A private in the army was engaged in his first combat action and being overcome with fear, began slowly but surely to retreat from the front line. He eventually bumped into a military man standing behind him, who inquired in a booming voice, “Soldier, do you know who I am?” “No sir.” “I am a four-star general.” And the private responded, “Oh my, I didn’t think I got that far back from the front!”
Desmond Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1919. His father was a drunkard, but his mother a saint. She took young Des to a small country church where he was saved. At age 18, Doss received his draft notice for military service in World War II, and that’s how it all started. Now Des was not against his nation going to war, he was just against personally killing anyone. Listed by the military as a conscientious-objector, he declined service in a non-combatant role, opting instead for combat service, with one exception – refusing to carry any kind of weapon: i.e. no rifle, gun, grenade, knife, etc. Because of this, the army did its best to get Desmond Doss kicked out of the military, but there was no law on the books that said a soldier had to go to war with a weapon. Even a section eight (mental incompetence) hearing was held, but psychiatrists could find no psychological impairment, just a man of deep religious conviction. The men with whom Desmond trained thought it was all an act to get out of the service and treated him viciously, especially his Bible reading times. Then it turned out that Doss had always had an interest in medicine so they put him in the medical corps (where all medics carried a handgun and knife, but him). So in April of 1945, in the war against Japan, Desmond Doss became the first American soldier to ever serve on the front lines without a weapon. And it was there that he would show his real metal. The Island of Okinawa was the bloodiest conflict in World War II resulting in 250,000 casualties, including 50,000 Americans. The island was eventually taken by the 39th battalion (Desmond’s division) in the infamous Battle of Hacksaw Ridge. In the midst of the fighting, 75 U.S. soldiers lay seriously injured on the top of a 400 foot high plateau. All the platoon had withdrawn but Doss, who alone remained behind. Then, over the next 12 hours, under enemy fire, he dragged all 75 men to the edge of the plateau and lowered them down the 400 foot drop for medical care by doctors below, saving all their lives. (Later, some captured Japanese talked of having Doss straight in their sights, but their guns jamming.) When the last of the 75 men were lowered, a grenade would explode throwing Doss into the air and putting 17 pieces of shrapnel inside his body, but also causing him to lose his Bible. The very next day, some of the same men who had so viciously treated Desmond for his Bible reading, now risked their own lives to find that very same book and get it back to him (they did). For his bravery, Desmond Doss received his nation’s highest military honour. And now a new movie about him, Hacksaw Ridge, will be released in November.
God’s Word says, I will honour them that honour me.