• P. Frank

Approaching Giants

Desmond Doss of Lynchburg, Virginia was born in 1919. After the United States entered World War II, Doss could have applied for an exemption from the military as a “conscientious objector” due to his religious beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. However, when drafted into the U.S. Army in the spring of 1942, Doss did not refuse his enlistment because he believed the war was for a just cause. He wanted to do his part, but he just didn’t want to kill anyone. He only wanted to save lives and refused to carry a weapon. He described himself as a “conscientious cooperator.” He was allowed to abstain from weapons training. He was often harassed by his fellow recruits and sometimes even his commanding officers. These men believed Doss to be a coward and wanted to get rid of him. Some members of his unit even threatened his life. Doss paid these bullies no attention and carried on with his service.

In 1944, Doss was deployed to the Pacific as part of the medical detachment of the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division. Along with his medical equipment, Doss always carried his Bible. In July 1944, his division landed in Guam. This was the first time Doss would prove that he was no coward. He treated wounded soldiers while under fire, being awarded the Bronze Star for valor. After Guam, the regiment fought the Japanese at Leyte where Doss showed his bravery yet again. He was awarded a second Bronze Star for valor for his actions there. There’s no question that by the time Doss and his unit arrived on the island of Okinawa, he had gained their respect, without ever firing a shot or taking a life. It is safe to presume that Doss knew that the Lord Almighty would deliver him. That knowledge allowed him to continue forward, saving the lives of many wounded men.

On April 29, 1945, A Company of the 307th Regiment was nearly annihilated on top of the Maeda Escarpment known as “Hacksaw Ridge.” On May 2, Doss, along with the remainder of A Company and B Company, climbed the cargo nets to the top of the cliff. The fighting intensified until May 5, when the order to retreat was issued. Doss refused to obey the order because there were still 75 wounded men trapped, many of whom used to despise him. Doss worked single-handedly to lower all 75 men the 400 feet to safety on the ground below the cliff. All he had was determination, a rope, and the strength that only God could provide. It’s safe to say that his muscles were beyond fatigued by the time he lowered the fiftieth man, yet he was still able to lower all 75 of them. Unarmed and unprotected, Doss faced impossible odds of survival. Yet, the Lord was with him, helped him, and delivered him.

On October 12, 1945, Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor that can be bestowed on any military member, for his actions on Okinawa. Doss was the first and only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor during WWII. He believed he received the award because he stayed true to God’s Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12).

What an inspirational story of courage. Desmond Doss had faith that God would protect him and give him the strength to save many lives. God rescued Doss from this war. Likewise, God was with David, thousands of years before WWII, in one of the most well-known and referenced stories in the Bible: David and Goliath. The youngest of his family, David endured the contempt of his older brothers. He was just a lowly shepherd boy. But when David overheard Goliath’s taunting and saw no one stepping up to the challenge, he volunteered to fight on behalf of the Israelites. David didn’t win King Saul’s respect with his offer. In fact, Saul thought very little of David, being young and inexperienced in war. Saul most likely thought David would be walking to his own death. Goliath’s size and tormenting made every Israelite, including David’s older brothers, “dismayed and terrified.” (1 Samuel 17:11). After all, Goliath was nine feet tall, wore armor that weighed 125 pounds, and carried a spear with a tip that weighed 15 pounds! Goliath was truly a monstrous human being.

What was David’s source of courage to volunteer to fight such an enemy? David had known God’s protection before while tending his father’s sheep. David told King Saul, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36–37). David knew that God would protect him from harm and danger while going against Goliath. David knew that even this monster of a man was no match for his Almighty God.

It must have been an awesome and wondrous scene to watch as an Israeli soldier that day. King Saul’s armor and sword were too much for David to wield, so he left them behind. Here is a small, young shepherd boy, staff and sling in hand, with five smooth stones in his pouch, confidently walking towards a battle-hardened giant. The Israelites were terrified of Goliath; how much more were they now afraid for David’s sake? As David approached Goliath, the giant mocked them once more saying, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks? … Come here, … and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:43–44). With the Lord giving him courage, David fearlessly replied, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day, the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Samuel 17:45–46).

As Goliath approached to attack him, David reached into his pouch and removed a single smooth stone. He slung it at the giant, sinking it into his forehead, causing Goliath to fall on his face. The ground must have shaken a little when that mountainous man fell. “David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.” (1 Samuel 17:51). Victory that day belonged not to David or the Israelites, but to the Lord!

Face your fears straight on with the Lord as your strength and courage. He is always faithful, He will help you, and He will deliver you. He has already rescued us all from the damnation of our sin through His Son, Jesus Christ. All we must do is believe in Him.

Historical information about Desmond Doss is from: https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/topics/wwii-medal-honor-recipients.