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Desmond Doss: Inspiration for the Movie “Hacksaw Ridge”

Readmikenow has written about various medical conditions. He has previously written a series of articles on Polyarteritis nodosa.

Desmond Doss with medals

Desmond Doss with medals

The Man Behind Hacksaw Ridge

Desmond Doss was a corporal in the United States Army. He served as a medic with an infantry company during World War II. During his time in Guam and the Philippines, he was twice awarded the Bronze Star Medal. In the Battle of Okinawa, he distinguished himself by saving the lives of over 70 men. He is the only conscientious objector to be given the Medal of Honor.

Desmond Doss in High School

Desmond Doss in High School

Early Years

Desmond Thomas Doss was born on February 7, 1919, in Lynchburg, Virginia. His father's name was William and his mother's name was Bertha. He had a younger brother named Harold and an older sister named Audrey.

Doss was raised in a home with parents who were devout Seventh-day Adventists. They believed strongly in nonviolence, maintaining the Sabbath, as well as a vegetarian lifestyle. Doss attended the Park Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church School until eighth grade. At that time, he started working at a Lynchburg Lumber Company to help his family during the Great Depression.

Desmond Doss during World War II

Desmond Doss during World War II

World War II

Before the start of World War II, Doss was in Newport News, Virginia. He was a joiner at a shipyard. Doss was offered a deferment from serving in the Army because of his work at the shipyard. He chose the military and arrived at Camp Lee Virginia on April 1, 1942, to begin his training.

Doss was sent to Fort Jackson in South Carolina. There he received training with the 77th Infantry Division. His brother Harold joined the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Lindsey. Doss informed those in charge that would not carry a weapon into battle, and he refused to kill any enemy soldiers. This was based on his strong personal beliefs in the Seventh-day Adventist teachings.

It was decided that Doss would be a medic. He was then assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Company B of the 1st Battalion, 397th Infantry of the 77th Infantry Division.

Desmond Doss during battle

Desmond Doss during battle

Medals Awarded

In 1944, Doss served with his platoon in the Philippines as well as Guam. He was recognized for his exceptional valor in helping wounded soldiers under fire. Doss sas awarded two Bronze Star Medals with a "V" device. This designates a medal that was awarded for valor or heroism.

Doss is credited with saving the lives of over 70 wounded soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa. This took place in an area referred to by the 96th Division as Hacksaw Ridge. During Okinawa, Doss was wounded four times. On May 21, 1945, he was evacuated to the USS Mercy.

During the battle, Doss experienced a fracture to his left arm from a sniper's bullet when being carried back to Allied lines. At one point during the battle, Doss stepped on a grenade and had seventeen pieces of shrapnel in his body. Because of his courage during the Battle of Okinawa, Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Desmond Doss being awarded Medal of Honor

Desmond Doss being awarded Medal of Honor

After World War II

When Doss returned home after World War II, he wanted to continue his career in carpentry. He was unable to do this because of the extensive damage he experienced in his left arm.

Doss was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1946. It is believed he contracted it on Leyte island in the Philippines. He received treatment for his condition for over five years. During this time, he lost five ribs and a lung. In August 1951, Doss was discharged from the hospital. He was rated at 90 percent disability.


Doss continued to be given medical treatments by the military. In 1976, he was administered an overdose of antibiotics. This left him completely deaf. Doss was then rated at 100 percent disability. In 1988, Doss was successfully given a cochlear implant and was able to regain his hearing.

Desmond Doss and first wife

Desmond Doss and first wife


On August 17, 1942, Doss married Dorothy Pauline Scutte. In 1946, they had one child they named Tommy Doss, Jr. On November 17, 1991, Dorothy died in a car accident. On July 1, 1993, Doss got remarried to a woman named Frances May Duman.

Desmond Doss grave marker

Desmond Doss grave marker


In 2006, Doss was hospitalized because he was having difficulty breathing. He died at his home in Piedmont, Alabama on March 23, 2006. On April 3, 2006, he was buried in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the National Cemetery. His wife Frances died three years later.

Hacksaw Ridge movie poster

Hacksaw Ridge movie poster


Doss was the subject of the movie Hacksaw Ridge. It was released on November 4, 2016, and directed by Mel Gibson. The movie won two Academy Awards.

A documentary called The Conscientious Objector was based on the life of Desmond Doss, It was released in 2004 and directed by Terry Benedict.

A book titled Desmond Doss: Conscientious Objector was published on June 30, 2005. It was written by Frances M. Doss.



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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on February 06, 2021:

Fran, Thanks. I agree. He was an incredible person.

Readmikenow (author) on February 06, 2021:

Dora, thanks. His dedication to his beliefs is overwhelming.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on February 06, 2021:

What a story of a courageous, humble man. And he was able to overcome so much! Thanks for the article.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 05, 2021:

Thanks for the research and the presentation. Doss made quite an impression as solider committed to fighting for his country, and as a Christian committed to saving not taking lives. He deserves every ounce of his medal.

Readmikenow (author) on February 05, 2021:

Louise, thanks. His is a powerful story.

Readmikenow (author) on February 05, 2021:

E, thanks. I agree with you. He is an inspiration to us all.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 05, 2021:

That's very interesting to read. I never knew all this.

E Randall from United States on February 05, 2021:

My family and I saw that movie, it was great. I truly admire Doss for his tremendous courage and his strong beliefs. By today's standards they definitely don't build them like him anymore. lol, I am glad they made his story into a movie, it was one that needed to be told. Thank you also for this great article on him.