Guest Blog: Skip MacCarty
They called it Hacksaw Ridge. It was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Pacific Theater of World War II. Three weeks ago I stood on this 400-feet-high, 300-yard-long plateau and heard a U.S. Army Chaplain tell the story of what happened there in April/May, 1945.
United States forces had to take the Island of Okinawa as a base for what was expected to be an eventual ground assault on the mainland of Japan. As it turned out, the key to Okinawa was Hacksaw Ridge from which much of the Island could be viewed and held. The enemy was dug in more securely than any other positions U.S. forces had encountered. A series of bunkers and tunnels protected the enemy from assaults from air raids as well as from sea and ground artillery. The enemy had every inch of the top of the plateau covered with mortar, artillery and machine gun fire. Each day they would allow U.S. troops to climb to the top of the ridge and take their positions, and then open fire on them and drive them off. Thousands of U.S. troops were being slaughtered in unsuccessful attempts to take and secure Hacksaw Ridge.
On one of those assaults, 150 troops had mounted the plateau when enemy fire opened up. Fifty troops managed to escape back down the cliff on their own, leaving 99 dead and wounded behind. The one surviving soldier was Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist army medic. For the next 12 hours, amidst heavy fire from the enemy, he drug and carried his 99 wounded and dead comrades to the edge of the cliff and lowered them to the surviving soldiers below. The troops below could not believe what they were witnessing.
Desmond Doss had been the most despised and hated soldier in the B Company of the 77th Division. He refused to carry a gun, although all other medics carried one. He had daily devotions of Bible reading and prayer, and refused to work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday in accordance with the fourth Commandment. He had been ridiculed, threatened with court marshal, and told by one of his own comrades that he would personally shoot him in battle. But on that April day on Hacksaw Ridge, he not only won the hearts of his company and Division, but earned the U.S. Medal of Honor.
The order came that on Saturday, May 5, Hacksaw Ridge must be assaulted and taken at all costs. Since that was his Sabbath, Doss was asked if he would join his troops in the assault. He responded that he could save lives on Sabbath as on any other day, but that he would have to finish his private Sabbath worship first. So, the entire 77th Division waited until he finished his time of study and prayer before assaulting the plateau for the last time, finally securing it.
Several days later Doss was severely wounded when the enemy threw a hand grenade into his foxhole. While being carried to a medical station he saw another wounded soldier nearby. He rolled off the stretcher and insisted the other soldier be attended to first. He crawled the rest of the way himself to the medical station.
God honored the deeply held convictions of this humble man of God. He will do the same for us.