John Bradshaw - Who Was Desmond Doss?
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. We live in a world that is plagued by war. And when you read the Bible, you make the remarkable discovery, that war actually began in heaven, where Lucifer and his angels fought against Michael, the Archangel, and his angels. Today, around planet Earth, there is not a day that goes by that there's not warfare somewhere. Now, the vast majority of people who participate in war are people who are simply following orders, and many of them pay the ultimate price. Others get to return home, but some, scarred physically and emotionally. And we remember them, and we honor them, in places like this.
I'm at Veterans Park in Collegedale, Tennessee, just miles from the It Is Written office in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The park was developed to honor those who served to preserve our freedom. Like other, similar veterans parks, this one honors all the branches of military service: army, navy, air force, coast guard, and marines. Along the walkway, there's a timeline of wars. The plaque reminds us that freedom is not free. Around this circle there are individual bronze plaques commemorating all of the wars that have been fought by Americans: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both world wars, and more recent wars. On each plaque is listed the number of those who served, those wounded, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have given their lives for the freedom enjoyed in this country today. As the slogan aptly states, "All gave some, and some gave all".
On July the 16th, 2015, a man opened fire at two nearby military facilities, claiming five lives: four marines and a naval petty officer. This latest addition at Veterans Park honors those who lost their lives that day. Their names are listed right here. That unprovoked terrorist attack reminds us that what Peter wrote is applicable to us today. 1st Peter 5 and verse 8 says, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour". At this monument, we read the words of General Douglas MacArthur, "The soldier, above all others, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war".
There are plaques commemorating those who were missing in action, became prisoners of war, and killed in action. This one reads, "You paid the ultimate price: you gave your life that we might be free. You cannot know the benefits your sacrifice made possible. We shall always be grateful to you". This plaque commemorates those who served as conscientious objectors. It reads, "To those who served in the military while refusing to bear arms: thank you for defending your country in harmony with your conscience. Your willingness to go into harm's way unarmed demonstrates a faith that inspires all Americans. Thank you for not refusing to serve". Many of those who chose to be conscientious objectors served as combat medics. Now, this bronze memorial illustrates the scene of a combat medic treating a wounded soldier. Now, above all, this park is dedicated to the memory of a local hero. He was a conscientious objector, a combat medic, and a man of great faith. We'll find out more in just a moment.
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. The focus of Veterans Park here in Collegedale, Tennessee, is a man who was a conscientious objector. During World War II, he refused to touch a weapon of any kind or to carry a gun. He's a well-known local war hero, and known as the Hero of Okinawa. This statue commemorates Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss, a longtime resident of this area. He's also a national hero, as the recipient of this nation's highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
October 12, 1945, on the lawn of the White House, 15 Medal of Honor recipients were given their award by the President of the United States. When it was his turn, Desmond walked up to the President. Harry S. Truman warmly shook the hand of Corporal Doss and held it the entire time his citation was read aloud. Then, as he placed the Medal of Honor around his neck, the President said, "I'm proud of you. You really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being President". He was a company aid man when the first battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar, and machine gun 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 one by one to the edge of the escarpment, and there lowering them, on a rope-supported litter, down the face of the cliff to friendly hands. On the 2nd of 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 two days later, he treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making four separate trips, under fire, to evacuate them to safety.
On the 5th of 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, Private 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 the 21st of 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 five hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack, and Private 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 one 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, Private 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. Three and a half years before those words were read on the lawn of the White House, Desmond Doss pulled on his army uniform for the first time. It was April the 1st, 1942. But things did not start well for the soft-spoken Virginian. He wanted to be a combat medic, but as providence would have it, he was assigned to an infantry rifle company.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Desmond was working at the Newport News naval shipyard and could have requested a deferment, but he was willing to risk his life on the front lines in order to preserve freedom. He assumed his standing as a conscientious objector would not require him to carry a weapon, but his refusal to even touch a gun caused his fellow soldiers to view him with disdain. Nobody believed a soldier without a weapon was worth anything, so they ostracized him, bullied him, cursed at him, and threatened him.
One man warned, "Doss, when we get into combat, I'll make sure you don't come back alive". Desmond had been raised with a fervent belief in the Bible, and when it came to the Ten Commandments, he applied them personally. During childhood, his father had purchased a large, framed picture at an auction. It portrayed the Ten Commandments with colorful illustrations. Next to the words "Thou shalt not kill" was a drawing of Cain holding a club and standing over the body of his dead brother, Abel. With that picture firmly embedded in his mind, this young boy determined that he would never take life. And there was another commandment that Desmond took just as seriously as the sixth, and that was the fourth commandment. He was raised to go to church every week, on the seventh day of the week. The army was exasperated when this Bible-reading misfit asked for a pass to attend church every Saturday. They believed he was totally out of sync with the military.
In fact, they saw him as a liability. So they tried to intimidate him. They gave him extra duties, they declared him mentally unfit, and they tried to court-martial him. But Desmond Doss wouldn't quit. He saw it as his duty to serve God and country, but in that order. But things began to turn around when the men discovered that this quiet, unassuming medic had an effective way to treat the blisters on their feet. And when someone fainted from heat stroke, Desmond was at their side, offering his own canteen. And he never held a grudge. With kindness and gentle courtesy, he treated those who mistreated him. He lived the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Desmond served in combat on the islands of Guam and Leyte. In each military operation, he exhibited extraordinary dedication to his men. While others were taking life, he was busy saving life. As enemy bullets whizzed past and mortar shells exploded around him, he repeatedly ran to treat a fallen comrade and carry him back to safety. By the time they reached Okinawa, he'd been awarded two Bronze Stars for valor. In May 1945, Japanese troops were fiercely defending Okinawa, the only remaining barrier to an Allied invasion of their homeland. The Americans were set on capturing an imposing cliff that ran across the island. The soldiers called it Hacksaw Ridge. But upon reaching the top, Japanese forces suddenly attacked. Officers ordered an immediate retreat.
As a hundred or more Americans lay wounded and dying on enemy soil, one lone soldier disobeyed those orders and charged back into the firefight. With a constant prayer on his lips, he vowed to rescue as many as he could before he either collapsed or died trying. His iron determination and unflagging courage resulted in saving 75 lives. Desmond Doss was a hero. He was a hero to the men whose lives he saved. He was a hero in American history. But he was also a hero of faith. Without his faith in God, he would not have been able to be the hero that he was, when he endured those battles in the Pacific Islands. How did he have the faith that enabled him to face the enemy with quiet confidence? I'll have the answer to that question in just a moment.
Desmond Doss believed that the Bible was the Word of God. He read the Bible every day. He had a Bible with him the entire time he was in the war. In fact, his Bible was his most prized possession. Shortly before he shipped out to the Pacific, he married his sweetheart, Dorothy. As a wedding gift, she gave him a pocket Bible. Inside that Bible she wrote a note especially to encourage Desmond while he was away. "Dearest Desmond, As you read and study the precious promises found in the Word of God contained in this little Bible, may you be strengthened in whatever trials may come to you. May your faith in God bring comfort and peace of heart to you, that you may never be sad or lonely, no matter how dark the way seems.
If we do not meet another time on this earth, we have the assurance of a happy meeting place in heaven. May God in His mercy grant us both a place there. Your loving wife, Dorothy". As he faced the enemy day after day, he read this letter again and again, along with the promises he found in his Bible. "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.'" Psalm 91, 1 and 2. "You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noon-day. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you." Psalm 91:5 through 7.
As Desmond read the Bible, he read it as one who believed that God would protect him, because he believed God's Word could be trusted. Thoughts of fear were changed to feelings of confidence and courage. As he read God's Word, he read words like these: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man". Psalm 118, verse 8. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths". Proverbs 3:5 and 6. As Desmond read his Bible, it molded his thinking. He read this in the Proverbs: "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he". Proverbs 23:7. Thoughts become actions; actions become habits; habits influence our character; and our character determines our destiny. It's when times become really challenging that our true character is revealed.
For Desmond Doss, he was the same person in the heat of battle as he was outside of the theater of battle, and that's because he had spent time with God. Just because he didn't carry a weapon did not mean he was defenseless. At all times, he had prayer and the Word of God: two things far more powerful than any weapon. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it". First Corinthians 10:13. God promises you a way of escape, just as He provided one for Desmond Doss. The same promises that Desmond found in his Bible are the promises that you can discover, and believe, and claim. I'd like for you to get today's free book. It's called: "The Faith of Desmond Doss". I'll tell you how you can get it in just a moment.
This is the Chattanooga National Cemetery, in the state of Tennessee. National cemeteries were first established under the administration of President Abraham Lincoln. They were specifically created for those who had served in the military, beginning with the Civil War. There are some graves here that date all the way back to that time, every grave commemorating the life of one who would sacrifice to preserve freedom, from every war since the Civil War. This national cemetery covers 120 acres. More than 50,000 war veterans are buried here. Undoubtedly there's a unique story behind each grave marker.
After serving his country in World War II, Desmond Doss returned home, but not everything turned out the way he might have hoped. He was discharged from the military in 1946, but before that time, he had developed tuberculosis. All those cold, wet nights in a muddy foxhole in the Pacific Islands eventually took their toll. As the illness progressed, his left lung had to be surgically removed, along with five ribs. For the rest of his life, he survived on a single lung, until it, too, failed. At the age of 87, Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss died, on March 23, 2006, after being hospitalized with difficulty breathing. For Desmond Doss, the war is over; not just the war in the Pacific during World War II, but the battle of life.
Now he rests in peace; his eternal destiny has been decided. His body lies just beneath this grave marker. One day, according to the Bible, the trumpet of God will awaken the sleeping saints, and the greatest battle ever fought will climax in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Desmond was a soldier who served in war, but he was also a soldier in the battle of life. We're all soldiers in the battle of life, and the outcome has already been determined. We know that the enemy is the devil, but that ultimately the victor is Jesus Christ. Every person born on this earth is born behind enemy lines, but everyone can choose to be on the winning side.
You know, Jesus is coming back soon, and when He returns death, sin, pain, sorrow, it will all be done away with. It will all be gone. Jesus is coming back, and when He returns, He'll make all things new. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also". John 14, 1 through 3. That wonderful promise assures you that a bright future awaits you. For it to be a reality in your life, all you need to do is believe. Let's pray together.
Our Father in Heaven, we are thankful today for Jesus, who has won the war. We thank you today for the strength of Your Spirit, and for the example of people like Desmond Doss, who through faith in You demonstrated what God can do in a humble life. Lord, I pray that You would take our hearts.
Friend, is it time now for you to give your heart to Jesus? You can do so now, by inviting Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, and work in you as He worked in Desmond Doss.
Father, we thank You today for inspiring us and for pointing our eyes and hearts and minds to Jesus, who died so that we might live victoriously. We thank You today, and we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.