Saturday, March 25, 2006

In Memoriam: Desmond Doss

ANN | Adventist Doss, First Conscientious Objector to Win Medal of Honor, Dies at Age 87
Citation: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. He was a company aid man when the lst 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 them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.
To me, Desmond Doss is the embodiment of "conscientious cooperation"--the Adventist church's response to the moral dilemma of opposing Nazi Germany while obeying the divine command, "Thou shalt not kill". Doss joined the U.S. Army as a medic while at the same time refusing to touch a weapon and endured ridicule from his comrades as well as constant harassment from his superiors. But he held to his convictions, and they gave him the strength to do an amazing feats humanitarian service on the battlefield.

With the "just wars" behind us, Desmond's passing symbolizes the end of an era, and I want to remember not only him but all the other Adventists who served God and country as "conscientious cooperators". My great-grandfather, Dirk Hamstra, received the Croix de Guerre from the Franch in WWI for rescuing, against orders, a downed airman in no-man's-land (the U.S. Army was not giving medals to medics at the time). We should also remember the "white coats"--young Adventists the U.S. Army used as human guinea pigs in exchange for exemption from combat duty.

The good news is that a few weeks before his death Desmond finally signed the rights to his story over to a group of producers who intend to make a live-action, feature film of it. His story has already been told in a comic book and a documentary film. The documentary is a bit slow, but the story is absolutely compelling. I recommend that you acquaint yourself with this remarkable man.


  1. Can't wait to meet him in heaven...

  2. I'm having a hard time thinking of a war that I'd be willing to conscientiously cooperate with in the past 35-40 years - maybe since WWII. In spite of the amazing heroism and powerful witness of Desmond Doss (I don't want to take anything away from that) there is no way I could advocate being a consciencious cooperator in this day and age of immoral, preemptive war. I posted about Doss at my blog as well (

  3. Some minor corrections re my grandfather -
    1) His name was Dijk not Dirk which is my Father's middle name
    2) It was a wounded American soldier not a downed airman
    3) The wounded soldier's commanding officer asked for volunteers - this was NOT disobeying and order