It’s not every day that you come across an awe-inspiring tale of a man who fearlessly walked into a warzone without a single weapon on his back. As unbelievable as it may sound, this story doesn’t revolve around an unfortunate mishap, rather a consensual choice made by Desmond Doss. The man who single-handedly rescued 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa, all the while risking his very own.
Desmond Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the year 1919. Born and raised as a fervent believer of God and the Bible, Doss never missed an opportunity to stand up for what he thought was right. His empathic nature, courageous heart, and deify ways of life were quite obvious even as a child when he would refuse to give up on anything, be it physical retention or otherwise. Once, Doss willingly walked for six miles to donate blood to a stranger without thinking twice after hearing about an accident on the radio. From a young age, Doss had been under the strong religious influence for being a member of the Seventh-day Adventist and had developed an intense hatred towards weapons after witnessing his drunken father misuse a gun. Doss lived by his oath to never carry a weapon and proved his stance by standing firm to his beliefs throughout his life.
Soon after Doss registered himself for the draft at a shipyard in Virginia, World War II broke out. Even though Doss strongly condemned all acts of violence, he saw this as a golden opportunity to join the military forces and serve his beloved country. Everything seemed to fit well in place till Desmond Doss refused to touch a gun. As ironic as it sounds, the man wanted to serve the military without holding a weapon. Instead, he wanted to be the one saving lives on the battlefield.
As soon as everyone around him found out about the heroic claims of Desmond Doss, hardship seemed to be inevitable. Doss was ridiculed, teased, beaten up, and taunted by everyone around him, but he never gave up on what he believed in. Everybody was keen to give him a hard time in hopes of getting rid of him. Keeping his head held high, Doss fought till the very end for his right to serve as a medic on the battlefield. Nothing seemed to break him because Doss never lost hope. His purpose of serving was far greater than everyone else’s. Where every man was going to the battlefield to take lives, Doss wanted to be the one who saved them instead. Till the very end, Doss had no support whatsoever from the other soldiers. There was a point when the Army assigned him to a rifle company in hopes that he would eventually leave. Little did they know, Doss wasn’t just a man with beliefs; he was the one they needed the most.
After going through what seemed like a non-negotiable matter, Doss managed to carve his way out of the loopholes and joined the other soldiers on the battlefield without a single weapon in his hands. Just as so, the man’s heroic character was reflected in his brave combat during the war. Doss was fully aware of the risk involved, yet he managed to fight for his right to serve as a military man against all the odds.
When the day of battle at the Okinawa Maeda Escarpment (May 5, 1945) came, it was a devastating blow to the Americans. The Japanese soldiers had planned to open fire when the Americans had least expected it. As soon as the American Army reached the plateau, Japanese soldiers attacked with full force, leaving the Americans in a state of utter confusion. The men were brutally injured and had to fall back because the Japanese Army came in full force and wiped out the entire plateau where the Americans had held their ground. But what seemed to be the end of the war was just the beginning.
Desmond Doss, the courageous medic, decided to stay put and held his ground. The Americans were in no state to fight back and had to surrender. The day of war was the same as Doss’ day of Sabbath. Lying in ruins and mud, Doss held his Bible close to his heart and took the leap. Something insane had struck Doss’ mind, which made him go back into the battlefield. Amidst the chaos, explosions, and endless fires, the man crawled and searched every possible ground for soldiers he could drag back to the camp. As risky as it was, the fearless medic managed to save 75 lives from the battlefield who would’ve otherwise been left there to rot. With every life he saved, Doss prayed under his breath, “Please Lord, help me get one more…”, and crawled back in search of more. In those miraculous hours, Desmond Doss left no man behind.
Two weeks later, the battle continued with full zest. However, this time, Doss took a nasty hit when a Japanese grenade landed in the foxhole where Doss and some of his patients were keeping ground. Even though he tried to get rid of it, the grenade exploded and severely injured Doss’ legs. Even then, Doss refused to take help from other medics and catered to his own wounds because he didn’t want them to risk their lives for him. When help finally came, Doss slid off his stretcher even then because he saw another soldier in need. As he lay in pain, Doss couldn’t help but think about all the possible ways for him to help others. Unfortunately, he didn’t just leave the battlefield with an injured lower body; Doss got hit once more, but this time with a sniper shot, which shattered all the bones in his left arm. Crawling in pain and agony, Doss managed to reach the aid station without any assistance, and it wasn’t till later that he realized he had lost his sacred Bible.
Desmond Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor for his exceptional service to the military. His display of bravery made him the first conscientious objector to do so. When President Harry Truman awarded him the medal, he said, “You really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being president.” But the most treasured present Doss received after the war was from the commanding officer, a pocket-sized slightly burned bible. Desmond Doss lived to be an extraordinary example of what a courageous soldier is meant to be. He lived 87 years and passed away on March 23, 2006.