Army Honors Desmond Doss With
Hospital Guest House Naming
‘Conscientious Cooperator,’ an Adventist, is Remembered at Walter Reed
esmond T. Doss, Sr., the Seventh-day Adventist who wouldn’t carry a weapon but saved the lives of dozens of Army comrades in World War II, died in 2006. His legacy lives on, however, most recently with the naming of a guesthouse at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in Doss’ honor.
The Walter Reed Guest House was renamed July 9 in honor of the World War II medic and first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Pfc. Desmond T. Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist who refused to drill or train on Saturdays, the Bible Sabbath, or carry a weapon. As a medic serving in the Pacific during World War II, Doss served his country by saving the lives of his comrades, while also adhering to his religious convictions.
U.S. Army Col. Gordon R. Roberts, Medical Center Brigade commander and a fellow Medal of Honor recipient, knew Doss for more than 30 years and said Doss was a “uniquely American soldier with a uniquely American story.”
It is reported that Doss, a quiet, unassuming man, never liked being called a "conscientious objector," preferring the term "conscientious cooperator" instead. Instead of accepting a deferment from the military draft, Doss voluntarily joined the U.S. Army, but never took up arms. Assigned to the 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, as a company medic he was often harassed and ridiculed for his beliefs. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, Doss did not believe in using a gun or killing because of the sixth commandment which states, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). Doss was a patriot however, and believed in serving his country.
ADVENTIST HONORED: Medical Center Brigade commander, Col. Gordon R. Roberts (second from left), and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center commanding general, Maj. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland (right), unveil the plaque officially renaming the Walter Reed Guest House Doss Memorial Hall. Doss Memorial Hall has 32 rooms for recovering wounded warriors and their Family members. [Photo: Courtesy Walter Reed Army Medical Center]
According to his Medal of Honor citation, time after time, Doss' fellow soldiers witnessed how unafraid he was for his own safety. He was always willing to go after a wounded comrade, no matter how great the danger. During the May 5, 1945, battle in Okinawa, Doss refused to take cover from enemy fire as he rescued 75 wounded soldiers, carrying them one-by-one and lowering them over the edge of the 400-foot Maeda Escarpment. He did not stop until he had brought everyone to safety nearly 12 hours later. Doss would later credit knot-tying skills learned in an Adventist youth group, the Pathfinders, with helping him accomplish the rescue.
Despite that day being a Sabbath, Doss understood Jesus' injunction that it was fitting to "do good" on the holy day by saving lives.
According to media reports, when U.S. President Harry Truman gave Doss his medal, Truman told him, "I'm proud of you; you really deserve this. I consider this [medal] a greater honor than being President."
Doss' exemplary devotion to God and his country received nationwide acclaim. On July 4, 2004, a statue of Doss was placed in the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, Ga., along with statues of Dr. Martin Luther King, President Jimmy Carter, and retired Marine Corps General Gray Davis, also a Medal of Honor recipient. Also in 2004, a feature-length documentary called "The Conscientious Objector," telling Doss' story of faith, heroism, and bravery was released. A feature movie describing Doss' story is also being planned.
Doss spent five years recovering from his wounds. He died in March 2006 at age 87.
Roberts described Doss as someone who “deserved so much but got so little,” explaining Doss would be ridiculed by other soldiers for his persistent praying. When his unit was asked how they survived the Japanese counterattack, they responded, “Desmond prayed.”
-- Reported by Kristin Ellis, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, with AR staff and archival material from Adventist News Network