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Obituaries

Desmond Doss, 87; WWII Hero Who Refused to Carry a Gun

March 26, 2006|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

For Doss' actions on Okinawa, his citation reads, "His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far and beyond the call of duty."

After returning from the war, Doss spent nearly six years in hospitals.

In addition to his wounds, during his service he had contracted tuberculosis, which led to the removal of a lung and five ribs.

Antibiotics given to help clear up his TB, he believed, ruined his hearing and by 1976, he was completely deaf.

A cochlear implant in 1988, a procedure donated by Loma Linda University Medical Center and performed there, significantly improved his hearing.

Because of his wartime wounds and post-war illness, Doss received a military pension and was never able to hold a full-time job. To help support the family, his wife, Dorothy, whom he had married before being shipped to the Pacific, worked full-time as a nurse.

She later developed breast cancer and died in a car accident while Doss was driving her to a hospital in 1991.

Doss was the subject of director Terry Benedict's 2004 documentary "The Conscientious Objector" and Booton Herndon's 1967 book, "The Unlikeliest Hero." A feature film on Doss' life is in the works.

A monument on Okinawa also bears his name, as does an Adventist school in Lynchburg and a 20-mile stretch of road through Walker and Catoosa counties in Georgia.

During the dedication ceremony of the Desmond T. Doss Memorial Highway in 1990, Gov. Joe Frank Harris said Doss did not use his unwillingness to kill as an excuse not to serve his country, "he used it as an opportunity to serve."

Doss is survived by his second wife, Frances; his son, Desmond T. Doss Jr.; his brother, Harold Doss; and his stepchildren, Tom Duman, Maryln Shadduck and Mike Duman.

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