the rights for black people in the U.S.
“When you see AfricanAmericans in the military today that are in senior positions, that are in highly skilled positions, Dorie Miller’s legacy I think has a lot to do with that,” he said. “He opened doors with his actions on Dec. 7, 1941.”
As the U.S. comes up on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Brizill said there is still time for Miller to be fully recognized for what he gave to this country.
“One of the things I do advocate is that it’s not too late for Dorie Miller to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I challenge people in my book to contact their congressperson and senator to recognize him and give him the Congressional Medal of Honor. I think that would be a fitting tribute for what he did,” he said.
Doris “Dorie” Miller’s heroism on Dec. 7, 1941, has been depicted in Hollywood movies and documentaries, but the sailor never got to see them, tragically dying in action two years after his heroic acts during the attack on Pearl Harbor.