Desmond T. Doss

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Desmond Doss in 1945
I felt it an honor to serve my country, God and country, same as the rest of them. The only thing, I just didn't want to take life.
I was praying the whole time. I just kept praying, "Lord, please help me get one more." When I got this, I said, "Lord, please help me get one more."

Desmond Thomas Doss (February 7, 1919 – March 23, 2006) was a United States Army corporal who served as a combat medic with an infantry company in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II and saved the lives of 75 men for which he became the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor during the war. His life has been the subject of books, the 2004 documentary and the 2016 Oscar nominated film Hacksaw Ridge, where he was portrayed by Andrew Garfield.


  • Blood had run down into the fella's face and eyes. He was laying there just groaning and calling for a medic. I took water from my canteen, got some bandage, and I washed his face. And when that blood was washed from his eyes, his eyes came open. Man, he just lit up. He says, "I thought I was blind." And if I hadn't got anything more out of the war than that smile he gave me, I'd have been well repaid.
    • The Conscientious Objector documentary (2004)
  • I was praying the whole time. I just kept praying, "Lord, please help me get one more." When I got this, I said, "Lord, please help me get one more."
    • The Conscientious Objector documentary (2004)

Interview with AMEDD Center of History & Heritage (1987)[edit]

Interview (20 March 1987)

  • I was working in Newport News, Virginia, in a shipyard in defense work. I could have been deferred. In fact, my boss even offered to defer me, but I was in good health and I felt like it would be an honor to serve God and country. So, I didn't want to be known as a 4-F so I would rather go in.
  • I didn't believe in taking a life. I felt like God gave life, it wasn't for me to take. When I was growing up, I was the [unclear] child. My mother had a picture of the Ten Commandments illustrated and showed a picture of Cain, and Cain killed his brother Abel and I wondered how in the world could a brother do such a thing. That had some impression.
  • I felt it an honor to serve my country, God and country, same as the rest of them. The only thing, I just didn't want to take life. I wanted to save life instead of taking life and for them to look at my records, which they did.
  • I was conscientious and I like to call myself a conscientious cooperator instead of objector because we believe in serving our country in every way possible, same as anyone else. Only thing we didn't want to do is take life, like I mentioned before. God gave life, Christ is our example, I want to be him.
  • I sincerely believe that all my men prayed with me before. At this same time cause there is no such thing as infidel when you're facing death. I know cause I've had some of the men come to me and ask, pray for me, even though they gave me a hard time in times past. When I finished praying, I went up, push up, I pushed over against these Japanese positions. Got pinned down, we couldn't move. While we were pinned down and couldn't move A company was over to our left and they was supposed to come over to help us, meet us to try and knock these Japanese positions.
  • I had a, I prayed and I'm sure my wife, my mother and a lot others were praying for me. I was trying to take the safest precautions I could, but I felt like my life should be no more important than my buddies. My men reminded me of my family. There's something about combat that actually makes you more closely tied to each other. I think you are almost your own blood kin. Those men trusted me.
  • The best advice I can give is put your heart and soul into your work. If you like what you're doing, the Lord will bless. I know some thought I was better. Well, I felt like I was. We put our heart and soul into our work. I feel like, especially for the medics, it's the most rewarding work there is. We can't save all but like I told you before about the experience, about the fellow that I took care of that I said I wouldn't give a plug penny for his life.
  • So, I feel like my work has been rewarding work. I have no regrets. I'm just thankful I had the honor and privilege to serve God and country.

Quotes about Desmond Doss[edit]

  • Even though I said those things to him in regard to carrying a rifle, then he would never be by my damn side at all unless he had a rifle. But then, in the long run, finding out that he was one of the bravest persons alive. And then to have him end up saving my life was the irony of the whole thing.
    • Capt. Jack Glover, The Conscientious Objector documentary (2004)
  • Pfc. Desmond Doss is perhaps one of the most unlikely recipients of the Medal of Honor. Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Feb. 7, 1919, Doss was raised in a strict Seventh-day Adventist family. Entering the Army on April 1, 1942, Doss was classified 1AO, meaning conscientious objector (CO) available for noncombatant military service, as Seventh-day Adventists are prohibited from working on the Sabbath. The Army did not have a separate category for a noncombatant other than CO, so Doss became a medic with the 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division.
    Following basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Doss’ company shipped to the Pacific in mid-1944. Doss’ support of his fellow soldiers on Guam and subsequently on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s initial landfall on the Philippine Islands, was exceptional, and he received a Bronze Star with V device.
    The 77th Division relieved the 96th Infantry Division on the island of Okinawa on April 28, 1945. It was on Okinawa that Doss encountered his rendezvous with destiny.
    Stretching across the island was a 400-foot cliff called the Maeda Escarpment. Doss’ company’s mission was to scale the ridge and eliminate the enemy on the reverse slope of the escarpment. The climb was exceedingly difficult, with the last 30–40 feet nearly vertical.
    On May 2, 1945, Doss reached the summit with 155 soldiers from Company B. At the top of the escarpment, Company B encountered heavy resistance. When the commander ordered his men to retreat on May 5, Doss refused to abandon his wounded comrades. Over the next five hours, Doss dragged wounded soldiers individually and lowered them over the ledge to the safety of their comrades below. All the time, he kept praying, “Lord, help me get one more.”
  • How many soldiers had Doss rescued? Division headquarters reported 155 men went up the escarpment, and only 55 returned from the hill on their own. Doss modestly stated that he saved 50 men.
    .Doss’ exploits were later featured in the 2016 feature film Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson.
    Doss repeated his heroics over the next two weeks before he was seriously wounded on May 21, 1945. Evacuated to the U.S., newly promoted Cpl. Doss received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman on Oct. 12, 1945. Doss died on March 23, 2006, and is buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery in Tennessee.
    Doss remains the first conscientious objector to receive the nation’s highest award for valor in combat. Two decades later, Thomas Bennett and Joseph La Pointe Jr., also combat medics and conscientious objectors, followed in Doss’ footsteps during the Vietnam War.

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