UPDATE: Hacksaw Ridge: The story of WWII veteran Desmond Doss
Desmond Doss in the Channel 3 Veterans History Project in 2004.
UPDATE: The nominations for the 89th annual Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning. The movie "Hacksaw Ridge" was nominated for best picture and has a connection to the Tennessee Valley. The movie tells the story of Private Desmond Doss who was a long time resident of the Chattanooga area.
The Academy Awards will be handed out on February 26th.
PREVIOUS STORY: This week an anticipated war movie opens in theaters across the country. Chattanooga has a strong tie to the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who wanted to serve his country in World War II.
Doss lived most of his life in the Chattanooga area after the war. Channel 3 was honored to share his remarkable story in our Veterans History Project in 2004, just two years before his death.
He was scorned by his band of brothers in the 77th infantry, but ended up saving the lives of at least 75 of them on a cliff in Japan in 1945. Hacksaw Ridge is his story.
"I can't stay here while all of them go fight for me. What do you figure this was just gonna fit in with your ideas? While everybody else is taking life, I'm going to be saving it, and that's gonna be my way to serve," said Desmond Doss, WWII veteran.
This movie was years in the making for several reasons. It took a man Desmond Doss trusted to convince him to tell the story.
Producer Terry Benedict had read about Doss as a child, and even met the war hero at church summer camp. The men reconnected at a Medal of Honor reunion nearly 20 years ago.
"We started talking about making a documentary and, of course, a movie," said Benedict. "He was very concerned about how it would be handled. He had always said 'no' to Hollywood for decades... since 1945 when got the medal."
Benedict and Doss shared a common faith, both Seventh-day Adventists, and Benedict came to Chattanooga to see Doss.
"I just wanted to impress upon him that his story, a journey of faith and serving others. could be a great inspiration...a great message to all of us," said Benedict.
A familiar store in Collegedale was the backdrop for the turning point in telling the story of Desmond Doss.
"He said yes. He said yes out in front of the grocery store "The Village Market," said Benedict.
The story began in 1942, just months after Pearl Harbor, when Doss enlisted as a medic. Doss said his faith would not allow him to carry a weapon.
"I had no weapons. I had a choice of any weapon I would accept, even a trench knife," said Doss. "I said, I'll leave the fighting to y'all and I'll just do the patching."
Doss's mountain training exercises included learning to tie knots. While practicing a bolin, he discovered he could make two loops instead of one, if he doubled the rope.
On an Okinawa mountain top in the spring of 1945, he would use his discovery in heroic fashion. Japanese soldiers shot and injured dozens of his fellow troops along a cliff. With enemy fire raining down, Doss, unarmed, climbed to the top to rescue them.
"None of us had any assurance of a return. I knew what was up there cause I saw the dead up there," said Doss. "What happened, the Lord brought to my mind that double bolin knot, where I could put a leg through each loop and around their waist, and I could lower these men off one at a time. How I was gonna get all those men, I didn't know. But, I just kept praying, Lord, please help me get one more, one more, until, believe it or not, I got every man off."
"I got the last man off, then I came down. Now, my clothes were bloody. I'd been soaked to the skin by the blood of my men," said Doss.
He saved at least 75 men that day, one at a time, lowering each to safety. Doss became the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. Years later, the singular most important message Doss wanted to convey in a movie was his faith in God.
"One of the things that did happen out in front of that grocery store, I said to him, look: I'll answer to God first, you second, and everybody else can get in line," said Benedict. "He got a big grin on his face and said, 'Okay, let's do it'. That was the start of our journey."