Vernon H. Sparks, his shipmate, Doris “Dorie” Miller, and all veterans who served and perished aboard the USS West Virginia BB48 during all of WWII…

Doris “Dorie” Miller, served with my father Vernon aboard the USS West Virginia BB48

Doris “Dorie” Miller was an American Sailor in the United States Navy.

He manned anti-aircraft guns during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, for which he had no training, and tended to the wounded.

He was recognized by the Navy for his actions and awarded the Navy Cross. 

WikipediaBorn: October 12, 1919, Waco, TXDied: November 24, 1943 in the Battle of Gilbert Islands….

Gilbert Islands, KiribatiBattles/wars: World War IIPacific War > Attack on Pearl Harbor;Movies: The Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War IIAwards: Navy CrossPurple HeartAsiatic–Pacific Campaign MedalAmerican Defense Service MedalMoreSiblings: Selvia MillerArthur Miller

Earlier that morning around 6am Vernon was in the galley like every morning about the same time.

Vernon got back from liberty with his battle buddies just before midnight curfew. Vernon was already in deep shit for missing curfew a couple of times.

Vernon and Dorie became fast friends in the summer of 1941 when the USS West Virginia left Long Beach Harbor for Pearl Harbor.

“Hey Dorie!” Vernon would holler out with that loud bos’n low growling voice. “How about some of that shitty coffee you make. And don’t fuck up my easy over eggs this time.”

Sailors loved to to pick on each other a little. It was a little respite from all the monotony aboard ship. They weren’t thinking about war or fighting in that moment.

They thought about being at the ‘ol’ slop shoot’ in Honolulu. You know, a whiskey shooter in one hand and glass of beer in queue as a chaser, and the other arm around a beautiful young oriental girl. Sweet…indeed.

Life was good right then…before “all hell broke lose!” Vernon would say later.

They loved the way Dorie made bad food, cooking, and being away from home like, “back home in the kitchen with famiy.” They all talked about Dorie this way.

Christmas was coming and they wouldn’t be going home. Dorie would help them forget about that.

Dorie could turn a really bad day into a hell of a lot of laughs by all. Vernon loved Dorie. They all loved his huge smile, laughs, and stories from Waco.

It was this way on that Sunday morning on December 7, 1941. It was another beautiful sunny warm day in Pearl Harbor.

Vernon and Dorie talked of liberty that night. “Which ‘slop shoot’ should we go to tonight, Dorie?” Vernon would yell and laugh at the same time in a mischievous way.

Shortly after that, a little after 8am, Vernon was under the turret on the main deck, yelling as loud as he could at his buddy Dorie. “Dorie, Dorie, get the fuck down from that gun! Get down before you get killed. We are abandoning ship, Dorie! Can you hear me?

Dorie looked down at Vernon as if to say, I’m gonna shoot down another one of those Jap mother fuckers!”

Shortly later Vernon, Dorie and 100s of other shipments jumped overboard. They swam to Ford Island through burning oil, strafing and more bombs.

It didn’t look good for them in that moment. But survived they did… But many shipmates didn’t make it on that day.

Warriors never forget battle buddies who parish at sea or on land. “We will never ever forget them . ” Vernon would say in his mind over and over again the rest of his life.

Vernon would never forget his shipmates on that fateful day, December 7, 1941.

****

The National WWII Museum New Orleans

Doris Miller, USS West Virginia BB48 December 7, 1941, Awarded Navy Cross and Medal of Honor
Doris Miller
Nickname“Dorie”
BornOctober 12, 1919
WacoTexas
DiedNovember 24, 1943 (aged 24)
Gilbert IslandsGilbert and Ellice Islands
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1939-1943
RankCook 3rd Class
Battles/warsWorld War II
*Attack on Pearl Harbor
*Battle of Tarawa
*Operation Galvanic
AwardsNavy Cross
Purple Heart Medal[1]
Combat Action Ribbon

Doris “Dorie” Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943)

http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/index.asp

I was very moved and proud of America when visiting the National WWII Museum in New Orleans yesterday with Judy. I could not help holding back the deeply personal  and proud emotions of the personal connection with my Dad, who served on the USS West Virginia.

Dorie is recognized in the memorial and exhibit for his bravery while the USS West Virginia was torpedoed and sank in the harbor. 

The WWII museum is very powerful and includes a 4D  movie narrated by Tom Hanks, Beyond all Boundaries. http://www.nola.com/movies/index.ssf/2009/11/world_war_ii_museums_beyond_al.html It gave us the shocking reminder of the sacrifice world wide of  65,000,000,000 men, women, and children killed during the war. 

The number is staggering!  The 4D technology made us feel we were back in that terrible time and in the middle of WWII in every theater of the war.  Even the seats shook as various events occurred, including Pearl Harbor, Pacific and European theaters showing battles leading up to dropping the “bomb” and finally ending WWII.

I continue to feel grateful and personally touched on this journey while having the opportunity to visit America’s sacred places.  

These special moments provide a deeply spiritual and personal experience of the debt we owe to millions of people who died protecting liberty around the world.  If America had not come together as one to fight back, we would no doubt have a completely different world today. 

A world without democracy seems so remote and scary, but it is very clear to me that the Free World would not exist today if it had not been for the sacrifice and bravery of so many millions of men and women who in the military and in the private sector.

America built the most powerful fighting force in the world at the time.  My own “boomer” generation was especially blessed with peace and prosperity following WWII. 

I hope all of us born around the time of WWII have done our best to help preserve and protect our sacred liberties and freedoms we so enjoy to this day…

Now with 2021 on the near horizon, I ask, “have we done our best?” Have we?”

Steve Sparks
Author, US Navy 1963-65

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