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SPECIAL ARTICLE; Desmond Doss; A Christian's Ferocious Battle of Life and Death

SPECIAL ARTICLE; Desmond Doss; A Christian's Ferocious Battle of Life and Death

With his muscles stretched and straining, Desmond's hands were barely able to hold onto a rope that he was using to lower a fellow soldier 350 feet down Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa. Machine gun fire, bombs, artillery shells, grenades, mortars, rifle and small arm's bullets were blasting wall to wall around the Army medic. With every second of time elongated in an intensity of emotions, he knew that at any moment he could breathe his last breath. A multitude of frightened soldiers on the battlefield were screaming wildly from searing pain and shock, their cries muffled from the noises of an intense battle to the death. Many were continually and suddenly cut into pieces, some soldiers were cut completely in half from the thickness of the bullets, and body parts were flying and lying all about. The landscape was quilted slick with blood, and Desmond's fellow soldier finally reached the bottom of the tall jagged cliff and was lifted off of the rope by troops on the ground.

Word was rapidly spreading around through the enlisted men and commanders on the ground, that the man from training camp, Desmond Doss, who was called a coward because he refused a gun but packed a Bible, was the soldier lowering one injured G.I. after another down the imposing cliff.

Up top, grown men desperate for help and safety of any kind were calling out to God and their mothers as they fought, laying severely wounded, and some feeling their bodies only moments away from dying. "Please, Lord," Desmond prayed, "Help me get just one more down." While many of his fellow troops were suddenly retreating from the hail of gunfire, beaten back by the Japanese, Desmond took off running directly into their fire of bullets! Every moment was a moment of a miracle with Desmond not being struck by any number of an assortment of methods being used in a flurry of killing.

Desmond grabbed another soldier and dragged him to the edge of the cliff and fashioned the rope knot that he had learned to tie into a sling while helping flood victims back in West Virginia. Positioning another G.I., he lowered him off of the edge, both men frightened at the possibilities of what could happen. If Desmond lost his grip or was hit, both lives could be immediately taken in a horrific death. As fast as he could, with all of his strength, he lowered the man to the bottom and prayed again, "Lord, help me get just one more down." Every ten minutes or so, for twelve hours, Desmond prayed, dragged a wounded soldier to the cliff top, and lowered them to the bottom of the ridge.

Explosions continually rattled the ground around the medic, and only for the glory of God was he not killed. The commanders and fellow soldiers who had previously thrown items at him in training camp, threatened him, put him in jail, refused to give him a 'pass' from the training base to see his wife and brother, calling him a coward for refusing a gun, had their hearts in a complete turn around. The Christian, who had joined the military to serve his country to save lives and not to take them, was humbling everyone with extraordinary heroic efforts.

Days later, after having climbed down from Hacksaw Ridge, there were a pile of bodies two hundred feet long lying on top of each other as high as American G.I.'s could reach and stack them. The commanders estimated that Desmond had saved 100 lives, and that the pile of dead bodies would have been much larger without his heroic efforts. The ever humble Desmond stated that he had lowered about 50 soldiers, and military personnel split the difference for the records.

It was the Sabbath, and Desmond was praying and reading his pocket Bible that his devoted and beloved wife gave to him as a gift. High ranking commanders were just about to launch another major assault on the ridge after every other attack had failed. The outlook on Desmond had drastically changed. After refusing to participate in basic training when it was the Sabbath, commanders came and asked him if he would participate in this pending assault. He had become so well respected and his services so valued, that when Desmond told the commanders that he would indeed participate on the Sabbath if he could first read his Bible, the chain of command approved delaying the assault until Desmond was done reading the Word of God. Thereafter, the 707th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division overtook Hacksaw Ridge for good!

Later, on patrol, Desmond and his fellow Americans literally bumped into a Japanese foot and tank patrol. Hand to hand combat ensued, and if the medic was ever tempted to pick up a rifle, this was the time. But he recalled the gun incidence that happened to him as a child, and God's commandment, "Thou shall not kill." In a ditch with other G.I's, a grenade came tumbling toward them and he kicked it with his feet. The charge blew shrapnel into his legs and body. Then, a bullet exploded his left shoulder into pieces. Somehow, Desmond was still alive with seventeen pieces of shrapnel in him, and was being carried on a stretcher when he saw a fellow soldier lying on the ground wounded. He rolled himself off of the stretcher, treated the man, and gave up his stretcher for him.

Eventually, Desmond was transported to a medical ship where he realized that he had lost his cherished Bible that he had received from his wife. He had become so well known and respected, that soldiers went on a patrol specifically to find the Bible, and they did so and gave it to an elated Desmond!

Back in the states, President Harry Truman awarded Desmond the only Medal of Honor that was given to a soldier who never carried a weapon. After the war, a Japanese soldier testified that he had Desmond in his gun sights during the battle of Okinawa, and every time that he tried to shoot him, his gun jammed.

The hero of Hacksaw Ridge from Lynchburg, Virginia, was disabled after the war, having to receive years of medical treatment. But, he lived for decades with joy in having a great love between he and his devoted and caring wife, Dorothy.

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Wednesday, 03 June 2020