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Posts Tagged ‘Private First Class Desmond Thomas Doss’

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)  —  movie review
WAAAYYY back in August 2016, I wrote a post about a documentary, a movie preview (“trailer”), and a few comments on something I’d discovered on YouTube which I then called “trailer reviews”.  Here is a link to that post for anyone who would like to read my earlier post:  https://kmabarrett.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/conscientious-courage/
At any rate, the movie came out and, for whatever reason, I never have reviewed it.  This post corrects that mistake.  (My earlier post was about the documentary / subject of the movie and not on the actual movie.)
The film is a typically formatted two-part military tale focusing on the World War II training (pre-military life / boot camp), and then, (actual) combat experiences of Desmond Doss, a combat medic who was a pacifist / Seventh-day Adventist Christian, who refused to touch, carry or use a firearm or weapon of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The medal was for service above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Okinawa (April to June 1945).  It should be mentioned, the movie implies the battle shown was a few days / nights long.  In fact, it (the battle shown) lasted a couple of weeks and the battle for the island several months.  Also, Doss received medals for two acts of courage in combat (on two other islands) which preceded this battle on Okinawa, so his courage was already known by his fellow soldiers before the events depicted in this movie.
Andrew Garfield stars as Doss, and Hugo Weaving (Mr. Smith from the Matrix movies) as his father, with Sam Worthington (the blue guy in “Avatar”) as Doss’ company commander and Vince Vaughn as his drill instructor and platoon sergeant.  The film received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Garfield and Best Sound Editing, and winning the awards for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.
First we are introduced to Doss as a child and learn about his desire to be a doctor.  We also meet his girlfriend and future wife.  (Normally, I would describe all of this as “Blah, blah, blah…”, but in this movie, the background really is important to the story – imagine that!)  Doss joins the Army and is placed under the training of Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn, who is surprisingly good in this wise-cracking, but non-comedic role).  Despite being skinny, Doss excels physically but is cast as a coward to his platoon for refusing to handle a rifle and train on Saturdays.  Howell and Captain Glover (Worthington, who looks surprisingly old in this role) attempt to discharge Doss for psychiatric reasons but are overruled, as Doss’ religious beliefs do not qualify as a mental illness.  So, instead, they try to make life hard on Doss.  One night, Doss is beaten by some of the members of his own platoon, but Doss refuses to identify his attackers and completes his training.
Doss intends to marry Dorothy (his girlfriend played by Teresa Palmer), but his refusal to carry a firearm leads to an arrest for failing to follow a direct order by a commanding officer.  At his trial, Doss pleads not guilty, but before he is sentenced, his father barges into the tribunal with a letter from a former commanding officer (of the father) stating that his son’s pacifism is protected by an Act of Congress.  The charges against Doss are dropped, and he and Dorothy are married.
Doss’ unit is deployed to the Pacific theater, and during the Battle of Okinawa, Doss’ unit is told that they have to climb and secure the Maeda Escarpment (“Hacksaw Ridge”).  In the initial fight, Doss saves several wounded soldiers.  The platoon camps for the night, which Doss spends in a foxhole with Smitty (played by Luke Bracey), who was the first squad-mate to call Doss a coward back in his training platoon days.  Doss tells Smitty his refusal to carry a rifle comes from nearly shooting his drunken father, who threatened his mother with a pistol.  Smitty apologizes for doubting his courage and the two reconcile.  This last is definitely meant to create a “heart-felt” moment and my immediate reaction was: this guy is either going to be a friend for life or he’s going to be a “redshirt” (LOL – StarTrek TOS reference for you nerds out there).
The next day, the Japanese launch a massive counterattack and drive the Americans off the escarpment.  Smitty is killed (ha! a redshirt), while Howell and several of Doss’ squad mates are left injured on the battlefield.  Doss hears the cries of the wounded and dying soldiers and goes back to save them, carrying the wounded to the cliff’s edge and belaying them each down the cliff face by rope, each time praying to save just one more.  The arrival of dozens of wounded once presumed dead comes as a shock to the rest of the unit below.  When day breaks, Doss rescues Sergeant Howell and the two escape over the cliff while under enemy fire. Just a historical note on the escarpment / cliff face.  The escarpment is actually about a 300-400 foot “overall” rise which is topped by the last 30 to 40 feet of sheer cliff.  This last bit – the cliff face – is given a bit of dramatic enhancement by the film’s director (Mel Gibson) who makes the last bit seem like the whole thing.
Captain Glover tells Doss that the men have been inspired by his courage and faith, and that they will not launch the next attack without him.  With new reinforcements, they win the battle.  When some Japanese soldiers fake surrender, Doss saves Captain Glover and others by slapping and then kicking (nice Spidey move) enemy grenades.  Doss is wounded in the leg by the kicked grenades blast, and Doss descends the cliff, holding the Bible his wife gave him.
The film switches to archival photos and footage from the documentary to show Doss receiving his Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for rescuing the 75 soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge.  The notes state Doss stayed married to Dorothy until her death in 1991, and, that he died on March 23, 2006, at the age of 87.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, his fellow soldiers reported Doss saved over 100 men.  Doss estimated he “helped” 50.  His CMoH split the difference an said “75”!!!
So, what did I think? You gotta be kiddin’ me! I loved the documentary; I cried during the preview (okay, maybe I just welled up a bit); and, I loved the movie (and, yes, I did cry)!!  This is not a movie about war – which is what I originally thought it was going to be about.  This is a movie about the human spirit, faith and courage.  Needless to say – final recommendation: very highly recommended.  One note of caution: like several of Gibson’s movies, this one is graphic in the display of violence and in the horrors of war.  As such, it is not appropriate for the very young or the squeamish.
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On This Day In:
2017 Talent Hates To Move
2016 Looking To November
2015 It Isn’t The End
Prospero’s Precepts
2014 Friends
2013 Learning Bitter
2012 Remembrance, Minstrels & Going Off To War
May I Have More Happiness, Please?
2011 There Is No God, But God
2010 Another Running Book…

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This is a first!  This whole blogging thing is (for me) an evolving experience.  I am, by nature, an introvert.  In another time and place I might have been labeled a “geek” or a “nerd”.  I’m okay with that because I’ve learned to accept who I am is just that – who I am.  Still, it’s interesting to find out (repeatedly) that I’m really not all that unusual.  It just kinda felt that way for a long time when I was growing up.  (More on this later…)
The Conscientious Objector”  (2004)  —  movie review
This documentary is a biography of Private First Class Desmond Doss.  Doss was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner for actions occurring during World War II while serving as a medic with the Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division in Okinawa.
Doss’ CMoH Citation reads:
G.O. No.: 97, November 1, 1945.
He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high.  As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun 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 all 75 casualties one-by-one 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 May 2, 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 eight 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 May 5, 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 May 21, 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, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of one 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.  Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers.  His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.
I would like to note Doss’ fellow soldiers put the estimate of men retrieved at over one hundred (100).  Doss’ testimony was that it was about fifty (50).  The officers investigating for the CMoH split the difference and reported seventy-five (75).  Pfc. Doss was the first “Conscientious  Objector” to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Doss did not refuse to serve.  Doss refused to carry a weapon of any kind into combat due to religious grounds.
This is a powerful documentary!  There are very few people who truly act their faith in their life every day of their life.  Doss was one of these rare individuals.  He simply would not kill.  Not to defend himself.  Not to defend others.  BUT – he would risk his life repeatedly to save others, even when they were on the brink of death.  Really, words fail me…  Very highly recommended!
Here is the link to the documentary on YouTube:
[NOTE: The above video is NOT the documentary which originally appeared in this post. That video is no longer available on YouTube.  I have replaced it with the one above.  The original documentary is available on desmond-doss.com as a DVD, but you will have to pay for it.   —   KMAB (5 Aug 2020)]
So, why is this posting “a first“?  After all, I’ve done close to a hundred movie reviews (albeit most very brief).  It’s a first because I’m also including a link to a preview of a movie (“Hacksaw Ridge“) which is not out until November.  This movie is the Hollywood version  of Doss’ life.
Why am I doing this?  Because I believe in serendipity.  I was looking at YouTube going over some of the current releases and I saw the preview.
I watched the preview and then rushed to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Doss) to find out who this guy “Doss” was.
This led to jumping back to YouTube, where I noticed the documentary was the next link.  So, I watched the documentary….
I was so moved, I went back to watch the preview again.  I then noticed there was a whole string of “preview reviews” on the side.  Never having seen one of these before (yes, I freely admit to being a dinosaur), I was intrigued and decided to check one out.  That led to another and another and another…
I gather these “preview reviews” are a “thing” now.  Which is actually pretty cool – to me – in a nerdy kind of way…
Which in turn loops me back to the start of this post where I remarked how interesting it is to find out (repeatedly) that I’m really not all that unusual…
Now, I am looking forward to extra previews and the actual movie release in November!
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On This Day In:
2015 The Beautiful Snow
2014 Nurtured By The Voices
2013 Précis
2012 Fear And Understanding
2011 Just Being Human

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