Desmond Doss

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Desmond Doss
DossDesmondT USArmy.jpg
Birth name Desmond Thomas Doss
Born (1919-02-07)February 7, 1919
Lynchburg, Virginia
Died March 23, 2006(2006-03-23) (aged 87)
Piedmont, Alabama
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1942–1946
Rank Corporal
Unit Company B, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division

World War II

  • Dorothy (nee Schutte) Doss (m. 1942–91)
  • Frances (nee Duman) Doss (m. 1993–2006)

Desmond Thomas Doss (February 7, 1919 – March 23, 2006) was a United States Army corporal and combat medic during World War II. He was assigned to a rifle company of the 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, during the Battle of Okinawa, and became the first of three conscientious objectors to receive the Medal of Honor (the others are Thomas W. Bennett and Joseph G. LaPointe Jr.).


Desmond Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, son of William Thomas Doss, a carpenter, and Bertha E. (Oliver) Doss.[1][2]

Enlisting voluntarily in April 1942,[3] Doss refused to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon (pistol) into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. He consequently became a medic, and while serving in the Pacific theatre of World War II, he saved the lives of numerous comrades, while at the same time adhering to his religious convictions. Doss was wounded three times during the war, and shortly before leaving the Army, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which cost him a lung.[4][5] Discharged from the Army in 1946,[6] he spent five years undergoing medical treatment for his injuries and illness.[5]

Doss died in 2006 at his home in Piedmont, Alabama, after being hospitalized for breathing troubles,[5] the same day as another Medal of Honor recipient, David Bleak. A horse-drawn hearse delivered the flag-covered casket to the grave site while military helicopters flew overhead in a tribute formation.[7] He was buried in Chattanooga, Tennessee's National Cemetery.

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

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.

Doss receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman
Cmoh army.jpg

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private First Class Desmond Thomas Doss, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty from April 29 - 21 May 1945, while serving with the Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division, in action at Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Private First Class Doss 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 machine gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties 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 May 2, 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 2 days later he treated 4 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 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, 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, Pfc. 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 May 21, 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 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. 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, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, 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 Pfc. 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.

Other honors and recognition[edit]

Doss Hall renaming ceremony

On July 10, 1990, a section of Georgia Highway 2 between US Highway 27 and Georgia Highway 193 in Walker County was named the "Desmond T. Doss Medal of Honor Highway."[8]

On March 20, 2000, Doss appeared before the Georgia House of Representatives and was presented a special resolution honoring his heroic accomplishments on behalf of the country.[9]

In July 2008, the guest house at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., was renamed Doss Memorial Hall.[10]

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)

On August 30, 2008, a two-mile stretch of Alabama Highway 9 in Piedmont was named the "Desmond T. Doss, Sr. Memorial Highway."[11]

He was a resident of Lynchburg, Virginia, in which a portion of US Route 501 near Peaks View Park is named in his honor. Local veterans of the area still honor him by decorating the signs marking this portion of road several times during the year, particularly around patriotic holidays and especially Memorial Day.

In the early 1980s, a school in Lynchburg was renamed Desmond T. Doss Christian Academy. The school was founded by the Lynchburg Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and the church wanted to honor Doss for standing strong in his faith, both as a Christian and as a Seventh-Day Adventist.[12] Desmond Doss visited the school that bears his name.[13]

Military awards[edit]

Doss received the following decorations and awards:

Medal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters
Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg Army Presidential Unit Citation
Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Meritorious Unit Commendation
Army Good Conduct ribbon.svg Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three 316" bronze stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Army of Occupation Medal
Bronze star
Philippine Liberation Medal with one 316" bronze star
CombatMedBadge.gif Combat Medical Badge

In popular culture[edit]

Doss is the subject of The Conscientious Objector, an award-winning documentary.[14] He also is the subject of the book The Unlikeliest Hero.[15] On February 18, 1959, Doss appeared on the Ralph Edwards NBC TV show This Is Your Life. [16]

A feature film, Hacksaw Ridge, is based on his life and will be released nationwide in the U.S. on November 4, 2016. It was directed by Mel Gibson with Andrew Garfield in the lead role.[17] The project was produced by Bill Mechanic, David Permut, Steve Longi, Gregory Crosby, and Terry Benedict.

Doss was also featured in the Medal of Honor Special comic written by Doug Murray and published by Dark Horse comics.[18] The comic was a special edition of the series Medal of Honor, published April 1, 1994.[18] The title was sanctioned by the United States Congressional Medal of Honor Society.[18] The issue features Corporal Desmond Doss along with another Medal of Honor recipient, Lieutenant Charles Q. Williams.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In Memory of Harold Edward Doss". Brown Funeral Home. Retrieved August 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Desmond T. Doss". 
  3. ^ "WWII Army Enlistment Records". June 30, 2005. 
  4. ^ Herndon, Booton (1967). The Unlikeliest Hero. Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association. p. 182. ISBN 0-8163-2048-9. 
  5. ^ a b c Richard Goldstein (March 25, 2006). "Desmond T. Doss, 87, Heroic War Objector, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Service Profile". 
  7. ^ "'Unlikeliest Hero' buried with 21-gun salute". 4 April 2006. 
  8. ^ "Walker County". Calhoun Times. September 1, 2004. p. 108. Retrieved April 26, 2015. 
  9. ^ "HR 206 - Doss, Desmond T.; invite to House - Fulltext". 
  10. ^ Guest House named after Medal of Honor recipient, WRAMC News Releases, July 17, 2008. Retrieved on August 31, 2008.
  11. ^ Piedmont Medal of Honor recipient honored with state highway designation, The Anniston Star, Michael A. Bell, August 31, 2008. Retrieved on August 31, 2008.
  12. ^ "History - Desmond T. Doss Christian Academy". 
  13. ^ "Remembering visits from Mr. Desmond T. Doss, the man for whom our school is named - Desmond T. Doss Christian Academy". 17 May 2016. 
  14. ^ "The Conscientious Objector". 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  15. ^ "'Unlikeliest Hero' buried with 21-gun salute". 4 April 2006. 
  16. ^ "Classic TV Info - This Is Your Life Episode List". 
  17. ^ "Hacksaw Ridge (2016)". IMDb. January 29, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c Dark Horse. "Medal of Honor Special". (September 17, 2014).
  19. ^ Pritzker Military Museum & Library online catalog. "Medal of Honor Special". (September 17, 2014).

Further reading[edit]

  • Leepson, Marc, "Desmond Thomas Doss (1919–2006)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2015 ( July 11, 2016).
  • Leepson, Marc (2008), "Wonder Man of Okinawa," Military History magazine, September/October 2008, Vol. 25, No. 4.
  • Herndon, Booton (2004). The Unlikeliest Hero: The Story of Desmond T. Doss, Conscientious Objector Who Won His Nation's Highest Military Honor. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association. ISBN 978-0-8163-2048-6. .
  • Doss, Frances M. (2005). Desmond Doss: Conscientious Objector. Pacific Press Publishing Association. ISBN 978-0-8163-2124-7. 
  • Doss, Frances M. (1998). Desmond Doss: In God's care: The unlikeliest hero and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. The College Press. 
  • Smith, Larry (2003). Beyond Glory: Medal of Honor Heroes in Their Own Words. Norton. ISBN 039305134X. 
  • Soper, Matthew (April 2002). "Desmond Doss: A War Hero Without a Gun". Incredible People Magazine. 

External links[edit]