Gibson Filming Project Based on War Hero Who Refused to Carry Weapon
(Pictured: Maeda Escarpment, Okinawa, 1945)
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, and director and actor Mel Gibson is working on making a film based on the life of one of the soldiers, Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector, Desmond T. Doss, who won a Congressional Medal of Honor for saving dozens of lives in the battle even though he refused to carry a weapon as a matter of religious conviction.
In March 1945, 182,000 American soldiers and 1,300 ships approached Okinawa, located 360 miles southwest of Japan, with the intent of using the island as a major troop and air force base for the planned invasion of the main islands.
More than 100,000 Japanese soldiers, led by Lt. Gen Mitsuru Ushijima, defended the hilly island from positions in bunkers and fortified ridges. The Japanese planned to allow the Americans rush ashore and then take full advantage of the terrain to attack them from several sides.
The battle began on April 1 as Marine and Army troops landed on relatively accessible beaches and quickly established a 27 square mile beachhead. As the troops went inland, the terrain changed and the Americans faced significant resistance with Japanese troops sending dense waves of mortar and artillery fire down on the Americans, killing thousands and disabling their vehicles.
Private First Class Eugene B. Sledge of the 1st Marine Division called Okinawa "'the most ghastly corner of hell I had ever witnessedÖ.Every crater was half full of water, and many of them held a Marine corpse. The bodies lay pathetically just as they had been killed, half submerged in muck and water, rusting weapons still in hand. Swarms of big flies hovered about them.' Wherever he looked, Sledge saw 'maggots and decay. Men struggled and fought and bled in an environment so degrading I believed we 'had been flung into hell's own cesspool."¬† (See HistoryNet – "Battle of Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle of the Pacific War")
On April 29, the 96th Infantry Division attacked the Maeda Escarpment, or Hacksaw Ridge, a heavily defended escarpment, and 500 Americans were killed. The 96th was eventually relieved by the 77th Infantry Division.
Here, in the midst of untold carnage, Private First Class Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector who refused to carry a weapon even to protect himself, crawled to wounded soldiers, dressed their wounds, and carried them to the edge of the cliff where they could be lowered to medics below. When he was hit by a grenade fragment, he dressed his own wound rather than endanger another medic. The litter bearers finally arrived five hours later, and as they were carrying him to safety, the three were attacked by a tank. Doss saw that another man who was more critically wounded lay nearby, and Doss crawled off the litter and told the bearers to help the other man. While waiting for their return, Doss sustained a compound fracture to his arm after being shot, bound up his 'own arm using a rifle stock as a splint, and crawled 300 yards to the aid station.
On November 1, 1945, Doss received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman, for ¬†"his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty."
This will be Gibson's first film since "Apocalypto" filmed in 2006. The Doss character will be played by Andrew Garfield who is best known for his role as Spider-Man / Peter Parker in "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012) and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (2014).
Among the producers of the film is Terry Benedict who filmed the award-winning documentary "The Conscientious Objector"¬† (2004), Gregory Crosby who also wrote the treatment, Paul Currie, Bruce Davey, Steve Longi, Bill Mechanic, David Permut, James M. Vernon, and Suzanne Warren. (See IMDB.)
The Doss story was introduced to Gregory Crosby by Stan Jensen, who is an advisory panel member of ReligiousLiberty.TV.¬† According to Crosby, "[a]lthough I've been a creative and production executive over the years, I never really had the desire to produce anything until my dear friend Stan Jensen of the Seventh Day Adventist Church brought me the amazing story of¬†PFC Desmond T. Doss, the first conscientious objector in history to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.¬† I was so blown away by the story, I knew right away I wanted to be involved with the project from beginning to end.¬† What an inspiring man Desmond was — the REAL Forest Gump — a man who refused to kill or even touch a gun for that matter, even during bootcamp.¬† He was beat down, made fun of, and treated like a coward, but he didn't care.¬† It was between him and God, and he was determined to serve his country his way and not give up.¬† As incredible as it sounds, Desmond was able to save over 75 lives in the Battle of Okinawa using faith as his only weapon."
Hacksaw Ridge is slated for release in 2016.
For a history of conscientious objection see Michael Peabody's article in Liberty magazine, "Watch His Conscience" July / August 2010.