Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Desmond Doss, an unlikely hero, that served his country in WWII without carrying a gun

President Harry S. Truman presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Desmond Doss.
President Harry S. Truman presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Desmond Doss.

By JoAnne Brown

He was a Bible-toting vegetarian—lean and lanky. No one expected Desmond Doss, a native of Lynchburg, Virginia, to become a hero. Doss joined the Army during WWII and saw active duty in Guam, the Philippines, and Okinawa. But he never carried a gun. Desmond Doss was a conscientious objector.
Doss had been inspired by a childhood picture that hung on his home.  It was a picture of the Ten Commandments. There was an etching of Cain, who slew his brother, and the words, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” at the bottom.  Yet, Doss wanted to serve his country during WWII, so he became a medic. He was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman for saving the lives of 75 men while under fire.
Doss was often ridiculed for his faith. He was a Seventh-day Adventist and honored the Bible Sabbath. He had morning and evening worship in his barracks. Even on the morning of April 29, 1945, he had worship before he went to the battlefield. The men were about to ascend the 400-foot  escarpment on Urasoe Mura, nicknamed by the men as Hacksaw Ridge. It was a pretty nasty engagement. The men walked right into an enemy stronghold. Scores of men were killed immediately by artillery and machine guns. The United States soldiers made a hasty retreat—all except Doss. He stayed and lowered 75 wounded men single-handedly by rope down that escarpment to help.
That wasn’t all.  The next day he went back.  He and four others got trapped near a cave under fire.  He saw a grenade coming in and kicked it in mid-air, saving those with him. It left him with 18 pieces of shrapnel in his legs.  But as he was being taken out in a litter, he saw a man more severely injured.  He rolled off the litter and told the men to take that man instead.  He waited for help for hours, and almost had his arm blown off.  But he still assisted the wounded and dying.  He was wounded three times.  When he got back to the encampment he discovered his Bible was missing.  The men went back and found it for him.  They realized they had misjudged Doss.
Doss died in 2006.  He was buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  Four helicopters flew over the horse-drawn caisson, in the missing man formation. An honor guard rang out a 21-gun salute. Doss didn’t aim to be a hero, he just wanted to serve his God and his country to the best of his ability.