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Desmond Doss
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Military Personnel
    (February 7, 1919-March 23, 2006)
    Born in Lynchburg, Virginia
    Seventh Day Adventist/Conscientious Objector/US Army Medic
    Assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 307th Infantry Regiment
    Served in the battles of Guam, Leyte and Okinawa
    Received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Okinawa
    Portrayed by Andrew Garfield in the film ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ (2016)
    He disliked the term ‘conscientious objector,’ preferring to call himself a ‘conscientious cooperator.’
    The army initially assigned him to a rifle company, thinking that peer pressure would convince him to pick up a gun, before transferring him to a medical corps.
    The combination of his short height, refusal to bear arms, and unwillingness to work on Saturdays (the Sabbath according to the Adventist church) led several of his superiors to consider him a potential liability in battle.
    His superior officers tried to have him discharged under Section 8 for mental instability. (The effort failed when Doss protested and the officers realized that declaring someone mentally unfit based on their religious beliefs would create a political shitstorm.)
    When he was a teenager, he walked three miles to a local hospital to donate blood for the victims of a local car crash.
    He was working in a shipyard when the US entered World War II, so he could have gotten a deferment, but felt an obligation to serve.
    When his battalion was ordered to retreat from the Maeda Escarpment on Okinawa, he refused to leave the wounded behind.
    He repeatedly ran through heavy fire to rescue soldiers, carried them to the edge of a 400-foot cliff, then singlehandedly lowered them to safety.
    He rescued between 50 and 100 wounded soldiers, one at a time (April 29-30, 1945).
    After being injured by a hand grenade (which left 17 pieces of shrapnel in his legs), he gave up his stretcher to a soldier who he felt was more badly wounded (May 21, 1945).
    While waiting for the stretcher bearers to return, he was struck by a sniper’s bullet that shattered his left arm. He then made a splint from a rifle stock and crawled 300 yards under fire to an aid station.
    The entire sequence from ‘struck by a sniper’s bullet’ to ‘crawled 300 yards under fire to an aid station’ was left out of ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ by director Mel Gibson, who apparently worried that the events were too bad-ass for audiences to believe.
    He contracted tuberculosis at Okinawa, which eventually required the removal of five ribs and a lung.
    He was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.

Credit: C. Fishel

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