On 7 December, 1941, America experienced one of the most humiliating military catastrophes in its history. Japanese air and naval forces would destroy over 300 American aircraft, as well as 20 vessels, and over 2,500 American military personnel as well as civilians would be killed.
That day is marked with many heroic stories, but perhaps none so striking as that of Doris ‘Dorrie’ Miller. Miller, an African-American native of Texas, was aboard the USS West Virginia, when it was hit. He not only moved many wounded sailors to safety, at great risk to his own, but also assumed the duties of a gunner of a ship board Anti-Aircraft Battery. This came as a surprise to a Lieutenant who had lead him to the unmanned weapon, hoping Miller would assist him with loading ammunition, but after being distracted, the Lieutenant turned back to find Miller operating the weapon and downing attacking enemy aircraft while under fire and as the ship burned.
The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt, addressed a joint session of Congress, and illustrated to the American people the wickedness of the actions of the Empire of Japan and the nature of the total war in which America now found itself. He said in part, “It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area.”
On 2 September, 1945 aboard the battleship Missouri, General Douglas MacArthur would accept the surrender of Japanese.