Desmond Doss wouldn’t have stood out in a crowd as a brave hero. But sometimes looks can be deceiving. Doss was a quiet, unassuming conscientious objector who served as a combat medic in World War II. He was twice awarded the Bronze Star for valor for risking his life to save wounded soldiers during fighting in Guam and the Philippines. But it was on the island of Okinawa that he displayed his most extraordinary bravery.

Desmond Doss on Okinawa in May 1945 during the fighting that would result in his being awarded the Medal of Honor.

A Very Unusual Training Experience

Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia on February 7, 1919. He was a strict Seventh-Day Adventist, a pacifist, and didn’t believe in violence or the use of arms. He attended a school of the same faith until the eighth grade when he left school to work to help his family during the Great Depression.

At the outbreak of World War II, Doss had a job in the Newport News shipbuilding yards and was offered a deferment. But he turned it down and enlisted in the army on April 1, 1942, hoping to be a medic due to his refusal to carry a weapon because of his religious convictions. His basic training experience was difficult. He was threatened and harassed. Many of the other recruits threw shoes at him while he prayed, and they tried to have him transferred out of their unit.

His fellow troops considered him a coward, a misfit and he was bullied during his training with the newly reformed 77th Infantry Division. He further angered the military when he asked for a pass on Saturdays to observe his Sabbath