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"Miracle Day" by Desmond T. Doss

I was brought up in a Seventh-Day Adventist home. Our beliefs are shown in the name: we keep the seventh day as the Sabbath as given in the Fourth Commandment of God's Ten Commandments and we believe that Jesus is coming back to earth soon to take His people to heaven. I still believe this with all my heart.

My mother faithfully took my older sister, younger brother and me to Sabbath School and Church each Sabbath day and saw to it that we received a Christian education in our church school.

An experience I had at this time had a great influence on my attitude. When I was in the first grade, they didn't hire a janitor to clean the school; pupils cleaned the school room. My job this one day was dusting the erasers. I discovered that by rubbing them together they would look clean without my having to knock them together to get the chalk dust out. My wise teacher came to the blackboard, picked up the erasers, and banged them together—the chalk dust flew! She said, "Desmond, a job that isn't done right isn't worth doing at all." I never forgot that and have used it for my motto all through my life.

That teacher later went to China as a missionary. I admired her and it made me want to be a missionary, too. I did do a little missionary work when I was in the Pacific151;at Uncle Sam's expense.

Shortly after my parents were married, my dad bought a picture at an auction sale of the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer illustrated. It now hangs on my living room wall. The illustration for the Sixth Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", was of Cain killing his brother Abel.

I looked at that picture hundreds of times and wondered, "How could a brother do such a thing?" It gave me a horror of killing that influenced my actions when I was in the Army.

When I was drafted into the army in 1942, I asked for a noncombatant classification, but the draft board officer said there was no such classification and I would have to go in as a conscientious objector. He explained that if I went in under any other classification I could be court-martialed if I refused to do ordinary work on my Sabbath or refused to bear arms.

That was the background of my life before I went to the Pacific in 1944. I served in Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa. I would like to relate one story that happened on Okinawa.

This happened the day before I lowered approximately 75 injured men down the face of the Maeda Escarpment to safety, for which I received the Medal of Honor. This is an experience I like to call the "Miracle Day".

We had been fighting for the escarpment, where the cliff was about 400 feet high. The top 35 feet of the cliff formed an overhang, jutting out five feet or so over the 35 feet immediately below so we had to put up a cargo net to storm the top. We had been fighting for four days. The Japanese were dug in on top of the hill in caves and hollow places that looked like natural terrain, so it was hard to fight them.

On the morning of "Miracle Day" we were to go up on the escarpment again. I mentioned to Lt. Gornto that I believed prayer was the greatest lifesaver there was and I thought the men should pray before they went up on the escarpment. He quickly called the men together and said, "Doss wants to pray". Now that wasn't what I had in mind -- I meant each man should pray himself. But I did pray that the Lord would help the lieutenant give the right orders as our lives were in his hands, and that we would all use safety precautions, and that each man would make his peace with God before he went up the cargo net.

With that we went up and almost immediately got pinned down. Company A was fighting on our left and they were badly shot up so we were ordered to take the whole escarpment by ourselves. We started forward and knocked out eight or nine Japanese underground positions. The amazing, miraculous thing was that no one in our company was killed and only one man was injured—by a rock that hit his hand.

It was such an outstanding happening that our headquarters heard about it and sent the signal corps up to investigate. How would you like to hear the report that went back to headquarters and further? "It was because of Doss' prayer".

The next day we didn't pray; I figured it was an easy mop-up job. That was when our men had to retreat and left approximately 75 wounded men on top of the escarpment. They were my men and I couldn't go off and leave them even if it cost me my life. So I stayed there and let the men down by rope about 35 feet to the place where they could be taken by litter to the aid station.

I feel that I received the Congressional Medal of Honor because I kept the Golden Rule that we read in Matthew 7:12. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."

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  October 26, 2011
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