Desmond Doss and the true story behind the film


ROME – The value of faith in wartime. Or perhaps, it would be better to say the value of ideals, much more tangible and universal. Mel Gibson’s intent with his latest directorial film, The Battle of Hacksaw Ridge, presented at the Venice Film Festival in 2016 and with six Oscar nominations, wanted to detach itself from the reputation of violent author and warmonger, thus telling the true story of Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), the Army’s first conscientious objector of the United States of America to receive, for his noble work, the Medal of Honor.

Mel Gibson and Andrew Garfield on the set of The Battle of Hacksaw Ridge

In the film, as stated by Mel Gibson and producer Bill Mechanic, the facts are almost adjacent to reality. And both, they started from a concept: Desmond Doss was not at all the example of the obedient soldiers who made the history – willingly or unwillingly – of the US Army. Desmond, a boy from Virginia, thin and shy, was a man with strong pacifist convictions and, as a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, he refused to work on Saturdays and, above all, to touch a weapon. For his superiors, Desmond, assigned to the 70th infantry division and engaged in the decisive battle of Okinawa at the end of the Second World War, was a real laughing stock, receiving reprehensible treatment.

Desmond Doss
The medal to Desmond Doss

Yet after a 1940 law, the US Army could no longer discard objectors, allowing them to enlist without fighting. Thus, on the Pacific front, Desmod served as a doctor and military rescuer in Okinawa, after gaining experience in Guam and Leyte. As shown by Mel Gibson ne The Battle of Hacksaw RidgeDesmond – who had a really difficult childhood, with a violent and alcoholic First Conflict veteran father – on the battlefield managed to save many comrades: he always underestimated the exact number (said 50), but his companions they claimed they were at least a hundred.

The Battle of Hacksaw Ridge
Desmond and his wife Dorothy

As mentioned, for the company, Desmond was the first objector to receive the prestigious Medal of Honor, received on October 12, 1945 directly by President Truman. But perhaps nothing for him was like his wife Dorothy (Teresa Palmer in the film), known in a church in Lynchburg (and not in a hospital, as filmed by Gibson) and married in 1942, having then had a child Desmond Tommy Doss Jr. Indeed, the two were together until 1991, when Dorothy lost her life following a car accident. Desmond, however, died of respiratory problems on March 23, 2006, at his home in Piedmont, Alabama.

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