The President of the United States, in the name of Congress, awarded more than 3,400 Medals of Honor to the Nation’s bravest Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard personnel, since the decoration’s creation in 1861!
This article was compiled from a variety of resources to honor one such person…
Desmond T. Doss:
Desmond T. Doss was born on February 7, 1919 in Lynchburg, Virginia, USA as Desmond Thomas Doss. He was married to Frances Duman and Dorothy Schutte. He died on March 23, 2006 in Piedmont, Alabama, USA.
Rank & Unit: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division
Place & Date: Near Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 29 April-21 May 1945
He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion, 77th Infantry Division assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As the 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 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.
While serving with his platoon in 1944 on Guam and the Philippines, he was awarded two Bronze Stars with a “V” device, for exceptional valor in aiding wounded soldiers under fire. During the Battle of Okinawa, he saved the lives of 50–100 wounded infantrymen atop the area known by the 96th Division as the Maeda Escarpment or Hacksaw Ridge. Doss was wounded four times in Okinawa and was evacuated on May 21, 1945, aboard the USS Mercy. Doss suffered a left arm fracture from a sniper’s bullet and at one point had seventeen pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body.
His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty. The movie, “Hacksaw Ridge” was made to honor this man and his actions.
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Joseph S. Forzley – Lemont, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 5th Air Force
Charles Herrmann – Cincinnati, OH; USMC, WWII
Joseph Kurata – Acampo, CA; US Army, Japanese Occupation & Korea, Counter Intelligence Corps, Col. (Ret. 32 y.)
Ian McKnight – NC; US Navy, USS Nimitz, 5th Fleet, Information Tech 2nd Class, MIA (Arabian Gulf)
Kathryn Phillips – Columbus, GA; Civilian, US Red Cross, WWII
Amy Ponech – Lethbridge, CAN; WRC Air Force, WWII
Philip Savage Jr. – Buffalo, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 505/82nd Airborne Division
Michael Wadeck – Bradenton, FL; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam (Ret. 27 y.)