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Desmond Doss, The Pacifist Who Was Awarded the Medal of Honor

(Photo: USG via Materialscientist)

Desmond Doss was drafted into the US Army in 1942. He was a pacifist and so wouldn’t take up arms. He was also a Seventh-Day Adventist and so wouldn’t work on Saturdays. So he took up work as a combat medic, concluding that he could work on Saturdays because “Christ healed on the Sabbath.”

PFC Doss served with the 77th Infantry Division during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. During that long battle, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to tend to fallen comrades and retrieve them from the battlefield. For this, he would be awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation for that commendation is remarkably long due to staggering scale of his badassery. This is merely a selection:

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 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 8 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 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, 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 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 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, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm.

A precise number remains unknown, but it’s estimated that Doss personally rescued 50 to 100 of his fellow soldiers from death.

Doss never fully recovered from the wounds he received on Okinawa. He went home, married, had children, and devoted the rest of his life to religious work. He died in 2006 at the age of 87. You can find his obituary here.

-via Daily of the Day


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