Review: The Conscientious Objector

The story of a true hero unfolds in The Conscientious Objector, and it’s hard not to be moved, challenged and uplifted.

By Adele Nash.


  • The Conscientious Objector
  • Directed by Terry L Benedict
  • 2004
  • 100 minutes


There’s an old cliché about the truth being stranger than fiction. This saying could well apply to the remarkable true story of Private Desmond Doss – the World War II medic who refused to carry a gun or take a life. But as this gripping documentary shows, Desmond became the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. It seems so unlikely – you’d be excused for thinking it was made up.

Private Doss choose to serve in the United States Army (he liked to consider himself a “conscientious cooperator” instead of a conscientious objector). Despite facing ridicule and exclusion for his religious principles and practices, he went on to become a hero – bravely saving the lives of 75 men after one battle on Hacksaw Ridge on the Pacific island of Okinawa. Incredibly, he single-handedly dragged each and everyone one across the immensely dangerous battlefield to safety.

But that’s only part of the story. The Bible says that faith can move mountains. But what about 400-foot-tall ridges in a battle so fierce that the odds of survival were one in 10?

The 2004 documentary The Conscientious Objector is told predominantly in the words of Doss himself and those of the veterans who served with him, all of whom have now passed away. The quality and power of the stories they share overcome any quibbles one could have with any other aspect of the documentary.

Doss was an astonishingly humble man who, even as an old man at the time the documentary was made, held true to the Bible’s principles and Seventh-day Adventist faith that sustained him throughout his childhood and service in the military. It’s clear that Doss lived a life dedicated to service—both for others and the God he believed in so strongly.

The admiration and respect his fellow soldiers show for him as a result of how willing Doss was to go above and beyond the call of duty to help is touching and inspiring. A moving sequence of The Conscientious Objector occurred when Doss and soldiers from the company he served with returned to Okinawa, visiting the very ridge where Doss’s heroism, faith and forgiveness were on display.

As you watch the story of a true hero unfold in The Conscientious Objector, it’s hard not to be moved, challenged and uplifted. It’s a documentary you won’t want to miss.

Image courtesy of Desmond Doss Council.

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