Desmond Doss and Hacksaw Ridge – Evidence of Faith

I love movies.  When it comes to war movies, I’m seen many and some I really liked, but never want to watch again.  Saving Private Ryan is one such movie.

When I heard of the Academy Award nominations for 2017, there were movies that caught my attention. Hacksaw Ridge was one such movie.  It is categorized as a war movie, directed by Mel Gibson.  In other movies he directed, Gibson likes to show the horror of reality.  In The Passion, he showed spurting blood from the hands of Jesus as the nails were driven in.  In Braveheart, Gibson did not shy away from showing the use of swords to cut off the legs of horses ridden by the English army.  It brought their soldiers to the ground, making combat more equal.

A war movie directed by Gibson would have to be brutally bloody.  However, the war itself is not the main theme in Hacksaw Ridge.  The main theme is a man – a real man, a Pacifist, and his struggle to serve in the Army as a combat medic while staying committed to his faith.

I rented Hacksaw Ridge through On Demand and I watched.  I watched again, and again.  Desmond Doss captivated me.  As a Pacifist, he was misunderstood.  I can relate to that.

they-believeOn April 1, 1942, Desmond Doss joined the United States Army.  It was just after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Desmond wanted to serve his country – the United States, saving lives.  He was 23-years old; a skinny native of Virginia with a southern drawl. In Desmond’s mind, God said, “If you love me, you won’t kill.”

When he voluntarily enlisted, he was assured that he would be assigned to a medic company and because of his Seventh Day Adventist belief in Saturday being the Sabbath, he was told that belief would be honored.

Instead, Desmond was assigned to an infantry rifle company.  His commanding officers wanted to get rid of him.  They intimidated him, and assigned him to extra duties.  They even tried to court martial him for refusing a direct order to carry a rifle.  But, they failed to toss him out, and he refused to leave.

His fellow soldiers ostracized and bullied him.  Because he refused to touch a gun, they called him a coward.  Desmond believed in the Golden Rule and never held a grudge.  When the men got blisters on their feet, Desmond had a way of healing them.  When they fainted from heat stroke, he was at their side with his own canteen. 

Desmond served on the islands of Guam and Leyte. He ran into the heat of battle to treat wounded comrades and carry them to safety.  He was then deployed to the bloodiest battle of World War II’s Pacific theater.  Although he never shot a firearm, it was on Okinawa that his actions resulted in him being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  His actions evidenced his faith.


Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss

There was an area on Okinawa called the Maeda Escarpment.  A cargo net was their ladder to move up and down the 135 foot escarpment that they called Hacksaw Ridge.  One day, Desmond’s company secured the top of the cliff, but were later ambushed by Japanese soldiers.  Officers ordered withdrawal, but Desmond was in the midst of trying to get a wounded soldier to safety.  He stayed behind.

Reports have stated that only 32 out of more than a hundred men made it off the ridge during the retreat.  Those not making it down were abandoned and if not dead, were left for dead.   Then Desmond heard a cry for a medic.  He found the wounded solider and getting him to the ridge, lowered him down using a rope with bow-line knots.

That started a chain reaction of putting his faith and respect for life into action.

“Please Lord, help me get one more.” 


The real Desmond Doss

After each wounded soldier was safely off the ridge, Desmond repeated his prayer. Desmond is accredited with rescuing 75 wounded soldiers off that bloody battlefield — a battlefield where the Japanese army was still present.   There is some controversy about the number of those rescued.  Desmond said it was 50, and his company officers said it was closer to a hundred, so the official number of 75 was a compromise.

The movie’s depiction of Desmond working without rest for hours to rescue his injured comrades is more than captivating.  Assumed by his comrades and commanders of being  just a skinny coward for his refusal to kill, Desmond demonstrated his bravery in saving their lives with faith as his only weapon.

In reality, Desmond spent about 9 hours on that battlefield treating and removing injured soldiers.  If the number of those rescued was 75, then Desmond found, and using a rope, lowered an average of 8 men an hour.

His hands bloodied and his back blistered from the ropes, he kept saying, “Please Lord, help me get one more,” — and he did.

desmond-doss-ceremonyIn addition to his Medal of Honor, Desmond Doss received a Bronze Star for valor; a Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf clusters (signifying he received 3 Purple Hearts); the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars, and beachhead arrowhead; the Good Conduct Medal; the American Defense Campaign; and the Presidential Unit Citation given to the 1st Battalion, 307Inf, 77th Infantry Division for securing the Maeda Escarpment.

The movie shows that being a Pacifist does not mean sticking one’s head in the sand.  As some if not most of you reading this might know, I am a Pacifist.  I have endured challenges from people wanting to provoke me to test my belief.   Some even assume that being a Pacifist means obedience to doing their will when what they want is contrary to what I am in faith.  Anyone who is a Pacifist because of their spiritual beliefs knows that they do not bend to doing evil to avoid evil being done to them.  Our faith is not in fear.

At the age of 87, Desmond Thomas Doss died on March 23, 2006. He is buried in the National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Hacksaw Ridge ends with clips of interviews, including one with Desmond Doss, and the Captain that first abhorred him whose views changed after Desmond saved his life.

The first video below is one of my favorite scenes from the movie, Hacksaw Ridge.   It occurs after Desmond rescued the injured.  For a throw-back, the second video is the program “This Is Your Life.”  It features Desmond Doss, true testimonies from some he saved, and includes the live commercials of that time.



Posted on 03/04/2017, in Happiness and Kindness, Heroes, movies, Uncategorized, Videos and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. This sounds like a movie my husband would enjoy and I would probably watch vicariously through him. I’ll recommend it to him. I like Mel Gibson. He’s thorough.

    Let me invite you to my blog party. It just started. Here’s the link.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks for the review arena. Hadn’t heard of this movie until the Oscars last Sunday. It sounds very good.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. yahtzeebutterfly

    After reading your article, I want to see the movie! Thanks for your excellent review, Xena.

    The This Is Your Life video is so moving!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yahtzee,
      I’m sure you’ll enjoy the movie and want to watch time and time again. Sam Worthington who played Jake Sully in Avatar plays the Captain, and I remember how much you enjoyed Avatar. 🙂

      I was surprised to find the This is Your Life video. It is moving. I feel like bright light has been taken from us, but having his life documented on film means that his love, faith, forgiveness and humbleness continues as a witness to others.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Dear Xena,

    Talk about walking in faith. He is a true hero for acting on his principles as well as for his brave actions..

    Hugs, GRONDA.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Gronda,
      I’m so happy that Mel Gibson and the producers brought Desmond’s life to film. I had not heard of him previously but after watching the movie, I’ve even read-up on WWII battles in the Pacific.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow…this is powerful. We need to highlight more “real people” like him who are anchored in their whole-hearted obedience to do good. Thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely watch this movie.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I’d seen the movie title but hadn’t heard much about it. (Must be living under a rock these days.) Thanks for the review — this definitely sounds like one worth seeing!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Welcome Laura!
      I’m so happy that Mel Gibson brought Desmond Doss’ life to us. When reading one of his bios, it said that someone on Facebook posted a thank you to Desmond, giving him credit for their own life because he saved their grandfather. That’s 3 generations that would not have existed if not for Desmond’s commitment to save, rather than take life.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. XENA I watch this movie last night. It was totally awesome. When I saw your post I had to run over and see what you had written about it. Thank you. I cried a lot. Sad. Sick, but what a hero…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Shyloh! There were portions where I lifted both hands and shouted because they were so powerful in seeing how good overcomes evil. Desmond had been brutalized by his comrades so much that even after he made it off the ridge, just a touch from one caused him to be react as if it was going to be a physical attack on him. But those guys changed. They changed their opinion of him because they saw his faith at work saving men who had been abandoned and left for dead. They changed their perception of him because Desmond did it alone in the midst of Japanese soldiers. They began respecting him as a Pacifist because he accomplished saving 75 men without a gun. His belief was his protection. Powerful!

      Then, at the end of the movie where they show an interview with the real Desmond Doss, you see an elderly man with all those military awards still giving credit to the power of prayer and no credit to himself. He was a shining light.


  8. This sounds like a fascinating movie. I’ve had a mixed opinion of Mel Gibson, but I’ll try to take the time to watch it. Much respect to you for your commitment to pacifism. That is not an easy road to walk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Eurobrat! Mel Gibson as a director is, in my opinion, better than Mel Gibson the actor.

      About being Pacifist. It’s an easy road to walk, but difficult for most people to understand. Some confuse pacifism with being passive and being passive with being afraid. They are mistaken. I love how it was portrayed in the movie. Desmond took an aggressive stand in his belief not to take life. He even let the guy who beat him up know that he was not a good person, but he still saved his life once, and tried saving it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. yahtzeebutterfly

    I just watched the movie. To see Desmond at work as a prayerful, pacifist medic amidst the absolute horror of war is moving and powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

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