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Hacksaw Ridge: How a medic saved 75 men in one night

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In late April 1945, 26-year-old Desmond T. Doss and his battalion were called upon to help fight near Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, in a campaign that would be one of the last and biggest in the Pacific. Using cargo nets, Doss’ battalion was tasked with climbing a treacherous, 400-foot-high jagged cliff, nicknamed Hacksaw Ridge, to get to a plateau. Waiting for them were thousands of heavily armed Japanese soldiers entrenched in hidden caves and holes.

On May 5th the tide of battle turned against the Americans. Enemy artillery, mortars and machinegun fire began to rake into the ranks of Company B, 77th Infantry Division. Japanese soldiers swarmed out of their foxholes and caves in every direction. Almost immediately 75 men fell wounded, and the remaining men were forced to fall back and retreat to the base of the escarpment. The only soldiers remaining at the top of the cliff were the wounded, the Japanese, and Desmond T. Doss.

About a week into the fight, Doss was the only medic available to advance with the rest of the men, who were close to taking the ridge from the enemy. It was his Sabbath, but Doss joined his men anyway, just as the Japanese concentrated massive artillery and other heavy fire on them.

Heedless of the shells that burst around him and the bullets directed his way, Desmond tended his injured comrades. At the base of the escarpment, those few soldiers who had managed to escape the onslaught could only sit helplessly by and hear the sounds of the battle as the wounded struggled to survive atop the cliff. And then…amazingly…a wounded soldier appeared over the face of the escarpment. Dangling from a rope, he slowly descended to the safety of its base as a tall medic fed the rope through his hands from the summit. First one, then another, and another….and another. Heedless of the advancing Japanese, Desmond Doss went about the work of sending the wounded to safety. Reports of that day tell of Japanese advancing with rifles and bayonets to within a few feet of the medic, slowly lowering his men to safety, before one of the wounded could kill the enemy before they shot Doss.

For five hours Doss lowered soldier after soldier down the face of the escarpment, using little more than a tree stump to wind the top edge of the rope around. Throughout the five hours, Desmond had only one thought. He prayed, “Lord, help me get one more. Just ONE more!” How many men Doss saved that day, only God knows. One hundred and fifty-five soldiers went up the escarpment that day, and only 55 were able to retreat without assistance. The Army determined the conscious objector who had almost been court-martialed or discharged as unfit for military service, had saved 100 lives. “Couldn’t be,” Desmond had replied. It couldn’t have been more than 50. I wouldn’t have had the time to save 100 men.” In deference to Desmond’s humble estimate, when the citation for his Medal of Honor was written, they “split the difference”, crediting the intrepid soldier with saving 75 fellow soldiers.

desmond t. doss - Hacksaw Ridge: How a medic saved 75 men in one night

Desmond T. Doss (1919-2006), Medal of Honor recipient for his actions as an U.S. Army medic during World War II

The bloody struggle for the Maeda Escarpment continued for weeks. On the night of May 21st, the Americans launched a bold attack. When the return fire forced the Americans to take cover, Desmond remained in the open to treat the wounded. Then he, and three other soldiers, crawled into a hole to wait out the darkness. Suddenly a grenade landed among them. Three men scrambled out but Desmond was too late. Reflexively he covered the grenade with his boot, then felt it detonate beneath him and hurl his body into the darkness of night. When he fell back to earth the leg was still there but bleeding badly from numerous wounds. Rather than call for another medic to leave the shelter and risk his own life, Desmond bandaged his own wounds and waited the five hours alone until daylight broke. As the litter bearers arrived with the dawn and began to carry the wounded medic out of danger they passed another critically wounded soldier. Desmond instructed them to put down his litter, then rolled off it and told them to take the other man. While he awaited their return he was joined by yet another wounded soldier. Together the two of them set out for safety, leaning upon each other.

Once again rifle fire split the morning. Pain stabbed Desmond’s arm which was curled across the shoulders of his new comrade. The sniper’s bullet went into his wrist, exited through his elbow, and then lodged itself in his upper arm. Had the bullet not hit Doss, it probably would have struck his wounded compatriot in the neck. Desmond borrowed his friend’s rifle and used the stock to fashion a splint for his useless arm. Then the two continued to crawl to safety.

Seventeen pieces of shrapnel were removed from Desmond’s leg and his arm set in a sling. On the hospital ship Desmond was being prepared for the return home. Desmond Doss’ war was over. He’d fought a good fight…his own way…without ever compromising his strong beliefs.

On October 12, 1945, President Harry S. Truman warmly held the hand of Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss, as his citation was read to those gathered at the White House. “I’m proud of you,” Truman said. “You really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being president.”

Before being honorably discharged from the Army in 1946, Desmond developed tuberculosis. His illness progressed and at the age of 87, Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss died on March 23, 2006. He is buried in the National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Hollywood movie

The HACKSAW RIDGE is the extraordinary true story of Christian Army Medic Desmond Doss who, in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, miraculously saved 75 men in one night without firing or carrying a gun. Lionsgate is releasing the film nationwide on November 4, 2016.

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American Heroes

Robert J. Reeves

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Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves died on August 6, 2011 in helicopter crash. He served during Operation Enduring Freedom. He became a SEAL in December, 1999 and December of 1999 and immediately serve with SEAL Team 3. Later, the path led him to the SEAL Team 6. His death was later become publicly known as part of “Extortion 17”.

“Extortion 17” is a name etched in our minds as one of the worst losses our military has ever experienced. Thirty Americans perished in the blink of an eye, half of which comprised an entire ‘troop’ from SEAL Team 6’s Gold Squadron. Senior Chief Robert James Reeves was one of those Americans.

He would go on to cheat death on numerous occasions, both in combat and in peacetime. One of those occasions took place while on a six-month training deployment to the island of Guam in 2003. Rob and a few other SEALs were out celebrating Christmas at a local bar when they got into an altercation with two men. After leaving, the two men followed the SEALs and opened fire at their taxi from their own vehicle. Rob was struck in the back of the neck and a second SEAL was shot in the head. He would go on to make a full recovery.

A couple of months after being shot, Rob would go to Virginia to attend selection and training (S&T) for entrance into the famed counter-terrorism unit, SEAL Team 6/DEVGRU. He successfully completed the selection process in late 2004 and was subsequently assigned to Gold Squadron where he would serve honorably for the next seven years as an assaulter and later, sniper.

Died with childhood friend in helo crash

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves and Lt. Cmdr. Jonas Kelsall had been childhood friends in Shreveport, La., where they played soccer together and graduated from Caddo Magnet High School, Kelsall’s father, John, told The Times of Shreveport and KLSA-TV.

Both joined the military after graduation, though the 32-year-old Reeves spent a year at Louisiana State University first, his father, Jim Reeves, told The Times.

Decorations

In his 13 years of service, eleven of which were spent as an active-duty SEAL, Rob would deploy over a dozen times, earn the rank of E-8, and earn countless achievement medal.

His decorations include include four Bronze Star Medals with ‘V’ device for valor, Joint Service Commendation Medal with ‘V’ device for valor, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with ‘V’ device for valor, Combat Action Ribbon, two Presidential Unit Citations, three Navy Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal.

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American Heroes

Green Beret Medic received Medal of Honor

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An Army Special Forces soldier will receive the Medal of Honor for fighting through an enemy ambush and saving his teammates’ lives 10 years ago in Afghanistan, the White House announced in late September.

Former Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, who had already received a Silver Star for his actions, was honored with the nation’s highest award for valor by President Donald Trump during an Oct. 1 ceremony at the White House. Shurer served as a Special Forces medic with 3rd Special Forces Group.

Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Dec. 7, 1978. The son of airmen, Shurer lived in Illinois and Idaho before his family was stationed at McChord Air Force Base, Washington. Shurer attended Rogers High School in Puyallup, Washington, where he was a member of the swim team and participated in triathlons and cycling.

Following his high school graduation in 1997, Shurer attended Washington State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business economics. Later that year, he enrolled in a master’s degree program at Washington State.

After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Shurer was inspired to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, grandfather and parents by serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Shurer entered the U.S. Army in 2002 and was assigned to the 601st Area Support Medical Company, 261st Area Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Command, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In January 2004, he entered Special Forces selection and reported to the Special Forces Qualification Course in June. After donning his green beret, Shurer was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group in June 2006. Shurer deployed to Afghanistan from August 2006 to March 2007, and again from October 2007 to May 2008.

On April 6, 2008, Shurer and his team were assigned to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley, according to the Army.

In a moment of the above-mentioned action, he was a Senior Medical Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer and his team were engaged by enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The lead portion of the assault element sustained several casualties and became pinned down on the mountainside. Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer braved enemy fire to treat an injured Soldier. After stabilizing the Soldier, he fought his way across a barrage of bullets and up the mountain to the lead element.

Once there, he treated and stabilized four more Soldiers. After treating the wounded, then-Staff Sergeant Shurer began evacuating them, carrying and lowering the casualties down the mountainside, using his body to shield them from enemy fire and debris. After he loaded the wounded in the evacuation helicopter, he retook control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight. Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer’s heroic actions saved the lives of his teammates.

Today, he lives in Burke, Virginia, with his wife and two sons. After Army career, he went on to serve with the Secret Service, working as a special agent assigned to the Phoenix Field Office before being selected for the agency’s Counter Assault Team and assigned to its Special Operations Division.

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