Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss – A simple question – yet the answer led to the rescue of 75 men on the battlefield of Okinawa


Till the End

American tanks advancing through a ridge on Okinawa via Public Domain
American tanks advancing through a ridge on Okinawa.

On May 5th, he braved another artillery barrage to rescue a wounded officer.  Reaching him, he moved him to cover and painstakingly administered plasma as explosions rocked around him.

Later that day, he did it again at the mouth of an enemy cave just 25 feet from the enemy position.  As the battle for Okinawa raged on, Doss’ reputation began to grow and yet he still was not done.

On May 21st, a vicious night attack broke out driving them back into cover.  However, Doss once again refused to leave the wounded.  Crawling through the dark, he found one man after another and rendered aid as Japanese infiltrators roamed around.  It was at this point that a grenade exploded inflicting substantial injuries to Doss’ legs.

He now was the one in need of aid, but rather than call out another soldier from cover for the help he so quickly gave to others, he treated his own wounds in the middle of the fight.  For 5 hours, he treated his wounds until the battle advanced and the litter bearers were able to reach him.  But once again, Doss was still not done.

As the men began to carry Doss off the field, they were caught in a tank attack and forced to drop the litter.  However, this provided an opportunity for Doss to commit one more act of gallantry.  Seeing a man in more need of medical attention than himself, Doss crawled off the litter, treated the wounds, and insisted the man was rescued first.

When another soldier eventually returned to help Doss off the field, he was struck by a sniper’s bullet in the arm causing a compound fracture. Perhaps touching a weapon for the first time, Doss used the stock of a rifle to make a splint for his arm.  He then carried on to crawl 300 yards over difficult terrain to reach the aid station.

Desmond Doss in Recovery via Public Domain
Desmond Doss in Recovery.

Perhaps Hollywood could offer some cinematic flair to this story, but embellishment would be unnecessary.  For his actions on Okinawa, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Truman.

His recovery would be long, and a subsequent bout of tuberculous in 1947 made it all the more challenging.  However, Doss would go on to live a long distinguished life as the entire Japanese Army had seemed to struggle to keep him down.

Doss passed away in March 2006 at the age of 87.  While students of history might have been long aware of this remarkable man, the world via cinema is about to get a view into the type of people it took to win the war.

Here’s hoping Hollywood gets it right for this man deserves nothing less.

Here’s the trailer for the new movie:

© Copyright 2019 - War History Online