The Story of Desmond T. Doss, Chapter 2

By Charles Mills

Here is the previous chapter.

Desmond Doss lay on his back, eyes closed. He could feel the dried blood pressing against his chest. His uniform reeked with sweat and grime, but he didn’t
care. He was too tired, too discouraged, too lonely to care.

The battle had been fierce. Images floated across his mind of torn and crumpled bodies, lifeless eyes staring at him from the depths of bomb craters, a
bodiless hand still gripping a machine-gun stock.

Okinawa. Even the name of the island repulsed him. “Hey, Doss,” a voice whispered in the midnight stillness. “We’re: going to die tomorrow, aren’t we?” The
young medic stirred.

Without opening his eyes, he said, “N ah. We’re going to make it OK. scaled the steep bank, cut to pieces trying to take that hill.” He pointed north to a
tall cliff guarding the narrow neck of land that led to the part of the island of God’ll take care of us.” then crept along on “How come He didn’t take
care of those men this noon?” the voice asked. “They’re dead. Stone dead. Where was God then?”

Desmond’s fists clenched in the darkness. He didn’t have an answer. He wished he did. He was wondering the same thing.

No! Doss sat up with a start. I can’t think that way. His mind reeled. God is here. He’s always here! The medic’s throat tightened as he battled with the
voices in his head. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

He repeated the familiar Bible passage again and again. Finally exhaustion forced him into an uneasy sleep.

The Maeda escarpment

“Men”—Captain Vernon’s voice carried across the battletorn landscape—”the enemy has built a complex of pillboxes, fortifications, and emplacements. Two of
our divisions have been cut to pieces trying to take that hill.” He pointed north to a tall cliff guarding the narrow neck of land that led to the part of
the island. “Now it’s up to us. We’ll take our position at the bottom of the cliff. Then we’ll climb up there and rip that piece of real estate right out
of the hands of the Japanese. Let’s go!”

The company quickly gathered at the base of the cliff and studied its rugged contours. One by one, men scaled the steep bank, then crept along on their
bellies, collecting loose stones and pushing them together, trying to form a protective rock wall a few feet back from the edge of the cliff. A rope was
thrown down, allowing another squad of men to climb the vertical rampart .

Whump! Whump! Enemy knee mortars, capable of shooting almost straight up, sent volleys high into the air, followed by earth-shattering explosions as the
shells slammed back into the soil. From this ground-based aerial attack there was no defense for the helpless members of Company D scurrying across the lip
of the escarpment.

“Pull back!” the command rang out. “Retreat to the base! ” The next morning another attack was staged. With a newly installed rope cargo net now in place,
the entire platoon could swarm the cliff as one body . “This is going to be a dangerous mission, Doss,” a superior admitted to his battle-weary medic. “You
don’t have to go.”

Desmond nodded. “Sir, I may be needed. But I’d like to ask a favor before we start. You see, sir, I believe that prayer is the biggest lifesaver there is.
I believe every man should have a word of prayer before he places his foot on the rope ladder to go up the escarpment.”

By now all the soldiers who knew Desmond Doss realized that he was truly dedicated to his heavenly Father and believed his God could offer protection, even
in the heat of battle.

The lieutenant turned and called out to his men. “Bow your heads,” he commanded. “Doss is going to pray for us before we go.” Desmond was taken by
surprise. He had meant that all should have a personal prayer. But not wanting to pass up an opportunity to speak to his Saviour on behalf of his friends,
he bowed. “Our Father,” he prayed, “please give our lieutenant wisdom and understanding so he can give us the right orders, because our lives will be in
his charge. Give each and every one of us wisdom, too, so we can be safe, if it be Thy will. Please, Lord, may we all come back alive. If there be any here
who are not prepared to meet their Maker, let them prepare themselves now through prayer before they climb the cliff. We ask all this in Jesus’ name.”

The war on the escarpment stood still as the men remained motionless. Then confident, almost carefree, they turned to the cargo net and, along with Company
A, started up the cliff.

Cut off at the top

The assault went well. Enemy emplacements were destroyed with satchel charges and flamethrowers. The forward squad raced along the summit, crushing dug-in
Japanese soldiers with deadly precision. When the fighting stopped, the Maeda escarpment was in American hands. But strangely, Company A had failed to take
its assigned position. Their first five men to reach the top of the cliff had been killed instantly. Through all the fighting, Desmond Doss’s company had
sustained only one minor injury—an officer was hit in the cheek by a piece of shrapnel. The men were amazed. Doss wasn’t. Hadn’t they prayed?

In the days that followed, fighting flared and subsided like a deadly tide. Then the fortunes of war turned. Out of secret holes in the ground and caves in
the rocks, enemy soldiers poured forth, their chilling screams, the rat-tat-tat of automatic weapons, and the flat thud of exploding hand grenades filling
the air.

The American soldiers suddenly found themselves on the run. At first the retreat was orderly, then the line broke as men ran for the cliff. Soldiers
scrambled down the cargo net, fighting their way back down the escarpment. Men hit by bullets and shells were left where they’d fallen, whether wounded or

Doss, now the only remaining medic in the whole battalion, ran from fallen man to fallen man, doing what he could. He was too busy to realize the enemy was
approaching. He didn’t have time to think about the Japanese soldiers on the hilltop with him, shooting, throwing grenades, closing in with each second.
Friendly fire stopped the enemy advance literally dozens of feet from the lip of the cliff.

Protected by the short stone wall his company had erected days before, Desmond Doss found himself alone on the hilltop, surrounded by dead and dying men.
To the south, American forces were pummeling the Japanese. To the north, Japanese forces were straining to gain ground toward the cliff’s summit. The
gentle, soft-spoken medic with the wavy brown hair was caught in the crossfire with nowhere to go but over the cliff.

But what about the wounded? He couldn’t just leave them there. They’d surely die at the hands of the approaching enemy. “God,” the soldier with no gun
cried out above the din of battle, “help me! Please help me!”

(To be continued)

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The Story of Desmond T. Doss, Chapter 2

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