Desmond Doss isn’t the Only Paradox in the 2016 Film Hacksaw Ridge

By Catherine Braxton, Staff Writer

The 2016 biographical WWII movie, Hacksaw Ridge, introduces an unsung hero named Desmond Doss, who was a Seventh-day Adventist who vowed to never kill and saved 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot. He served as a medic, vowing to save lives, not take them.

The film opens with the display of Doss’ drunken father brandishing a pistol towards his own family. His mother got it away from her husband and gave it to Doss, telling him to go and make sure his father doesn’t get it. That was what stemmed the hatred Doss held towards any weapon of any kind and he vowed to never touch one again. When he was 18, he registered for the draft because he believed in what his country was doing, but with his religion and his childhood experience, he refused to carry a rifle, let alone kill a single person.

The director of Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson, also directed “The Passion of the Christ,” in which the main character is a man of peace and nonviolence, and that very peace is being put to the test with the world’s cruelty and violent nature. Similar to him, Desmond Doss’ ideals are put to the test. 

While watching this, you may feel quite perplexed on why Doss would even want to be in the midst of such horrors and how he could just not shoot a gun while in the war. Well, Doss believed that, when he decided to fight in the war, he was doing it to save people, not to hurt them. This movie really does a good job at showing viewers how, when beliefs are strong and personal experiences are in play, a person will not falter from the course they chose for themselves and will refuse to fall short of their goals. Despite the name calling, mocking, missing his wedding because of being jailed for not carrying a gun, Desmond Doss never shot a gun. Not once. That is extremely inspiring in itself. He went along and became a medic so he could save as many as he could. 

Then comes the Battle of Okinawa on Hacksaw Ridge. There was this ridge that the U.S. soldiers had to climb, and at the top, the enemy was awaiting their arrival. The Japanese fought ruthlessly, like they had nothing to lose, and the U.S. was outnumbered. After the first few days and nights, the U.S. began to retreat down the ridge to await backup but Doss didn’t like how they were leaving all of the injured to fend for themselves. He refused to retreat and to take cover and, one by one, he performed triage and lowered the injured down the edge of the escarpment with rope and his bare hands whilst evading enemy fire. 

The movie also shows Doss escaping a grenade by going into a trench littered with the enemy. He found a Japanese soldier who was injured and in pain and he helped him. Despite his decision to fight in WWII because he believed in the cause, he couldn’t witness suffering – on either side. 

Such determination to stay true to yourself is what is needed right now. With hope and determination dwindling amongst people around the world, seeing an individual stick to his ideals to the very end can help lift spirits. 

After watching a movie like that, many questions may arise. One important one may be, why was there a problem with Doss’s refusal to carry a rifle in the first place? This movie really is an eye opener to how the U.S. military doesn’t always follow the U.S. amendments and laws to a “T.” Normally, according to the first amendment, you can’t be discriminated against because of religion. Doss wouldn’t carry a gun because it was against his beliefs, but many of his fellow soldiers argued that they were religious as well and they still picked up guns in order to protect their country. 

They also argued that he wouldn’t be able to protect them in battle if he didn’t carry a gun. He was almost arrested because of his religion, which is definitely illegal. This movie informs us on how skewed the U.S. is. The law is twisted to favor one side and abandon the other. If you want to see a whole new side on how the military fights to protect their country by fighting the people who want to protect it, this is the movie for you. This can be a learning experience for both sides. An experience that is revealed in this movie about one man who, despite all else, stayed true to the things he held dear.


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