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National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. Con. Res. 44, in commemoration of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and to honor those who served their country at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Our nation is now fully engaged in a campaign to eradicate international terrorism. The last two weeks have witnessed a great deal of progress in Afghanistan. Yet, the job is not yet complete; the Taliban remain in control of their spiritual base of Kandahar and Osama bin Laden remains at large. I can find no greater inspiration for seeing through this campaign to complete victory than the men and women of past generations who served heroically in defense of our nation, especially at Pearl Harbor on ``the day of infamy.''

One of those heroes was Dorie Miller, an African American mess attendant aboard the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Dorie Miller was responsible for dragging his ship's commander, who had been wounded by shrapnel, out of the line of fire. Once his captain was safe, he manned a machine gun on the ship's deck. He did so despite the fact that blacks generally did not serve in combat positions or other positions of greater responsibility and thus he had not been instructed in gunnery, With serious bombing and strafing all around him as the American battleship fleet was being decimated, Dorie Miller shot down at least two of the 29 Japanese planes that were lost by the attackers that day.

Dorie Miller continued to serve his country in the Navy during World War II. However, in 1943, he and 654 shipmates were killed in the line of duty when the Japanese sank the USS Liscome Bay near the Gilbert Islands.

Unfortunately, Dorie Miller's acts of valor have never been fully recognized, and some of the awards that were bestowed upon him were only given grudgingly. Initially, Dorie Miller's actions were not publicized until three months after the Pearl Harbor attack. Then, he was only given a letter of citation by the Secretary of the Navy--the lowest of awards for duty. Dorie Miller was finally awarded the Navy Cross, but only after a public campaign by civil rights organizations brought about critical attention in the press. However, Dorie Miller was not decorated with the nation's highest honor--the Congressional Medal of Honor. In fact, no African American who served in World War II received the Congressional Medal of Honor until seven Army veterans were given the award in 1997.

Mr. Speaker, as we honor the devotion, dedication and sacrifice of all who served at Pearl Harbor, I can think of no better commemoration than to finally recognize the actions of Dorie Miller. I have introduced legislation, H.R. 1994, which would begin to cure this injustice. The bill would waive the time limitation specified in current law for the awarding of military decorations in order to allow the posthumous award of the Congressional Medal of Honor to Dorie Miller for his heroic actions during World War II. I ask my colleagues to cosponsor my bill and the Armed Services Committee to expedite its passage so that a long-awaited honor may finally be bestowed upon this deserving individual.