The men were ordered to withdraw but Doss refused – instead, he single-handedly dragged 75 wounded and dying soldiers to the ledge before lowering them to safety.
By Natalia Grobler.
The same man who had been ostracised by the army soon became the object of their deep admiration and respect. He shipped out with the 307th Infantry in the summer of 1944, and served as a combat medic on Guam and at Leyte in the Philippines. Doss fearlessly charged into exposed areas under heavy artillery fire without a weapon to treat casualties and drag wounded soldiers to safety. Doss went out sometimes without orders or even against orders. He believed that as long as there was life there was hope.
The most fierce fighting of the war in the Pacific occurred at Okinawa on an escarpment approximately 90 metres high that was known as Hacksaw Ridge. On 29 April, 1945, a brutal battle was fought. The men were ordered to withdraw but Doss refused. He single-handedly spent 12 hours dragging 75 wounded and dying soldiers to the ledge before lowering them to safety. Some of the injured were hauled 100 metres. Doss was a slight man weighing around 70kg and yet at times he supported one soldier under each arm. Bullets whizzed past him, but he was not hit. One Japanese soldier claimed to have had clear shots of Doss as he worked that night, but each time he fired, the rifle jammed. Doss saved on average one man every 10 minutes. He prayed constantly, “Lord, please give me one more.”
Doss saw the grenade coming on 21 May, 1945. He waited hours for help before being carried through intense gunfire. When he spotted another wounded soldier Doss selflessly rolled off the litter and gave up his place. As he lay waiting for help a second time, he was hit by a sniper. Doss managed to make himself a splint and then, with 17 pieces of shrapnel in his body and a fractured arm, he crawled around 275 metres under fire to the aid station. Doss lost his Bible during this ordeal — it had been his source of constant strength throughout the war. When the company heard about the missing Bible, they returned to the battlefield and searched until they found it.
Doss allowed God to use him to share his faith and demonstrate the power of grace. “Greater love has no man than this” that he would risk his life over and over again for soldiers who had once ridiculed and despised him.
Why would a man risk his life to rescue those who had persecuted him so violently?
By Linden Chuang.
Before he became a conscientious objector, Desmond Doss was given a different title: “coward.” It was a name his war buddies — or rather bullies at the time — bestowed on him for his refusal to bear arms in combat.
To be labelled a coward is perhaps the most degrading accusation in military circles. It’s a charge that says you’re not only too weak to stand up and fight, but to stand by your fellow man.
Yet when the soldiers moved from the training field to the battlefield of Hacksaw Ridge in 1945, it was Doss “the coward” saving the very men who belittled and beat him.
How he managed to carry those 75 wounded soldiers to safety is hard to fathom. The why is even harder to understand. Why would a man risk his life to rescue those who had persecuted him so violently?
Alexander Pope said “to err is human.” It’s a phrase that has been commonly used to describe our susceptibility as humans to make mistakes. Doss understood this, but he also recognised the second part of the quote: “to forgive, divine.”
Doss was a man of God. His ability to forgive was not self-administered; it was faith-inspired. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13; see also Luke 6:27, Ephesians 4:32).
Christian author C. S. Lewis once wrote that “to be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Doss knew this. He understood that grudges are shackles, but forgiveness is freedom. Only with a clean heart — one free of hate and harboured resentment — can one truly stand by their fellow man.
He never carried a weapon, but Desmond Doss didn’t enter the war unarmed.
By Linden Chuang.
Here’s something to consider: what if Desmond Doss had only rescued seven men instead of 75 on that night at Hacksaw Ridge? What if he had been killed on the first day of battle without a single saved soul to show for it? Would we have called him courageous or a fool?
We often associate courage with acts of heroism, but courage is really about the state of the heart.
Dr Brené Brown says, “courage is a heart word.” After all, the root word for “courage” is cor, the Latin word for heart. Doss’s bravery, then, is not so much about what he accomplished at Hacksaw Ridge, but his willingness to climb up there in the first place.
So why did he do it? Why did he run into the battlefield when everyone else was retreating?
Two reasons: faith and love.
Doss wasn’t ignorant. He was a medic, not a Marvel superhero, and he knew his limitations. But he also had faith in a very big God who promised to strengthen him, help him and never leave him (see Isaiah 41:10, Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:9).
Paulo Coelho once wrote that “an act of courage is always an act of love.” The two are inseparable. The Bible, Doss’s self-described “source of strength,” builds on this idea, saying to “stand firm in the faith, be courageous” and “do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV).
Faith, courage and love.
Doss was no fool. He never carried a weapon, but he didn’t enter the war unarmed.
“My strength has the strength of ten because my heart is pure.”—Alfred Lord Tennyson