Hacksaw Ridge, a Story of Commitment, Principle & Courage

Posted on: November 5th, 2016 by Will Rodriguez 4 Comments

I watched Hacksaw Ridge tonight and left the theatre spent.  It’s an inspiring story that celebrates being true to one’s self in the cauldron of combat.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in movies with a strong moral theme.  It’s also a very well done action movie and has much to offer those that enjoy a good war movie.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the epic tale of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who ultimately is awarded the Medal of Honor for his superhuman valor in the maelstrom surrounding the taking of a ridge called the Maeda Escarpment (“Hacksaw Ridge”) during the battle of Okinawa in World War II.

The movie starts during Doss’s childhood where he overcame a troubled home life but one which inculcated in him a strong belief in God and a conviction that taking life was wrong.  He of course meets and falls in love with a girl which becomes an additional reason for him to be the best man he can be.

Doss was drafted in 1942.  Even though he had a deferment due to working in a war industry, Doss declined and asked to serve in a manner where he didn’t have to carry a weapon.  He became a medic.

The movie is a pretty accurate portrayal of Desmond Doss’s true story.  If this movie were 100% accurate it would be even more difficult to believe the things that Doss did in the thick of battle.  Let’s just say Doss really did have a rough time during training because of his conscientious observer status and he singlehandedly did rescue 75 wounded soldiers.

I’m partial to movies that show the true horror of war.  The public needs a counter to the popular antiseptic push button version we are fed by the media and our politicians when it suits their purpose.  Wars are always evil and all too often justice is one of the first casualties but wars are sometimes necessary to stop greater evil from spreading and befalling us.  These kinds of movies can realistically portray how war creates ultimate tests of an individual’s commitment to his principles, values and morality.  Desmond Doss while believing killing was wrong also believed that WWII was right.  Into that dichotomy we vicariously experience the struggle Desmond Doss goes through trying to save life while avoiding taking any.

While Doss’s true exploits are beyond belief, the struggle and context under which he accomplished them are a big part of the struggle and ultimate victory which makes this movie so good.  I love war movies based on true heroes.  Our society all too often puts people on pedestals due to their celebrity status vs. concrete contributions to society.  There are many stories on the battlefield that can give us life lessons.  It’s nice to see Hollywood get one right for once.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • YankeePapa

    …Okinawa was a nightmare.  A good company commander might know each man in his company by name and by sight.  At Okinawa Army and Marine squad leaders were fed replacements so fast that they often did not know the name of men assigned to them who died on the line.  (This anonymity is obviously to be avoided whenever possible as it increases casualties and drops morale into free-fall…)  Too often next of kin only told what battalion KIA was attached to… as nothing more definite known prior to their kin… a newly arrived replacement… being thrown into action.

    …Every unit had its own Golgotha waiting on Okinawa (and offshore…)  The Sixth Marine Division’s special hell was a formation called “the Sugarloaf…”  Key point in the line.  They quickly “took” the top of the feature… only to discover that the great mass of the Japanese inside… and making it to the top wasn’t good enough.  Cost the Marines more than 1000 dead before it was taken.  

    …The lad in the photo hightailing it to the next cover.  Marines have a statue at Infantry school.  It is modeled on the photo… which of course is wrong.  The young man actually left handed… photo reversed…

    …One bit of “significa” near the end of the battle.  The Army commander watched flag being raised as Shuri Castle (what was left of it) taken.  

    …But the flag was Confederate.  Some of the General’s staff officers grumbled… but General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. was the son of General Simon Bolivar Buckner Sr…. Confederate commander who (through no fault of his) handed the responsibility of surrendering Fort Donaldson to Grant in the Civil War.  

    …After staring for about 30 seconds, Buckner commanded everybody to “…get back to work…”

    -Yankee Papa

  • YankeePapa Feeding replacements into units where they were promptly killed because of a lack of knowledge and mentorship was very commonplace throughout Europe.  Some divisions suffered 250% casualties.  Something unseen in the Pacific.  http://www.historyshotsinfoart.com/USArmy/overview.cfm

    During Desert Storm the plan was for whole squads to be brought forward and employed as such while units reorganized their forces to take on a new squad.  Good idea.  I wonder if it would have been actually employed.
    Officers were still individual replacements.

    Over the last 15 years units have not really suffered casualties heavy enough to get replacements and when they have its been by individual, ensuring the unit was overstrength before deployment or the unit was put on other duties.
    Special Ops units are promptly rotated out.

  • YankeePapa

    …During WW2 the Third Division (my father’s) turned over its strength three times, between North Africa and final destination in Germany.  Casualties actually worse since the turnover obviously was heavier among combat arms… especially infantry and combat engineers, than say, clerks, cooks, truck drivers, etc.  As a result, a division that has taken 50% casualties is considered sincerely unable to continue…

    …The numbers very ugly for some divisions that landed at Normandy… on D-Day and on the following days… as they moved East.  Of course really ugly places like the Hurtgen Forest chewed up units in a most awful fashion.  

    …In the Hurtgen (forest, hills, and for the most part little more than “fire roads”) at one hideous place, the ground changed hands so many times that the medical teams on both sides stopped bothering to evacuate… and finished the battle working as one integrated team…


  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa …I had to look it up and get back here.  I remembered that some division commanders went vastly out of their way to avoid shoving raw replacements into the line.  Sort of like sending brand new fire engines out to fight fire… without bothering to put oil in the engine.  Go through a lot of vehicles that way.  

    …Those division commanders who got a reputation for holding off sending replacements until their unit had at least a few days off the line… more if possible… had lower casualty rates and higher morale. While the best of them could not control when critical emergencies might come up… they refused to routinely throw them on the line… especially later when many only had recruit training with no infantry skills.   See link below:



    …At Iwo Jima rifle companies went ashore overstrength… as many as 50 men over Table of Organization.  At least they had some training with the unit.  But as casualties mounted, individual replacements sent ashore.  

    …About two thirds of the way through the battle, a division commander walked in on a briefing of company commanders.  He saw a PFC and asked why his company commander was not there.  The PFC *was* the “company commander”…  In spite of the company going in overstrength and follow-up replacements… his company was shot up to the point to where he was the only man from his company who went ashore who was not one kind of casualty or other.  He had eight replacements still standing who had come in during the last few days.  

    …The division commander folded the eight into another company and ordered the PFC removed from the island.  At a place like Iwo high casualties were a given… but the general drew the line there.  

    …A list of Marine officers at Iwo who were awarded the Medal of Honor caught my attention when I first read about the action as a kid.  The vast majority had “Replacement Draft” followed by a number.  Very recently commissioned… some on the island itself.  

    …Of course the experience of the Germans on the Eastern Front like so many tin soldiers trying to storm a white hot stove.  At least they tried to pull entire shot up units off the line and rebuild… rather than just plant the division colors and rotate endless replacements.  As the war progressed… the opportunities became fewer.  

    …For those not familiar with the Eastern Front… two volumes (out of many).  Grim reading.

    -Yankee Papa-