Hacksaw Ridge is a transformational and dramatic film that tells the extraordinary story of WWII medic, Desmond Doss. He was the one American soldier to fight on the front lines but without a weapon. His fight was not to take lives, but to save them.
During one of the bloodiest battles on WWII, in Okinawa, Japan, he miraculously saved the lives of 75 men – despite being under constant enemy gunfire and artillery bombardment.
His strength was based on his deep faith. He was a Seventh-day Adventist. His weapon was simple prayer.
At first he was bullied and scorned by his fellow-soldiers. Finally, however, his faith and courage won him the admiration of those very same men. His reward was not just in saved lives. He became the very first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honour.
Hacksaw Ridge is released by Lionsgate films in the UK on January 27, 2017.
The Faith of Desmond Doss
Without doubt, Doss was a man of faith. He had been raised since childhood with a fervent belief in the Bible. When it came to the Ten Commandments, he applied them personally. While still a child his father had purchased a large framed picture at an auction. It portrayed the Ten Commandments with colourful illustrations. Next to the words, "Thou shalt not kill" was a drawing of Cain holding a club and standing over the body of his dead brother Abel. Little Desmond would look at that picture and ask, "Why did Cain kill Abel? How in the world could a brother do such a thing?" In Desmond's mind, God said, "If you love me, you won't kill." With that picture firmly embedded in his mind, he determined that he would never take life.
However, there was another commandment that Desmond took just as seriously as the sixth. It was the fourth commandment. His religious upbringing included weekly church attendance, on the seventh day.
The Army was exasperated to discover that he had yet another personal requirement. He asked for a weekly pass so he could attend church every Saturday. This meant two strikes against him. His fellow soldiers saw this Bible reading puritan, as being totally out of sync with the rest of the Army. This led to him being ostracized, bullied, being called awful names and cursed at. His commanding officers also made his life difficult - but that did nothing to change his simple faith.
That faith was not just theory. It showed itself in practice – and that practice changed those mens hearts.
That faith was not just theory. It showed itself in practice – and that practice changed those mens hearts. They discovered that this quiet unassuming medic had a way to heal the blisters on their march-weary feet. If someone fainted from heat stroke, this medic would be at their side, offering his own canteen.
Desmond never held a grudge. With kindness and gentle courtesy, he treated those who had mistreated him. He lived the golden rule, "…do to others what you would have them do to you…" (Matthew 7:12 NIV). [Adapted from the Desmond Doss website]
The Conscientious Objector film
A 2004 documentary film by director, Terry Benedict, tells much more about the life of Doss, including some facts from the battle that Mel Gibson did not include in the final version of Hacksaw Ridge as he thought audiences would not beleive it was true. It is well worth a view. See more on Wiki or purchase a copy via the Desmond Doss website.
A Matter of Conscience
Doss was not the only man to ‘stand for his faith though the heavens fall’. During WWI some 130 British Adventists were conscripted into the army. They also refused to bear arms or break the 10 commandments. There remarkable story is told in a 2014 documentary, A Matter of Conscience. Much more of their story, including original sources, can be found on the WWI pages of this website.
Along with many thousands of other men and women, their stand for peace in the midst of suffering is commemorated by ‘a space for peace’ in the gardens of the Seventh-day Adventist Church headquarters in Watford.
Some of these stories, both from the UK and around the world are celebrated in a special edition of FOCUS magazine, published by the Stanborough Press. Available for purchase or read it online.
For all media enquires or interview enquires regarding Hacksaw Ridge or the Faith of Desmond Doss please phone 01923 665538 (if an answer phone someone will get back to you), call our main switchboard 01923 672251, or submit your enquiry here.