photo by Wesley Schultz
Desmond T. Doss, Sr., the only conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II, has died. He was 87 years old.
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” (Exodus 20:13). 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 Oct. 12, 1945 for his fearless acts of bravery.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, time after time, Mr. Doss’ 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 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’ 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, 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.
Mr. Doss died Thursday morning in Piedmont, Ala. He is survived by his wife, Frances; his son, Desmond T. Doss, Jr., and his brother, Harold Doss.
Visitation will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 31, at Heritage Funeral Home, located at 3239 Battlefield Parkway, Fort Oglethorpe.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, April 1, at 3 p.m. at the Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church located at 4829 College Drive East in Collegedale.
Burial will take place on Monday, April 3, at 11 a.m. at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the Doss family requests that donations be sent to the Desmond Doss Museum Fund at the Georgia-Cumberland Conference office (P.O. Box 12000 Calhoun, Ga., 30703).