"Fellows, come over here and gather around. Doss wants to pray for us."
Corporal Desmond Doss, the lanky medic, cringed inside. This was not what he had meant when he'd suggested prayer to Lieutenant Goronto. Faced with an assault on the 400 foot sheer cliff that split the island of Okinawa, Doss had merely meant that each soldier might want to spend a few moments in personal, private prayer, before the attack began.
Prayer certainly was in order that April morning in 1945. Doss's 77th Division had landed on Okinawa after fierce fighting in Guam and Leyte. The Japanese were dug in all over the island. Presenting an additional barrier was the Maeda Escarpment, the 400 foot cliff that stretched across the island. The escarpment rose with a steep, rugged rise for the first 360 feet, then rose another 40-50 feet as a sheer face. Honeycombed throughout were multi-story caves, tunnels, and enemy gun emplacements. Wresting control of the escarpment from the enemy would be a major struggle, the Americans fighting not only a well entrenched and often camouflaged enemy, but formidable terrain. When the order to attack had come, Doss told Lieutenant Goronto, "I believe prayer is the best life saver there is. The men should really pray before going up."
It really shouldn't have surprised anyone in Doss's company that he would suggest prayer. Doss was always praying...or reading his Bible. From the first day of training everyone could tell he was different. A devout Seventh-Day Adventist, the first night Doss knelt beside his bunk in the barracks, oblivious to the taunts around him and the boots they threw his way, to spend his time talking to God. Regularly he pulled the small Bible his new wife had given him for a wedding gift, and read it as well. Among the men of the unit, disdain turned to resentment. Doss refused to train or work on Saturday, the Lord's Sabbath. Though he felt no reservation about caring for the medical needs of the men or otherwise helping them on the Sabbath, he refused to violate it. The fact that he worked overtime to make up for it the rest of the week made little difference. Doss was teased, harassed, and ridiculed. And it only got worse.-read more