Seventh-day Adventist World War II hero dies at age 87
Desmond T. Doss Sr. has died at 87 years of age. He was the only conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II and a longtime member of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Mr. Doss passed away Thursday morning, March 23, 2006, at his residence in Piedmont, Alabama. He is survived by his wife, Frances, his son, Desmond T. Doss Jr., and his brother, Harold Doss. He was preceded in death by his first wife Dorothy Schutte and his sister Audrey Millner.
Mr. Doss never liked being called a conscientious objector. He preferred the term conscientious cooperator. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, Mr. Doss did not believe in using a gun or killing because of the sixth commandment which states, “Thou shalt not kill.” Mr. Doss was a patriot, however, and believed in serving his country.
During World War II, instead of accepting a deferment, Mr. Doss voluntarily joined the Army as a conscientious objector. Assigned to the 307th Infantry Division as a company medic, he was harassed and ridiculed for his beliefs, yet he served with distinction and ultimately received the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 12, 1945, for his fearless acts of bravery.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, time after time, Mr. Doss’s fellow soldiers witnessed how unafraid he was for his own safety. He was always willing to go after a wounded fellow, no matter how great the danger.
On one occasion in Okinawa, he refused to take cover from enemy fire as he rescued approximately 75 wounded soldiers, carrying them one-by-one and lowering them over the edge of the 400-foot Maeda Escarpment. He did not stop until he had brought everyone to safety nearly 12 hours later.
When Mr. Doss received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman, the president told him, “I’m proud of you, you really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being President.”
Mr. Doss’s exemplary devotion to God and his country has received nationwide attention. On July 4, 2004, a statue of Mr. Doss was placed in the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, Georgia, along with statues of Dr. Martin Luther King, President Jimmy Carter, and retired Marine Corps General Gray Davis, also a Medal of Honor recipient.
Also in 2004, a feature-length documentary called “The Conscientious Objector,” telling his story of faith, heroism, and bravery, was released. A feature movie describing Mr. Doss’s story is also being planned.
Mr. Doss, who was deaf for many years, received a cochlear implant at Loma Linda University Medical Center approximately 25 years ago. Following that procedure, Mr. Doss regained partial hearing.
By Richard Weismeyer