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Miller was a member of the U.S.S. West Virginia as a Messman Third Class during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was awarded the Navy Cross--the third highest navy award for gallantry during combat--for "distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack. Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain who had been mortally wounded to a place of greater safety and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge."Miller was personally awarded the medal by Admiral Chester Nimitz. He was the first African-American to be awarded the honor.