Desmond Doss

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Desmond Doss
DossDesmondT USArmy.jpg
Doss about to receive the Medal of Honor
in October 1945
Birth nameDesmond Thomas Doss
Born(1919-02-07)February 7, 1919
Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
DiedMarch 23, 2006(2006-03-23) (aged 87)
Piedmont, Alabama, U.S.
Chattanooga National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Flag of the United States.svg United States Army
Flag of the United States.svg Medical Department
Years of service1942–1946
Rank Army-USA-OR-04a (Army greens).svg Corporal
Service number 33158036
UnitCompany B, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Medal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal (2 & "V")
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart (3)
  • Dorothy Schutte
    (m. 1942;died 1991)
  • Frances Duman
    (m. 1993)
ChildrenDesmond Doss Jr. (b. 1946)
RelationsHarold Doss

Desmond Thomas Doss (February 7, 1919 – March 23, 2006) [1] was a United States Army corporal who served as a combat medic with an infantry company in World War II. He was twice awarded the Bronze Star Medal for actions in Guam and the Philippines. Doss further distinguished himself in the Battle of Okinawa by saving 75 men, [lower-alpha 1] becoming the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during the war. [lower-alpha 2] His life has been the subject of books, the documentary The Conscientious Objector , and the 2016 Oscar-winning film Hacksaw Ridge .


Early life

Desmond Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, to William Thomas Doss (1893–1989), a carpenter, and Bertha Edward Doss (née Oliver) (1899–1983), a homemaker and shoe factory worker. [3] [4] [5] His mother raised him as a devout Seventh-day Adventist and instilled Sabbath-keeping, nonviolence, and a vegetarian lifestyle in his upbringing. [6] He grew up in the Fairview Heights area of Lynchburg, Virginia, alongside his older sister Audrey and younger brother Harold. [5]

Doss attended the Park Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church school until the eighth grade, and subsequently found a job at the Lynchburg Lumber Company to support his family during the Great Depression. [5]

World War II service

Doss on top of the Maeda Escarpment, May 4, 1945 Doss Maeda.jpg
Doss on top of the Maeda Escarpment, May 4, 1945

Before the outbreak of World War II, Doss was employed as a joiner at a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. [5] He chose military service, despite being offered a deferment because of his shipyard work, [7] on April 1, 1942, at Camp Lee, Virginia. [8] He was sent to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for training with the reactivated 77th Infantry Division. Meanwhile, his brother Harold served aboard the USS Lindsey. [9]

Doss refused to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. [10] He consequently became a medic assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.

While serving with his platoon in 1944 on Guam and the Philippines, he was awarded two Bronze Star Medals with a "V" device, [11] for exceptional valor in aiding wounded soldiers under fire. During the Battle of Okinawa, he saved the lives of 50–100 wounded infantrymen atop the area known by the 96th Division as the Maeda Escarpment or Hacksaw Ridge. [12] Doss was wounded four times in Okinawa, [13] and was evacuated on May 21, 1945, aboard the USS Mercy. [14] Doss suffered a left arm fracture from a sniper's bullet while being carried back to Allied lines and at one point had seventeen pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body after a failed attempt at kicking a grenade away from him and his men. [14] He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Okinawa. [15]

Post-war life

Desmond Doss' grave Desmond Doss Grave.jpg
Desmond Doss' grave

After the war, Doss initially planned to continue his career in carpentry, but extensive damage to his left arm made him unable to do so. [5] In 1946, Doss was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which he had contracted on Leyte. [14] He underwent treatment for five and a half years – which cost him a lung and five ribs – before being discharged from the hospital in August 1951 with 90% disability. [16] [17]

Doss continued to receive treatment from the military, but after an overdose of antibiotics rendered him completely deaf in 1976, he was given 100% disability; he was able to regain his hearing after receiving a cochlear implant in 1988. [3] [14] Despite the severity of his injuries, Doss managed to raise a family on a small farm in Rising Fawn, Georgia. [14]

Doss married Dorothy Pauline Schutte on August 17, 1942, and they had one child, Desmond "Tommy" Doss Jr., born in 1946. [14] [18] Dorothy died on November 17, 1991 in a car accident (Desmond was driving). [14] Doss remarried on July 1, 1993, to Frances May Duman. [1] [3]

After being hospitalized for difficulty breathing, Doss died on March 23, 2006, at his home in Piedmont, Alabama. [19] He was buried on April 3, 2006, in the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee. [20] Frances died three years later on February 3, 2009, at the Piedmont Health Care Center in Piedmont, Alabama. [21] [22]

Awards and decorations

Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Cmoh army.jpg
Medal of Honor
Corporal Doss receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman on October 12, 1945 Desmond Doss CMH award.jpg
Corporal Doss receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman on October 12, 1945

Rank and organization: Private First Class, United States Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, April 29, 1945 – May 21, 1945.

Entered service at: Lynchburg, Virginia

Birth: Lynchburg, Virginia

G.O. No.: 97, November 1, 1945.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following

Citation: Private First Class Desmond T. Doss, United States Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. Near Urasoe-Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 29 April – 21 May 1945. He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Private First Class Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and two days later he treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making four separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small-arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Private First Class Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited five hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Private First Class Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Private First Class Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

Harry S Truman Signature.svg

October 12, 1945

Other awards and decorations


Medal of Honor ribbon.svg
Valor device.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Purple Heart ribbon.svg
Army Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
Arrowhead device.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Phliber rib.png
United States Army and U.S. Air Force Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
77th Infantry Division.patch.jpg
Combat Medical Badge
Medal of Honor Bronze Star Medal with 1 Oak leaf cluster and "V" Device
Purple Heart with 2 Oak leaf Clusters Good Conduct Medal American Campaign Medal
Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal with arrowhead device and 3 316" bronze stars World War II Victory Medal Philippine Liberation Medal with 1 316" bronze service star
Army Presidential Unit Citation Meritorious Unit Commendation
77th Infantry Division SSI

Other honors and recognition

Desmond Doss (left) at the Georgia State Capitol on March 20, 2000, after being presented a special resolution sponsored by state representative Randy Sauder (right) Desmond Doss at Georgia State Capitol 2000-03-20.png
Desmond Doss (left) at the Georgia State Capitol on March 20, 2000, after being presented a special resolution sponsored by state representative Randy Sauder (right)
Doss Hall renaming ceremony Doss Hall renaming ceremony.jpg
Doss Hall renaming ceremony

In media

Television and film

On February 18, 1959, Doss appeared on the Ralph Edwards NBC TV show This Is Your Life . [38]

Doss is the subject of The Conscientious Objector , a 2004 documentary by Terry Benedict.

The feature film Hacksaw Ridge , based on his life, was produced by Terry Benedict and directed by Mel Gibson. [39]

Doss was profiled in a three-part TV series by It Is Written in November 2016. [40]


Doss is the subject of four biographical books:

See also


  1. Although the exact number is unknown, estimates range from 50 to 100 since 55 of the 155 soldiers involved in the action were able to retreat without assistance. [2]
  2. Conscientious objectors Thomas W. Bennett and Joseph G. LaPointe Jr. were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Related Research Articles

Conscientious objector Person refusing military service on moral grounds

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<i>Hacksaw Ridge</i> 2016 biographical war film by Mel Gibson

Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 biographical war film directed by Mel Gibson and written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan, based on the 2004 documentary The Conscientious Objector. The film focuses on the World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacifist combat medic who, as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refused to carry or use a weapon or firearm of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Okinawa. Andrew Garfield stars as Doss, with Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, and Vince Vaughn in supporting roles.

The Conscientious Objector is a 2004 documentary film about the life of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who received a Medal of Honor for his service in World War II. Because of his religious convictions as a Seventh-day Adventist, he refused to carry a weapon. He initially faced opposition, persecution, and ridicule from his fellow soldiers but ultimately won their admiration by demonstrating courage and saving lives as a combat medic.

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Further reading