Yesterday I reviewed the movie Hacksaw Ridge. I promised that today would be about the real Desmond Doss, who is played by Andrew Garfield.
First, I thank those of you who set me straight on the length of men's hair during military service in World War II. The buzz cut required of future generations was not yet de rigueur.
While Desmond Doss was alive, he wouldn't allow a movie to be made about his exploits because he said it would be a typical Hollywood movie. Plus, he was a humble man. However, he did participate in the creation of a documentary called The Conscientious Objector (2004) before he died in 2006. I would like to see this film, but it's not available on Netflix or Amazon Prime. It can be purchased on Amazon. The DVD is a manufacture-on-demand item that costs $2.47. It's classified as an "add-on" that ships for free if included with a $25 purchase.
The most moving part of Hacksaw Ridge for me was the end: it includes footage of the real Desmond, his brother Hal, and some of his army comrades. Thus, I'm especially interested in the documentary.
Now, here's some information about The Real Desmond v. The Movie Desmond.
Movie Desmond [MD] insists on enlisting.
Real Desmond [RD] was drafted in 1942.
MD finishes training and heads straight to Okinawa for his initial experience as a medic during battle.
RD shipped out to Guam, then Leyte in the Philippines, and then to Okinawa.
MD nearly shoots his father while saving his mother when his father almost shoots her.
RD's mother broke up a fight between her husband and his brother and asked RD to hide the gun his father used to threaten his brother. RD vowed it would be the last time he touched a gun.
MD's father is an abusive drunk.
RD's father drank, but not to excess. He was not abusive.
MD first sees the woman he will marry when she's working as a nurse.
RD met Dorothy at church. She did not become a nurse until after the war. She did so then because RD was disabled and she needed to help support their family.
MD misses his wedding because he's put in a cell to await court martial.
MD is pulled out of bed and attacked by the men in his company.
Although RD was harassed, no such beating occurred.
MD is nearly court-martialed.
RD was threatened with court-martial by one officer, but another officer told the first that he had to respect RD's status.
MD's father shows up in his uniform from WWI to ask his former commanding officer to prevent MD's court martial.
RD's father called a church War Commission when RD was denied leave. RD was then given a pass so he could see his brother before he shipped out with the Navy.
MD treats Japanese soldiers and lowers them over the side of a cliff in the same way that he rescues Americans.
RD was told by the other men in his company that they would shoot him if he treated a Japanese soldier.
All of the action in the movie appears to take place during a few days. The real Desmond Doss went through far more than is depicted. In fact, Mel Gibson said that he didn't show everything that happened to Desmond because people would not believe it:
"Mel Gibson stated there were aspects of this event that were true but that he couldn't include in the film because he felt people wouldn't believe they were true: Doss stepped on a grenade to save his buddies and was hit by shrapnel, but as he was being carried away by medics he saw another soldier hurt; since Doss himself was a medic he jumped off his stretcher and treated that soldier and told the medics to take care of other wounded soldiers; he then crawled back to safety while being shot at by enemy snipers."
By the time Doss reached Okinawa, he had already been awarded two bronze stars for bravery. Later, Harry Truman awarded Doss the Medal of Honor. He was the first conscientious objector to be so honored (Alvin York also received the Medal of Honor, but he carried a weapon and for a time denied that he had been a conscientious objector).
No one is sure how many men Doss saved at Okinawa by lowering them over the escarpment. The unassuming Doss thought it was fifty. Others placed it at 100. The official number became seventy-five as a compromise, but Doss also treated numerous other men.
Desmond Doss returned to the United States as a severely disabled man because of his wounds and because he had contracted tuberculosis before his discharge from the military in 1946. He lost a lung and five ribs to this scourge and spent most of six years in hospitals. He was given an overdose of antibiotics that caused him to lose his hearing for twelve years. He then received a cochlear implant and regained his hearing.
He was married to his beloved Dorothy until her death in 1991. They had one child, Desmond T. Doss, Jr.
My point about the movie is that the real life of Desmond Doss was more than enough to make a great movie. Gibson didn't need to embroider the tale and turn Doss into a Christ-figure. I can't imagine that Doss would have liked that. He did not want to have a typical Hollywood movie made about him. And Gibson thought that people wouldn't believe the extent of Doss's bravery? I believe the truth. Real, living heroes are not stock characters. They are not clichés. They are complex human beings who deserve to have their stories told without the distractions of unnecessary changes.
"Mel Gibson said that the battle scenes were influenced by nightmares he had during his childhood, when his father Hutton Gibson, a WW2 veteran who served in Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre, described the horrors he witnessed as bedtime stories."
The horrors witnessed by Mel Gibson's father––NOT the horrors witnessed by Desmond Doss. Keep it real, Mel.
Infinities of love,
Sources: History vs. Hollywood, Internet Movie Database, Desmond Doss
|President Truman presents Desmond Doss with the Medal of Honor.|
Photo courtesy Desmond Doss Council
|An aging Desmond Doss|
Photo courtesy Desmond Doss Council
Note: Most of the actors in the movie, including a number of the American soldiers, are played by Australian actors. Gibson cast the Australians to attain Australian tax incentives for the making of the movie