Military Times NOW hosts the HomeOfHeroes  Awards & Citations Database

 

Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado

 

Desmond T. Doss

The Soldier and his SWORD

doss_sm.jpg (5978 bytes)

 

 

Desmond struggled through the pain to clear his mind and reconcile himself to his surroundings.  He was on a hospital ship just off the coast of Okinawa.  Every inch of his lean frame hurt, he was covered with bandages, and he knew he had a compound fracture in one arm.  As the fog cleared in his mind he thought of his Bible, the one his wife had presented to him on their wedding day.  That Bible had sustained him though the months of training when he had been the brunt of ridicule and hate among his fellow soldiers.  It had been his constant comfort through the months of combat at Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa.  He reached slowly to the shirt pocket where he had always carried it.  The Bible was gone...lost somewhere on the top of the Maeda Escarpment beside the blood that had leaked from his shattered body.  "Please," he begged someone nearby, "get word back to my men.  I've lost my Bible."


It had been almost a month since that "miracle morning" when Doss had prayed and the men of Company B had taken the escarpment.  During the period Doss had been busy.  The Japanese were not willing to easily relinquish control of their rocky fortress, and many battles had followed the April 29th initial assault.  The nature of the escarpment with its caves and tunnels made it possible for the enemy to hide from the Americans who struggled to control the top, then sneak out in the dark of night.  Three days after the initial assault Doss had braved a hail of enemy rifle and mortar fire to rush 200 yards forward of the lines to rescue a wounded soldier.  Two days later four soldiers who were assaulting an enemy gun emplacement fell.  Desmond ignored the rain of enemy grenades around him to rush to their aid.  Moving to within 8 yards of the mouth of the cave from which the enemy had cut down his fellow soldiers, Doss made 4 separate trips to reach and rescue the wounded.

Medal of Honor Day

On May 5th the tide of battle turned against the Americans.  Enemy artillery, mortars and machinegun fire began to rake into the ranks of Company B, 77th Infantry Division.  Japanese soldiers swarmed out of their foxholes and caves in every direction.  Almost immediately 75 men fell wounded, and the remaining men were forced to fall back and retreat to the base of the escarpment.   The only soldiers remaining at the top of the cliff were the wounded, the Japanese, and Desmond T. Doss. 

Heedless of the shells that burst around him and the bullets directed his way, Desmond tended his injured comrades.  At the base of the escarpment those few soldiers who had managed to escape the onslaught could only   sit helplessly by and hear the sounds of the battle as the wounded struggled to survive atop the cliff.  And then...amazingly...a wounded soldier appeared over the face of the escarpment.  Dangling from a rope, he slowly descended to the safety of its base as a tall medic fed the rope through his hands from the summit.  First one, then another, and another....and another.  Heedless of the advancing Japanese, Desmond Doss went about the work of sending the wounded to safety.  Reports of that day tell of Japanese advancing with rifles and bayonets to within a few feet of the medic, slowly lowering his men to safety, before one of the wounded could kill the enemy before they shot Doss. 

For five hours Doss lowered soldier after soldier down the face of the escarpment, using little more than a tree stump to wind the top edge of the rope around.  Throughout the five hours Desmond had only one thought.   He prayed, "Lord, help me get one more.  Just ONE more!"  How many men Doss saved that day, only God knows.  One hundred and fifty-five soldiers went up the escarpment that day, and only 55 were able to retreat without assistance.   The Army determined the conscious objector who had almost been court martialed or discharged as unfit for military service, had saved 100 lives.  "Couldn't be," Desmond had replied.  It couldn't have been more than 50.  I wouldn't have had the time to save 100 men."  In deference to Desmond's humble estimate, when the citation for his Medal of Honor was written, they "split the difference", crediting the intrepid soldier with saving 75 fellow soldiers.

That night General A.D. Bruce arrived from the 77th Division Headquarters.  He was amazed when he heard the story of Desmond Doss and immediately began to prepare paperwork to award him the Medal of Honor.  General Bruce missed the opportunity that evening to meet the heroic soldier, however.  His incredible mission accomplished, a physically exhausted Desmond Doss had cleaned up as much as his simple surroundings would allow.  Then he went off alone with his Bible to read, to pray, and to thank God for all He had accomplished on that day.

May 5, 1945 was a Saturday...the Sabbath.


The bloody struggle for the Maeda Escarpment continued for weeks.  On the night of May 21st the Americans launched a bold attack.   When the return fire forced the Americans to take cover, Desmond remained in the open to treat the wounded.  Then he, and three other soldiers, crawled into a hole to wait out the darkness.  Suddenly a grenade landed among them.  Three men scrambled out but Desmond was too late.  Reflexively he covered the grenade with his boot, then felt it detonate beneath him and hurl his body into the darkness of night.   When he fell back to earth the leg was still there, but bleeding badly from numerous wounds.  Rather than call for another medic to leave shelter and risk his own life, Desmond bandaged his own wounds and waited the five hours alone until daylight broke.  As the litterbearers arrived with the dawn and began to carry the wounded medic out of danger they passed another critically wounded soldier.  Desmond instructed them to put down his litter, then rolled off it and told them to take the other man.  While he awaited their return he was joined by yet another wounded soldier.   Together the two of them set out for safety, leaning upon each other.

Once again rifle fire split the morning.   Pain stabbed Desmond's arm which was curled across the shoulders of his new comrade.  The sniper's bullet went into his wrist, exited through his elbow, and then lodged itself in his upper arm.  Had the bullet not hit Doss, it probably would have struck his wounded compatriot in the neck.  Desmond borrowed his friend's rifle and used the stock to fashion a splint for his useless arm.  Then the two continued to crawl to safety.

Seventeen pieces of shrapnel were removed from Desmond's leg and his arm set in a sling.  On the hospital ship Desmond was being prepared for the return home.  Desmond Doss' war was over.  He'd fought a good fight...his own way...without ever compromising his strong beliefs.

On October 12, 1945 Desmond Doss was invited to the White House.  President Harry S Truman held a Medal of Honor in his hand as he looked at the brave young medic.  "I would rather have this Medal," he said, "than to be the President."  Then, with those words, he hung the Medal of Honor around the neck of Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss.

At home another surprise awaited the young man.  His men hadn't forgotten the brave medic or his love for the Word of God.   The message about "Doss' Bible" had been delivered.  Incredibly, the men who once mocked the Godly Seventh-Day Adventist who would not compromise, had returned to the Maeda Escarpment with a new mission and purpose.  After soundly defeating the Japanese they fanned out across the rocky terrain and conducted a search until they found, and mailed home, Desmond's Bible.

doss_presentation.jpg (32372 bytes)

doss_bible.jpg (298446 bytes)

AT LEFT

DESMOND'S CHERISHED BIBLE

 

 

Click on the Button Below
For the Conclusion of Desmond's Story

doss_bn.jpg (14909 bytes)
Desmond Doss, American Hero

 

 

Copyright 1999-2014 by HomeOfHeroes.com
     2115 West 13th Street - Pueblo, CO 81003

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Unless otherwise noted, all materials by C. Douglas Sterner

Home Page

Hall Of Heroes

MOH Community 

NEWS

Kidz Page

FEATURE STORIES
  Profiles In Courage | Wings of ValorThe Brotherhood of Soldiers At War | Go For Broke
 Pearl Harbor  | A Splendid Little War | Shinmiyangyo-Korea 1871 | Quick Links to MOH Stories

RECIPIENT WEB SITES
Barney Barnum  |  Jack Lucas  |  Mitch Paige  |  Wesley Fox  |  Sammy Davis
Roger Donlon
Peter Lemon  |  Drew Dix  |  Mike Novosel

Medal Of Honor Calendar  |  Books By MOH RecipientsSteve Ryan MOH Posters

What Does 
A Hero Look Like?

Click on Superman To Find out


FOOTNOTES
In
HISTORY

NEW
Looking for a Hero or trying to verify awards? We have posted the names of more than 120,000 recipients of the highest awards in a BRAND NEW FREE SECTION
DECORATIONS 1862 - Present
.

Military Medals & Awards 

Information and Images of ALL Military Medals
The Purple Heart 
How to Request Records/Medals Earned
  How to Obtain Military Records of a Family Member 

Honor Roll of America's Military Heroes


Brevet Medal


DSC 


Navy Cross 


Air Force Cross 

Distinguished Service Medals

Defense - Army - Navy - Air Force - Coast Guard - Merchant Marine



Silver Star

U.S. History and Information
The History Room | U.S. Flag HistoryHistory of the Flag |
How to Display the Flag
| The National Anthem | The Pledge of Allegiance The American Creed | The Seal of our Nation | Our National Symbol
Arthur MacArthur's Flag | William Carney's Flag | FDR's Flag of Liberation]

FLAG DAY           STATE FLAGS
American Presidents
U.S. Presidents | Inaugural Addresses

God & Country
ROOM

MY HERO Web Page Creator 
(Create a Tribute to the Hero in Your Own Life)

SEARCH
bn_search.jpg (3967 bytes)
OUR SITE

EDUCATIONAL

GAME ARCADE

OR
Quick Quiz

***
Electronic Post Cards
Talking Points 

Remembering 911
The Binch
Citizens Speak Out

BEYOND THE MEDAL

This 5 Disc DVD Education Program has been distributed to over 17,500 Public & Private High Schools and is now available to the public!


 

HomeOfHeroes.com now has more than 25,000 pages of US History for you to view.