I read about the amazing story of Desmond Doss and wonder if the Japanese at all aware, during the Battle of Okinawa of the extent of his actions at the time? I know a few individual Japanese would have noticed him helping them, but were any Japanese aware of how much he was doing this, the scale of his accomplishment, or of his refusal to kill? After the war, were his actions ever recognized officially by Japan, such as through some ceremony, award, or meeting of some of the former Japanese soldiers involved?
Were the Japanese aware of Desmond Doss's actions?
I'm don't think we will ever know because the Japanese who took part in the Battle of Okinawa are all dead. Of the 96,000 Japanese defenders ( 76,000 Japanese soldiers, and 20,000 Okinawan conscripts ) Only 7,000 prisoners were taken. What we do know is Doss's actions which awarded him the Medal of Honor at times took him repeatedly within just a few yards of Japanese troop positions.
Doss was awarded the medal of honor for activities which occurred between April 29- May 21, 1945. Doss regularly exposed himself to direct enemy fire.. According to his citation On May 2, He came to the aid of four soldiers wounded 200 yards forward of his companies position braving, a shower of grenades to reach 4 wounded men 8 yards from enemy positions before making four separate trips under fire to evacuate the soldiers to safety.
Some of Doss's heroism was not even shown in the Movie. Like his actions after the grenade attack which severely wounded both his legs and he treated his own wounds for 5 hours waiting for a stretcher. When a stretcher came his position was under tank attack and he rolled off the stretcher to offer it to a more severely wounded soldier. Subsequently being shot in the army fracturing the arm; he crawled more than 100 yards to an aid station. He lost his bible on that crawl, a bible presented to him at the whitehouse by his commanding officer. The soldiers of his division had scoured the battle field after the battle to find his lost bible.
Medal of Honor Citation
Citation: Private First Class Desmond T. Doss, United States Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. Near Urasoe-Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 29 April – 21 May 1945.
He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Private First Class Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.
On 2 May, he (Doss) exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and two days later he treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making four separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety.
On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small-arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Private First Class Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire.
On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited five hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Private First Class Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude, he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station.
Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions, Private First Class Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.