In a ceremony yesterday, on the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wacoans gathered to remember Doris Miller and unveil a new statue in his honor.
Reverend Willie Stanley opened the ceremony by describing the moment Miller, an African American messman, saw Japanese planes attacking U.S. ships.
“He then without any warning or training or regard for life and limb mounted a 50 caliber machine gun and without any professional training he began to shoot down the zeros that were coming in scraping his ship. He stayed at his post until all the ammunition that he had had been exhausted” -Stanley
Accounts vary, but Miller’s credited with shooting down from 3 to 5 enemy aircraft. He was famously portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor.
People came from all across the US to celebrate Miller and see his statue for the first time. It stands on the shores of the Brazos river, historically seen as a division between Waco’s white and black communities.
This river has divided us in ways that it’s very subtle but it’s not very subtle.” -Olson
That’s Waco Native and Former U.S. Ambassador Lyndon Olson. He says the statue’s not just as a symbol of Miller’s legacy…
“The first thing that came to me was how healing this statue will be for this community."-Olson
Surviving members of Miller’s Family were overcome with emotion at the unveiling. Like his niece, Henrietta Miller-Bledsoe.
“Oh Gosh it was just goosebumps. This has been a long time waiting. I just want to thank Waco.” Miller-Bledsoe
Buzz Smith of Massachusetts was one of the last men to serve aboard the USS. Miller, a destroyer named for the hero. He hopes that one day Miller will be given the military’s highest honor.
“I hope that they proceed to review his case for the Medal of Honor…People have done less and earned it” -Smith
Much of Doris Miller’s legacy in Waco is lost, including his childhood home and the school he attended. This statue is just phase one in a Waco nonprofit’s plan to honor him. A permanent memorial is currently under construction.
For KWBU, I’m Will Burney