There are many heroic stories during wartime, but you can’t help remembering the truly unusual, remarkable moments. Desmond Doss’ story is one of those you can’t forget.
Growing up, Desmond wasn’t anyone you would remember. A quiet, skinny kind of kid from Lynchburg, Virginia, who enlisted in the Army as a combat medic. However, there was something different about him. Doss was a Seventh-Day Adventist who believed in the Bible’s Ten Commandments, especially the 7th which says to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, six days you should labor and do all your work, but the the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8,9)
Doss wanted to serve his country, but his beliefs and convictions had him vow not to kill or work on the Sabbath. The Army wanted nothing to do with Doss – “He just didn’t fit into the Army’s model of what a good soldier would be,” says Terry Benedict, who made a documentary about Doss called The Conscientious Objector.
So the Army made it very clear that Doss was not welcome. “It started out as harassment and then it became abusive,” Benedict says, who talked to several World War II veterans who were in the same battalion.
His fellow soldiers threw shoes at him when he prayed and thought he was a pest and a slacker – their “weakest link in the chain”. Desmond’s commanding officer, Capt. Jack Glover, tried to get him transferred to another unit. Glover says Doss told him, “Don’t ever doubt my courage because I will be right by your side saving life while you take life. Glover responded by saying, “You’re not going to be by my damn side if you don’t have a gun.”
But despite their best efforts, the Army couldn’t force Doss to train and carry a weapon. A 1940 law permitted conscientious objectors to serve in “noncombatant” positions, so they were forced to bring Doss along to the Pacific theater. At Okinawa, Doss’ company was forced to do the unthinkable – climb a steep cliff known as Hacksaw Ridge where numerous Japanese soldiers laid in caves and tunnels awaiting them.
As shots fired and bombs exploded, Doss crawled from soldier to soldier, checking to see who was alive – he dragged the wounded to the cliff’s edge and tied them securely with rope, lowering them to safety. Despite enormous danger, Doss said in a documentary, “I was praying the whole time. I just kept praying, ‘Lord, please help me get one more.” Veteran Carl Bentley, who fought at Hacksaw Ridge, said, “It’s as if God had his hand on [Doss’] shoulder. It’s the only explanation I can give.”
In over 12 hours, Doss managed to save 75 men, including his captain Jack Glover. Running straight into danger without a weapon, Doss’s only protection? He credits it all to God. Thousands of American and Japanese soldiers died in that bloody battle, but Doss not only managed to stay alive, but to save so many others.
And all the men in his battalion who had shamed and abused him for his beliefs? They called him a hero – “He was one of the bravest persons alive,” Glover says in the documentary. “And then to have him end up saving my life was the irony of the whole thing.”
President Harry Truman awarded Doss the Medal of Honor in 1945 for his heroic acts of bravery. Mel Gibson has even made Doss’s life into a movie, out in theaters now called Hacksaw Ridge. There are many other heroic and miraculous events during Desmond’s time during WWII – if you are interested in his life story, Hero of Hacksaw Ridge, please contact Meaning Filled via email at (astoundable[AT-SIGN]gmail.com) for a free copy.