Master CraftsMon

Friday, March 31, 2006

Master CraftsMon - Aired Monday, March 27, 2006 at about 11pm CST - Segment 1

Master CraftsMon - Aired Monday, March 27, 2006 at about 11pm CST
Segment 1

We are having our Spring fund drive. Call in and make a pledge. I shall play some music and take your pledge. I have no engineers or someone to take the phone, so that is what needs to be done. Don't be shy. Call right now at 779-5367 or 779-KEOS or donate securely at

Remember that I am but a voice from the velvet black calling to you across the gulf of our mutual incomprehension.

A hero died last Thursday in Piedmont, Alabama. He was 87. He had lived a rich, full life and is mourned by many. When he came home from World War II, he spent most of the last 60 years in the tiny mountain community of Rising Fawn, Georgia. Burial will take place on Monday, April 3, at 11 a.m. at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

Desmond T. Doss was a devout member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, he believed that the Bible said, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", and that was the end of it. He would not eat meat after seeing a chicken flopping around with its head cut off. In fact, he was a bit a klutz, because he was always bumping into things and hurting himself. Thus he seemed an unlikely candidate to become a war hero.

In the run up to World War II, the draft was re-instituted. Doss, at the time, was working as a joiner at a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. This was considered an essential industry to the military so he had no worries of being drafted. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he knew he would be drafted if he did not enlist, so that is exactly what he chose to do. Enlistment meant that he might be able to choose his job in the military.

His minister went with him to establish his status as a non-combatant. The officer in charge told him there was no such thing, but that he could register as a conscientious objector. Doss said he was not a conscientious objector because he would gladly serve his country, wear a uniform, salute the flag, and help with the war effort. He would gladly help tend sick or hurt people any day, but he would not carry a gun because he believed all killing was wrong. Finally the enlistment officer convinced Doss to accept the 1-A-O Conscientious Objector classification, so he could join the army without fear of court martial.

On April 1, 1942 he was inducted into the U.S. Army and headed to Ft. Jackson in South Carolina for basic training. He had begun dating Dorothy Schutte and they had fallen in love, but they decided that they should wait until after the war to get married. Before he left Dorothy, gave him a small pocketsize Bible. Many times in the days ahead, that Bible would prove to be his lone source of comfort and inspiration.

23-year-old Desmond Doss entered service as a medic for the 77th Infantry Division. From the beginning, the other men in his company made fun of Doss for his beliefs. Even though he worked long, hard hours to make up for not working on Saturday, the men cursed, ridiculed, and taunted him. Each night as he knelt beside his bunk to pray, the men swore at him and threw their boots at him. When Doss quietly read his small Bible, as he often did, the men cursed him even more. One man even went so far as to tell him that he would personally kill Doss when they got into combat.

You have to understand their position. Most of them were draftees. Frightened of dying like any man would be. The one thing a soldier must count on is that his comrade will die for him and kill for him. Doss's faith seemed to mean that he would do neither, thus he was a threat to their survival.

Not only did the men not like Doss, even though he did nothing to them, but the Army just did not know what to do with a soldier who would not work on Saturday, who would not carry a gun, and who did not eat meat. At one point, his commanding officer tried to initiate a Section Eight (unfit for military service) discharge, but Doss vehemently fought the move, saying he really did want to serve his country, he just did not want to kill. He remained in the Army to the great displeasure of most of his officers and fellow soldiers.

His unit was deployed in the Pacific as part of the island hopping campaign. Land, take the island, move on to the next unpronounceable island and repeat the process. In July of 1944 on the island of Guam, Doss began to prove his courage and compassion for the very men who had taunted, belittled, and even threatened him by braving enemy fire to pull his wounded comrades from the line of fire and render aid. He received a Bronze Star for his heroism. During the battle to take Leyte in the Philippines during October of 1944, Doss proved his courage over and over. Without regard for his own life he would help the wounded to safety.

In one case, something strange happened. Doss ran out onto the battlefield to retrieve a wounded soldier. Some of his company looked on in horror as they saw a Japanese sniper take aim at Doss as he helped the wounded man. They could do nothing to stop the sniper because other soldiers were in their line of fire. Miraculously, the sniper did not fire. Years later a missionary in Japan told this story. After the service, a Japanese man told the missionary the sniper could have been him. He remembered having a soldier in his sites, but he could not pull the trigger. Bushido maybe. A warrior recognizes courage, when he sees it.

Okinawa came. Okinawa killed more of our troops than any of the other battles of the Pacific. It was a horrendous campaign because by that time both sides had hard bitten veterans who were ready to die for their cause.

By now, Doss's fellow soldiers were used to his reading the Bible and praying, so it did not seem unusual when, on that April 29th morning in 1945, he suggested that they might want to pray. They were facing a sheer 400-foot cliff that split the island of Okinawa known as the Maeda Escarpment. It would be necessary to attack and capture this area. The men of Company B bowed their heads as Doss offered a prayer for safety. Then they began to struggle up the sheer cliff face.

His unit captured the 400-foot Maeda Escarpment in an incredible sweep in which not one man was killed and only one minor injury was sustained. When a photographer arrived to capture the moment and asked how they pulled it off, Doss' company commander answered, "Doss prayed!"

However on May 5th the tide turned against the Americans as the Japanese launched a huge counterattack. Enemy fire raked Company B and almost immediately over 50 men fell wounded. The remaining troops who were able, retreated back down to the base of the escarpment. Left at the top of the cliff were the wounded, the Japanese, and Desmond T. Doss.

For the next five hours, while his wounded comrades fought back their attackers, Doss began to lower man after man to safety down the face of the cliff using little more than a tree stump and a rope. Doss said that he just kept praying that the Lord would let him rescue one more man. No one knows for sure how many men Doss lowered to safety that day. The campaign continued for Company B. The Maeda Escarpment was retaken. Day leached into day.

On May 21st, the Americans again were under fire while Doss remained in the open to help a wounded soldier. He and three other soldiers had crawled into a hole to wait for the cover of darkness to escape when a grenade was thrown into their hole. The other three men jumped out to safety but the grenade blew up just as Doss stepped on it. Did I mention that the man was a klutz? Miraculously he did not lose his leg but he sustained many wounds. He did not want to endanger anyone else so he bandaged his own wounds and waited for the breaking of the dawn for help to arrive.

As he was being carried off the field they passed another critically wounded soldier. Doss rolled off the litter and told the medics to take the other man. He joined another wounded soldier and together they started to hobble off while supporting each other. Doss had his arm across the other man's neck when he felt a bullet slam into his arm. It shattered Doss upper arm, which in turn, saved the other man's life.

On the way out to a hospital ship offshore, Doss discovered that he had lost the Bible his fiancé, Dorothy, had given him. He sent word asking if the men could keep an eye out for it. On the hospital ship, it was determined that Doss had the million dollar wound and he was shipped back to the States. The word passed from man to man, and an entire battalion of battle weary warriors combed the battlefield until Doss' Bible was found. A sergeant carefully dried it out and mailed it to Doss. Months later it arrived at his home in the United States. Doss would spend a total of six years in hospitals as a consequence of his wounds and a bout with tuberculosis.

The military determined that this medic, whom no one had wanted in the Army, had personally saved 100 lives. They wished to honor him with a medal. In debriefing, Doss said it could not have been more than 50. Because of Doss' humble estimate, when the citation for his Medal was written, they split the difference and he was credited with saving the lives of 75 of his fellow soldiers. On October 12, 1945, Desmond Doss, was invited to the White House to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for his courageous service on May 5, 1945 - the first noncombatant to ever receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Incidentally, May 5, 1945 was a Saturday, Sabbath for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Sometimes a man, if he is honorable, must work on the Sabbath.

Most of that reading was from an article by MATTHEW C SOPER with major contributions by MARK REIMAN and information contained in the book Desmond Doss - In God's Care, by Frances Doss, copyright 1998, The College Press, Collegedale, TN.

A documentary was put out in 2004 based on the life of Desmond Doss called Conscientious Objector. There is to be a major motion picture about him sometime soon. I wonder whether they will be able to capture the courage of the man. We shall see, shall we not.


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