From Chaplain Alan Farley
(Hon Chaplain, 290 Foundation
FROM CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR
TO MEDAL OF HONOR HERO
1 Peter 1:13-17, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:”
Private Desmond Doss struggled through the pain to clear his mind and reconcile himself to his surroundings. He was on a hospital ship just off the coast of Okinawa. Every inch of his lean frame hurt, he was covered with bandages, and he knew he had a compound fracture in one arm and wounds in his legs from shrapnel.
As the fog cleared in his mind he thought of his Bible, the one his wife had presented to him on their wedding day. That Bible had sustained him though the months of training when he had been the brunt of ridicule and hate among his fellow soldiers. It had been his constant comfort through the months of combat at Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa. He reached slowly to the shirt pocket where he had always carried it. The Bible was gone...lost somewhere on the top of the Maeda Escarpment beside the blood that had leaked from his shattered body. "Please," he begged someone nearby, "get word back to my men. I've lost my Bible."
Desmond T. Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Bertha E. (Oliver) and William Thomas Doss, a carpenter, on February 7, 1919. Bertha was a very religious woman, her husband not so much. William had a love for drink which would mold a firm conviction into Desmond’s heart.
Growing up in his parent’s home Desmond was fascinated by an illustrated wall hanging of the 10 commandments. He especially meditated on the illustration of the 6th commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The illustration for that commandment was Cain killing his brother Able. Young Doss could not understand how a brother could kill his own brother.
An incident happened in Desmond’s home that would affect him for the rest of his life. One evening his father and uncle were drinking. They had had too much and got into an argument. Desmond’s father left the room and came back with a gun threatening to shoot his own brother. Bertha, his wife somehow got the gun away from him and gave to Desmond telling him to “go hide it.” After doing what his mother had told him to do he vowed to never touch a gun again. This vow would have consequences later in life.
Drafted in April 1942, Desmond refused to kill, or carry a weapon into combat, because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. He consequently became a medic, and by serving in the Pacific theatre of World War II helped his country by saving the lives of his comrades, while also adhering to his religious convictions.
Desmond’s life in the army, especially boot camp and early training were made very difficult by his fellow soldiers. When he prayed at night they would throw boots and things at him. They resented the fact he refused to work on the Sabbath (Friday evening through Saturday evening) but he would work on Sunday when the others were off. He never complained. Several of the officers tried unsuccessfully to have him thrown out of the army but he had done nothing to warrant being discharged.
One commanding officer refused to issue a pass for furlough unless Desmond took a rifle from him and went to the range and qualified, Desmond refused. That office verbally dressed Desmond down in the worst way in front of the rest of the men and refused his pass. All the rest of the men went on furlough except for Doss.
April 1945 Desmond finds himself with 77th Division attacking the island of Okinawa. The 77th has been given orders to take an impregnable Escarpment, nicknamed “Hacksaw Ridge.” The Japanese were very well fortified and ready for any American soldiers that might try to come over the top of that sheer face.
The escarpment was a sheer cliff. It was very difficult for the soldiers to climb. Somebody had the idea of using a cargo net to make it somewhat easier for the soldiers to climb the cliff, but someone had to get the cargo net to the top of the cliff. PFC Doss volunteered to climb the cliff with a rope to pull one side of the net up and secure it off, under heavy small arms fire.
At one point in the battle the 77th was to again lead the attack. Desmond’s Company “B” and another Company were to lead off. Pfc. Doss asked permission to pray for the company before they attacked. His request was granted and he prayed. That day, God answered Desmond’s prayers and Company “B” received few causalities and no men killed while the accompanying Company was very badly beat up.
Continued next week...