A Brief History
On October 12, 1945, Corporal Desmond T. Doss of Lynchburg, Virginia was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor given to only the bravest of our military heroes. A remarkable aspect of this award was that Doss was a lifelong conscientious objector and refused to bear arms against any other person, enemy or not.
Doss was the nation’s first conscientious objector to be honored by a Medal of Honor, and to make the feat that much less likely, he lived to receive his medal and died at the age of 87 in 2006. Born into a family of Seventh-day Adventists, Doss was a pious man that believed deeply that no man should ever raise his hand against another man.
Incredibly, in spite of his religious beliefs, and the fact that Doss could have been deferred from the Draft because of his work on the docks, Doss agreed to enlistment into the Army on April 1, 1942. Confusing his Army superiors by refusing to handle or carry any firearm or serve on a crew served weapon, Army brass finally found a place for him in the ranks of the Infantry as a combat medic, a soldier trained to render first aid to wounded comrades.
In combat, Doss was exceptionally brave, earning 2 Bronze Star Medals (with V for Valor) in Guam and the Philippines. Later deployed to the invasion of Okinawa, Doss was credited with saving the lives of 75 wounded Americans despite being wounded 4 times and under fire the entire time. It was for his incredibly brave (and effective) actions on Okinawa that earned him his Medal of Honor, a story memorialized in the 2016 major motion picture, Hacksaw Ridge with Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss. (The film won a pair of Oscars, was nominated for 6 Oscars, and won a bunch of Golden Globe Awards. We saw it and recommend it for any red blooded American.)
Doss is remembered by numerous sections of highway named in his honor, statues, plaques and memorials, various Christian and Seventh-day Adventist schools and camps named for him, and a Hero Award from PETA, the animal rights people who recognized his vegetarianism. Desmond Doss was a brave and patriotic man that saw fit to live up to his beliefs and still serve his fellow Americans, without denigrating any segment of American society or culture, unlike some of the other so called “conscientious objectors” (think Muhammad Ali, or Mitt Romney who went to France as a missionary, conveniently missing the Vietnam War) or protestors today that disgrace America by maligning the Police. The actions of Desmond Doss speak more loudly than the words and actions of less intrepid men (and women), and serve as a fine example to all Americans. RIP, Corporal Doss, we salute you.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you consider to be justifiable ways to protest? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Doss, Francess M. Desmond Doss Conscientious Objector: The Story of an Unlikely Hero. Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2015.
Gibson, Mel, dir. Hacksaw Ridge. Lionsgate, 2017. Blu-ray.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of Corporal Doss receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman on October 12, 1945, is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.