Desmond T. Doss, Medal of Honor

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Desmond Thomas Doss, Sr.

Birthplace: Lynchburg, Virginia, United States
Death: March 23, 2006 (87)
Piedmont, Calhoun County, Alabama, United States
Place of Burial: Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Thomas Doss and Bertha Edward Doss
Husband of Dorothy Pauline Doss and Private
Father of Private
Brother of Audrey Y. Millner and Harold Edward Doss

Managed by: Lloyd Alfred Doss, Jr.
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Desmond T. Doss, Medal of Honor

Desmond Thomas Doss (February 7, 1919 – March 23, 2006) was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor and one of only three so honored (the others are Thomas W. Bennett and Joseph G. LaPointe, Jr.).


From Wikipedia

He was a Corporal (Private First Class at the time of his Medal of Honor heroics) in the U.S. Army assigned to the Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, son of William Thomas Doss, a carpenter, and Bertha E. (Oliver) Doss. Drafted in April 1942, Desmond Doss refused to kill or carry a weapon into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. He consequently became a medic, and while serving in the Pacific theatre of World War II he helped his country by saving the lives of his comrades, at the same time adhering to his religious convictions. Doss was wounded three times during the war, and shortly before leaving the Army he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which cost him a lung. Discharged from the Army in 1946, he spent five years undergoing medical treatment for his injuries and illness. Desmond Doss died in 2006 at his home in Piedmont, Alabama, after being hospitalized for breathing troubles,[5] the same day as another Medal of Honor recipient, David Bleak. He was buried in Chattanooga, Tennessee's National Cemetery.

Desmond Thomas Doss, Sr., was born Feb. 7, 1919, into a poor family of Lynchburg, Va. Doss’ father, W. Thomas Doss, was a carpenter. His mother, Bertha Doss, joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church and prayerfully tried to raise her two boys and one girl to believe in the Bible.

Before Doss went to the Pacific, he married Dorothy Schutte. She gave him a pocket-sized Bible, which he would later study whenever the army was waiting somewhere.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Doss signed up for duty, even though he did not believe in using a gun or killing. When he was offered a deferment from military service, he turned it down and registered as a conscientious objector, though he said that he was not like the others who called themselves conscientious objectors. He said he was a “conscientious cooperator” because he was willing to go on the battlefield, wear the army uniform, and salute the flag, even though he was not willing to kill anyone. Desmond was assigned to serve as a company medic for the 307th Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division.

During his service in the army, Doss repeatedly put himself in life-threatening situations in order to aid his fellow soldiers. 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 40 feet over the edge of the Maeda Escarpment to soldiers waiting below. He did not stop until he had brought everyone to safety nearly 12 hours later. On May 21, he was wounded in the legs by a grenade and shot in the arm by a sniper’s bullet.

After Doss recovered from most of his injuries, test results showed tuberculosis. This diagnosis resulted in more than five years of hospital treatment and the loss of one lung. An overdose of antibiotic destroyed his hearing. Desmond was given 100 percent disability, which provided him with a stable income.

On October 12, 1945, United States President Harry Truman awarded Desmond Doss with the Congressional Medal of Honor. During the ceremony, President Truman told Doss, “I’m proud of you; you really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being President.”

"I wasn't trying to be a hero," Mr. Doss told the Associated Press in 1987. "I was thinking about it from this standpoint -- in a house on fire and a mother has a child in that house, what prompts her to go in and get that child? "Love," he said. "I loved my men, and they loved me. I don't consider myself a hero. I just couldn't give them up, just like a mother couldn't give up the child."

Doss’ best friend and wife, Dorothy, died in November 1991. Without his hearing and beginning to lose his sight, Doss was alone and almost without a way to communicate. On July 1, 1993, Desmond and Frances Doss were married, and Frances remained by his side for the rest of his life.

Doss’ exemplary devotion to God and his country has received nationwide attention. On July 4, 2004, a statue of Doss was placed in the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, Ga., 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 Doss’ story of faith, heroism, and bravery was released. A feature movie describing Doss’ story is also being planned.

World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, and grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose tenets forbid bearing arms. When he was called to the draft, he declined a religious exemption that would have allowed him to continue working in a shipyard. He served in the Army with the designation of conscientious objector, but he detested that phrase. He preferred "conscientious cooperator." However, he still refused to learn to shoot a rifle. Sent to the Pacific, he saw combat on Leyte and Guam. He was serving as a Private First Class, with the Medical Detachment of the 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, when his actions between April 29 and May 21, 1945, near Urasoe on Okinawa, earned him the nation's highest military award for bravery. His citation reads "He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. 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. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty." His Medal was awarded to him by President Harry S. Truman at the White House on November 1, 1945. Thus he became the first conscientious objector to the receive the MOH and one of only two conscientious objector recipients; the other being Thomas W. Bennett, who was an Army Corporal and medical aidman during the Vietnam War. He was the last surviving medic to earn the MOH in World War II. Ironically, on the same day of his death, Korean War Army Medic and MOH recipient David Bleak also died. Bleak was the last surviving medic recipient of the Korean War. He was the subject of a biography, "The Unlikeliest Hero," and a film documentary, "The Conscientious Objector."

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Desmond T. Doss, Medal of Honor's Timeline

February 7, 1919
Lynchburg, Virginia, United States
March 23, 2006
Age 87
Piedmont, Calhoun County, Alabama, United States
April 3, 2006
Age 87
Chattanooga National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee, United States