Thursday, July 27, 2017

THE REAL DESMOND DOSS: AMERICAN HERO

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Yesterday I reviewed the movie Hacksaw Ridge. I promised that today would be about the real Desmond Doss, who is played by Andrew Garfield.

Andrew Garfield


Desmond Doss
Spoiler Alert: If you are interested in viewing Hacksaw Ridge, then you might not want to read this post.

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.
RD--didn't happen.

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,

Janie Junebug

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


37 comments:

  1. Very insightful post. :) Thank you for this!

    - El @ El's Book Reviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the comment and for following.

      Delete
  2. Mel Gibson hasn't lived in Australia for many years now. Him casting Australian actor's for tax incentives strikes me as manipulative and self serving. And doesn't surprise me. (I am not a fan in case you were in any doubt.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not a fan in case YOU were in any doubt. Thank you for the information.

      Delete
  3. I haven't seen this movie, but as a veteran, I've seen and heard a lot. Like you, I really enjoy seeing and hearing about the history tied to movies, and this guy sounds phenomenal. You give a really great review! Hugs...RO

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an outstanding individual, selfless and courageous indeed. And thanks for the in-depth analysis into his real life side by side with the movie. Warm greetings to you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, every Hollywood movie that purports to tell a true story in fact doesn't.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, Janie, thank you so much for this post.
    We see so much of the underbelly of the beast these days, it's wonderful to read about the heroes.

    If you have an opportunity, pit-stop by.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is excellent and I learned a lot more. I am certain he would not have been happy with the movie no matter who did it but I bet he would have chosen Steven Spielberg over Gibson. I still like the film very much but I know film enough to know that most of the time, things are kept out or put in for what the director wants. I can think that Captain Phillips was pretty accurate from what little I know and Schindler's List. Torn, Tora, Tora and even The Longest Day. Anyhoo, love this and so great to read this post

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, JJ! I'm working backwards to catch up. I haven't seen "Hacksaw Ridge," but you've made me very curious about the movie. I may do that Amazon option. I'm with you, there's no need to embellish a true and compelling story. Have a lovely day! Sending you big hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw your other comment so I know you've already seen that I gave the movie a scathing review.

      Delete
  9. Fascinating; thank you for the info!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. You know what would make a good movie? The true story of Mel Gibson. I'll bet his family could tell some tales about him, particularly in the area of abusive drinking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Mel made a movie about himself, he'd be the Christ figure. When the police pulled him over for drunk driving, they'd all be Jews who were out to get him.

      Delete
  11. Your review makes me want to watch the documentary. Sounds like it would be well worth seeking out, rather than paying for another embellished, fictionalized bit of history.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. The next time I place an order with Amazon, I'll get the documentary.

      Delete
  12. Enjoyed the comparisons. "Typical Hollywood movie" indeed.

    And Hutton Gibson is a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite like his son, so f**k Hutton and Mel Gibson, and their opinions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Mel's father has expressed his anti-Semitic beliefs in public.

      Delete
  13. Whenever I watch a movie with an historical theme I always research the subject afterwards to see how accurate it was.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hell of a story. I'm not even sure what else to say.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Another nail in the coffin of my movie-watching! I already felt that there are too many movies that fictionalize already-heroic actions or fudge the details for no good reason; now I'm even more sure of it! Thanks for bringing Mr. Doss to my attention, though. He is a credit to the human race.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. He was a devout man who lived his beliefs.

      Delete
  16. Your review makes me want to watch the documentary. Sounds like it would be well worth seeking out, rather than paying for another embellished, fictionalized bit of history.
    บอลพรุ่งนี้

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I ordered the documentary last night.

      Delete
  17. I found this on YouTube:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5JVQt-C8YE
    Going to watch it. Looks like it is the documentary he was involved in! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope it is. I placed an order with Amazon last night so I went ahead and bought the documentary. If it's available on YouTube, I don't feel cheated since it was two bucks and change.

      Delete
  18. Now this was really interesting, thank you

    ReplyDelete
  19. The blog are the best that is extremely useful to keep.
    I can share the ideas of the future as this is really what I was looking for,
    I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
    ผลบอล

    ReplyDelete
  20. I loved the movie but am not surprised to hear Hollywood prettified it. Ever since the disgrace of Titanic, I have hated watching movies of "real life." No woman in her right mind would throw a large piece of jewelry overboard decades after she survived the sinking. Not to mention there was no giant jewelry to throw overboard.

    ReplyDelete

Got your panties in a bunch? Dig 'em out, get comfortable, and let's chat.