Born into a Seventh-Day Adventist family from Lynchburg, Virginia, after Pearl Harbor and about to be drafted, Doss enlists voluntarily in the United States Army, but because of his religious beliefs refuses to kill any enemy soldiers or even carry a weapon (including the standard combat knife). Suffering harassments that include soldiers throwing their boots at him, a sergeant ordering him to pick up a weapon or be court-martialed, attempted transfers, secret beatings, attempted discharges for mental instability, and other acts of displeasure from the men he is serving with, Doss holds to his beliefs and is made a medic in time to participate in the American recapture of Guam in 1944.
No coward whatsoever, on Guam Doss charges through ankle deep mud in a driving rainstorm while under mortar, rifle, and machine-gun fire to rescue wounded soldiers ... and earns his first Bronze Star. Back for another dose of combat after MacArthur invades Luzon in the Philippine Islands. There, for his second Bronze Star, Doss exposes himself to enemy fire to run forward over a hundred yards to two wounded men, pinned down by the crossfire of two Japanese machine-guns. Finding one dead, Doss single-handedly carries the wounded man through a muddy field to the safety of a nearby line of jungle ... there, Doss crafts a stretcher out of bamboo and drags the wounded man to an aid station. And that is just the warm-up for what takes place when Doss' unit participates in the taking of the island of Okinawa.
American Forces Advance On Leyte
No words I can craft can fully represent the activities of Doss as Marine and Army units try to break Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima's Shuri Line, so instead, I'll simply supply the man's official Medal of Honor commendation ... judge for yourselves how special Doss' actions were:
He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machine gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.
Incredible (the Army wants to credit Doss with taking 100 men down the cliff, but Doss says it felt more like 50, so the difference is split and he is officially credited with rescuing 75 soldiers) ... throughout the rescue, Doss prays, "Lord help me get one more. Just one more," until all the men are down!!!!!!!! Doss' broken arm is actually broken in three places, and doctors will pull 17 pieces of shrapnel out of the medic's wounded body (protecting the wounded man he is treating, the sniper's bullet that breaks Doss' arm would have hit the wounded man in the neck, killing him, if not for Doss). What concerns the medic the most however is that in all the up and down on the cliff, he has lost the Bible his wife gave him before leaving for the war, the Bible he carries with him every day and that he used to give comfort to the wounded as he is treating them .
Hacksaw Ridge - Doss At Top
Doss Treating Wounded
Doss And Wife
At the hospital, Doss is visited by his commanding officer, General A. D. Bruce, who informs the medic that he is being recommended for the Medal of Honor, but Doss is even more honored when he is presented with his missing, water-logged and charred Bible ... hearing Doss has lost the book, after the line is secured and the battle moves on, members of his unit climb the cliff again and search the ridge's every inch until the Bible is located. Back in the states, as Truman places the Medal of Honor around Doss' neck, he tells the medic, "I would rather have this medal, than be President."
Bullets and explosives not enough to stop Doss, tuberculosis however does ... and after being discharged from the Army, Doss will spend five years undergoing medical care for his condition and war wounds (the TB will finally get him in 2006 when he dies from breathing complications at the age of 87). Beyond the medal, his post war years are filled with family love and more honors ... with his own hands he will build a home on Lookout Mountain, Georgia (the American flag will be flown there daily, and the front yard has a small replica of the Statue of Liberty), where he and his wife, raise Desmond, Jr., from the annual stipend he receives for winning the Medal of Honor, he funds the creation of the Civilian Defense & Rescue Service of Walker County, in 1990, a section of Georgia Highway 2 is renamed the Desmond T. Doss Medal of Honor Highway, the Georgia House of Representatives presents him with a March of 2000 resolution honoring his service, the guest house at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. is renamed Doss Memorial Hall in 2008, a two-mile stretch of Alabama Highway 9 is renamed the Desmond T. Doss, Sr. Memorial Highway in 2008, he also gets a section of US Route 501 near Lynchburg, Virginia, and that city gets a school named after the man, the Desmond. T. Doss Christian Academy. Additionally, Doss will appear on This Is Your Life in 1959, he becomes the subject of an award winning documentary, The Conscientious Objector, the subject of a book called The Unlikeliest Hero, and appears in a comic book sanctioned by the United States Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The Uniform Still Fits
And if that isn't enough, Doss will be honored as the subject of a major Hollywood movie, Hacksaw Ridge, that opens across America on November 4, 2016 ... directed by Academy Award winner, Mel Gibson, and starring Andrew Garfield as Doss.
Garfield As Doss
A very, very special individual ... Desmond Thomas Doss receives the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman ... 10/12/1945!