On a late summer night in 1943, Tacoma’s USO #2 club at 715 Commerce was hosting a very special guest. The quiet, legendary hero Doris “Dorie” Miller was in town and everybody at the USO club knew his story. #2 was the black USO club in Tacoma in days when the war was still uncertain and the military was segregated. On December 7, 1941 Dorie was a cook on the USS West Virginia, stationed in the kitchen with the ship at anchor in Pearl Harbor. When the bombs started falling Dorie broke for the deck which was littered with debris and wounded sailors. He carried several to shore before finding the mortally wounded captain. Once he got the captain to the medics he found the shoulder braces of a 50 caliber machine gun and with no artillery training stayed at the gun until it was out of ammunition and at least two zeros were down. Dorie Miller was awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery and valor, the first African American sailor to win this honor.
USO#2 was never the same after Dorie. The club brought musicians and soldiers who played music from all of the military bases around Puget Sound, from not just Fort Lewis but Bremerton, Seattle and North Sound. The club expanded its dance floor and began welcoming movie stars and jazz notables. At the 5th anniversary of the club in February 1946, Harry P Cain, Mayor and aid to General Eisenhower celebrated the famous venue and reminded the audience that music and heroes didn’t pay much attention to race. Cain was the only Mayor on the west coast to openly oppose the relocation of the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.
Doris Miller was killed in action on November 24, 1943, when his ship, the escort carrier Linscome Bay, was sunk during Operation Galvanic, just a few months after his visit to USO#2 in Tacoma..
Related story….Dorie Got a Medal