The True Story Of Hacksaw Ridge & Desmond Doss

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Summary

  • Hacksaw Ridge is a war movie based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a brave combat medic in World War II who saved 75 men on the battlefield.
  • Doss’s religious beliefs as a conscientious objector led to him refusing to bear arms, which caused tension with his fellow soldiers during training.
  • Desmond Doss received the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary courage and selflessness, and continued to live a remarkable life after the war, despite facing health challenges.


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Hacksaw Ridge follows the true story of Desmond Doss — here’s a breakdown of the actual events behind the movie’s World War II events. Directed by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is based on the 2004 documentary The Conscientious Objector. Following its release in 2014, the war movie not only earned acclaim from both viewers and critics but also got several accolades, including three Golden Globe nominations and two Oscar wins. Although Hacksaw Ridge opened alongside Doctor Strange and Trolls, its box office numbers were optimistic against its $40 million production budget.

Hacksaw Ridge, like most true-story anti-war movies, takes some creative liberties, especially when it comes to its depiction of Desmond Doss’ relationship timeline with his wife, Dorothy Pauline Schutte. Apart from that, several other elements of Doss’ pre-World War story, including his relationship with his father, have also been changed in Hacksaw Ridge. However, when it comes to the events of Desmond Doss’ journey through World War II, the film stays true to the essence of what happened, paying an emotionally-stirring tribute to the war hero.


Desmond Doss Was A Combat Medic In WW2

Desmond Doss among other soldiers in Hacksaw Ridge

During the early days of World War II, Desmond Doss was working at the Newport News Naval shipyard as a joiner and had the option of taking deferment. However, Doss wanted to serve his nation and, therefore, joined the military. As seen in Hacksaw Ridge, while Doss’ brother, Harold, went on to serve in USS Lindsey, Doss found himself in Fort Jackson for the 77th Infantry Division’s training. While growing up, Desmond Doss learned to solidify his belief in his faith and committed himself to follow the word of the Bible. Owing to these beliefs, he was a Seventh-day Adventist against killing and a conscientious objector (someone who refuses to bear arms due to religious beliefs).

However, his religious beliefs did not sit too well with his fellow soldiers because he refused to pick up a gun during training. Anti-war movie Hacksaw Ridge accurately portrays how he diligently followed the Ten Commandments of the Bible and had the words “Thou shalt not kill” embedded in his mind. While Doss was often looked down upon and treated as an outcast for refusing to use a gun during his training, he never held a grudge against anyone. Instead, he treated his fellow soldiers with the utmost respect and care and did his best to provide them with relevant medical attention when needed.

How Many Soldiers Desmond Doss Saved On Hacksaw Ridge During The Battle Of Okinawa

Desmond Doss carries a wounded soldier in Hacksaw Ridge

Following his training, Desmond Doss served in combat on Okinawa, Guam, and Leyte. On every battlefield, he stuck to his principles and did not carry a gun. Instead of taking lives, he often put his life on the line to save others. Regardless of how intense things were on the battlefield, Doss would instantly respond to “medic” calls and carry his comrades to safety. While at it, there were times when he was so close to the enemy lines that he could almost hear the Japanese whispering to one another. Through many such acts of selflessness in the face of extreme danger, Doss proved his bravery and dedication to serve his nation.

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Through these acts of valor, Doss earned the respect and empathy of his fellow men. However, it was his actions at Hacksaw Ridge that truly distinguished him as a legend. Somewhere towards the final months of World War II, Doss and his men from the infantry were on a mission to invade the Hacksaw Ridge, a rock face at the heart of Okinawa’s brutal battle. As soon as the US forces gained control over the top of the rock face, the Japanese aggressively retaliated, leaving the men from the US troops severely injured, dead, or retreating down the cliff to safety.

Unlike other US soldiers, however, Doss chose to stay on top of the cliff to treat his fellow injured men. He worked tirelessly through the night and, as seen in Hacksaw Ridge, carried his men on his back to get them back to safety and even made makeshift stretchers to take soldiers down the cliff’s precipice using a rope. As per reports, he saved around 75 men by himself on May 5, 1945, becoming a symbol of righteousness, hope, and unshakable bravery.

Desmond Doss’ Injuries Acquired On Hacksaw Ridge Explained

Andrew Garfield covered in mud in Hacksaw Ridge

On May 21, 1945, Desmond Doss and his fellow soldiers unknowingly walked into a Japanese soldiers’ unit. As hand-to-hand combat ensued between the two parties, Doss got to work by treating the wounded on the battlefield. That is when the Japanese Soldiers started throwing hand grenades, and one landed in a shell hole where Doss was taking shelter with two other soldiers. Doss tried to kick the bomb, but it exploded on his leg, leaving him severely injured. Despite having 17 pieces of shrapnel stuck in his body, Doss did not cry for help. Instead, he treated his wounds for five hours until a fellow soldier, Ralph Baker, reached him.

Desmond Doss took his selflessness and comradeship for his fellow men a step further when he gave up the stretcher he was being carried on to another severely injured soldier. Unfortunately, while waiting for help to return, Doss got shot by a sniper that broke his arm. Using rifle stock, he made a splint for his shattered arm and crawled 300 yards to make his way to an aid station. From there, he was taken to a hospital ship.

Desmond Doss Received A Medal Of Honor

President Harry Truman awarding the Medal of Honor to conscientious objector Desmond Doss

Even though Desmond Doss faced skepticism and ridicule for his steadfast adherence to strong religious beliefs, he later proved his determination to serve his nation through his actions during the war. His sacrifice and unparalleled courage, and selflessness did not go unnoticed. On October 12, 1945, he received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman, making him the first conscientious objector to earn the honor. Apart from the Medal of Honor, Desmond Doss also received several other awards and decorations for his actions during the war.

What Happened To Desmond Doss After WW2

Teresa Palmer and Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge
Teresa Palmer and Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge

In the years that followed World War II, Desmond Doss spent a lot of time in the hospital, recovering from his injuries. In 1946, he contracted tuberculosis, due to which he spent five and half years receiving treatment for the condition. In August 1951, he got discharged from the hospital but lost five ribs and a lung to the disease. He lost his hearing in 1976 after receiving an antibiotic overdose during his treatment from the military but gained his hearing back in 1988 after getting a cochlear implant. Following his tenure in the military, Doss continued working part-time while raising a farm with his wife and son in Rising Fawn, Georgia.

After his wife tragically passed away in a car accident in 1991, Desmond Doss got remarried to Frances May Duman in 1993. In March 2006, Doss got hospitalized for issues with breathing and soon passed away on March 23 in his Alabama home. A few days after his demise, he was buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery, Tennessee, in April 2006. Even to this day, movies like Hacksaw Ridge continue honoring the acts of altruism and bravery he displayed throughout his life.