Desmond Doss: US Army Medic & Medal of Honour Recipient

desmond-doss-medal-of-honour-wwii-pacific-okinawaIf your a fan of military films then ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one you should probably watch.

The extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, a US Army medic who single-handedly saved 75 soldiers at Okinawa during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.

As a ship joiner (Newport News, Virginia), Desmond could have gotten a deferment but wanted to serve so was drafted into the US Army in 1942. However, Desmond was a conscientious objector, though not in the traditional sense. He wanted to serve but not bear arms – he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong (a conscientious cooperator) – and so he became a medic.

Desmond had a somewhat bumpy journey from 1942 to 1944, he was picked on by his fellow soldiers and was even threatened with discharge on the grounds of mental instability (see reference below for detailed background history).

In March 1944, Desmond was transported with the 77th (Statue of Liberty) Division to the Pacific Theatre, first to Guam, then to Leyte in the Philippines, and finally to partake in the allied invasion of Okinawa, an island 340 miles south of mainland Japan (only the latter is chronicled in the movie).

At Okinawa’s Maeda Escarpment (the escarpment was so deadly it was dubbed ‘Hacksaw Ridge’), Desmond single-handedly rescued the wounded from behind enemy lines, braved fire while tending to soldiers and was injured by a grenade and hit by snipers.

Desmond was the first conscientious objector (or cooperator) awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour, which is the highest military honour in the US, awarded for personal acts of valour above and beyond the call of duty.

Desmond’s injuries and disabilities from the war left him unable to have a full-time job.

You’ve got to respect a person who can run onto the battlefield with no weapon (even for self-defence) and do their job.


History vs Hollywood (2016) Hacksaw Ridge. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 21 November, 2016].

Released in 2010, The Conscientious Objector is a multiple award-winning documentary which tells the incredible true story of Desmond T. Doss, a World War II hero who never once touched a firearm. An inspiring and life-affirming account of a peaceful man whose religious beliefs spurred him to renounce all weapons and, in the process, allowed for him to save countless lives as a medic on the front lines and, eventually, to receive the Congressional Medal of Honour.


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