A lot has been said about Desmond Doss and his bravery acts to stand firm for what he believed in during the World War II. He has been honored by the White House and acclaimed by many for having saved 75 soldiers during the Okinawa war against Japan without carrying a gun.
During the battle at Hacksaw Ridge, thousands of American and Japanese soldiers were killed and the fact that Doss was able to survive the war in addition to saving many has left those who knew him awed.
Such a strong spirit
From the very beginning, no one would have predicted Desmond T. Doss would become the World War II hero.
A quiet, skinny, Seventh Day Adventist kid from Lynchburg who wouldn’t dare betray his faith including never working during the Sabbath was always sidelined by the other soldiers. He joined the army as a combat medic, believed in the course but had made a promise never to take life. With such a personality, no one in the army wanted to associate with him. He completely had contradictory values of what a good soldier ought to be.
Training time was hell for Doss. At the early stages it was harassment and then graduated to abuse, as explained by Terry Benedict, the maker of a documentary about Doss called The Conscientious Objector.
Benedict interviewed several World War II veterans who had a one on one encounter with Doss. They viewed him as a pest, doubt his dedication and always looked down upon him every time he prayed – some went to the extent of throwing shoes at him. The filmmaker summarizes this by saying they thought he was a slacker. He was someone who entered the army wrongfully and shouldn’t be part of them – “their weakest link in the chain.”
Doss Commanding officer, Captain Jack Glover, attempted all efforts to get him off his troop. Glover is quoted in the documentary saying that Doss was a high-spirited man. “Don’t ever doubt my courage because I will be right by your side saving life while you take life,” the junior officer told his boss who replied “You’re not going to be by my damn side if you don’t have a gun.”
I can’t hold the gun
Despite all their efforts, the Army never got to convince Doss to hold the gun. His Commander at one time gave a direct order for him to either carry the gun or face the disciplinary committee. The hero chose the latter.
His refusal to hold the gun made some soldiers to hate him, with even one saying “When we go into combat, Doss, I’m gonna shoot you myself.”
A 1940 law allowed conscientious objectors to join the battle but at a noncombat position, making it possible for Doss and fellow medic move to the Pacific theatre and then to Okinawa in 1945. His crew was faced with a gruesome task from climbing steep cliff to plateau where they were waited by highly armed Japanese soldiers. The battlefield was full of caves and the Japanese soldiers hid in them.
But despite all the gunfire and explosions, Doss managed to crawl on the ground and retrieved wounded soldiers. He dragged them on the ground to the cliff edge where he would tie ropes around their bodies and lower them down to the medics. Doss says that he was ever prayerful: “Lord, please help me get one more.”
After the end of the war, Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945 by President Harry Truman. The inspirational soldier died in 2006 and got a state burial.