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Desmond Doss Story to be Made into a Major Hollywood Movie
Submitted: May 28, 2012
By AT News Team

Updated May 31, 2012

Major Hollywood cinema figures have discovered the story of Desmond Doss, the Seventh-day Adventist drafted into the United States Army in 1942 who was the first conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Cable News Network (CNN) reported Friday on “The Wrap” that Oscar nominee Randall Wallace is under contract to direct the movie for Walden Media, a major movie production company.
A script has been written by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan reported the movie trade journal Empire yesterday in a copyrighted story written by James White. The story identifies Doss as an Adventist and states that “he was assigned as a medic because refused to carry a weapon into combat.” The movie will focus on “his heroic actions treating his fellow servicemen on the field,” writes White.
Wallace directed the movie “We Were Soldiers,” featuring a story from the Vietnam era, as well as “The Man in the Iron Mask” and “Secretariat.” He wrote the script for “Braveheart” and the recent Disney version of the science fiction classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” He replaces Aaron Schneider who was previously involved in the Doss movie.

"We are thrilled with Wallace coming into this inspiring project." Gabe Videla told Adventist Today. He was executive producer of a documentary about Doss and negotiated story rights that are key to the dramatic production. Wallace's "background and talent as both a writer and director will no doubt enhance this project."

Bill Mechanic is the top producer for the film, together with David Permut, Steve Longi and Terry Benedict, according to Videla and CNN. These are all well-known Hollywood movie executives. The chief executive officer for Walden is Michael Bostick.
The movie will have to describe key Adventist beliefs in order to make sense of the story, a historian told Adventist Today. It will very likely bring Adventist theology to the attention of millions of people.
The source suggested that the movie may create controversy among Adventist believers because the nearly pacifist attitudes that were widely accepted and taught in the Adventist Church during the World War II era have shifted significantly. “There are thousands of Adventists serving in the military today despite the fact that the conscientious objector status is not currently available in America’s volunteer armed forces.” The movie is tentatively titled “The C.O.”
Considering the normal time that it takes to produce a major Hollywood movie, it is possible that the actual release of this film will come next year around Memorial Day. Adventist Today will continue to follow this story.

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Truth Seeker
2012-05-29 2:18 PM

As a conscientious cooperator and draftee I hardly consider Army service as being "nearly pacifist" at all.  Such draftees were required to go everywhere a combat infantryman went, e.g., but with no weapon for protection. Plus wearing the Red Cross has been said by some to be a target.

If I were Doss's kin I would not permit a film to be made; usually, a lot of fiction or imaginative junk is inserted that may well give a wrong view of Desmond's service to his country. And who knows to what an extent the church's real position will be contorted.

Jean Corbeau
2012-05-29 6:48 PM

I don't believe the man should be glorified by Hollywood.  They taint everything they touch.  And Doss himself would not likely wish to be glorified in that way.  He gave all the glory to God.

It is a shame that with the end of the draft came the end of the church's emphasis on non-combatancy.  The church dropped the ball on this and we have reaped what we have sown.  Many of our young people don't have a clue about this issue.  Draftees had an easier time with Sabbath issues than do those who join voluntarily.  But many of our young people are not joining to become medics, they are joining as regular soldiers, which means carrying a gun and shooting to kill.  No one has given me a logical explanation as to why the church has been so silent on this issue for nearly 40 years.

Kevin Riley
2012-05-29 9:07 PM

We do not take positions that get us into trouble with governements - and we have for a long time been eager to portray the SDA church as a loyal American church - something those of us outside the US do not always approve of.  Ronald Lawson wrote an interesting article "Sect-state relations: Accounting for the differing trajectories of Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses" some time ago comparing us to the JWs on this issue. 

Stephen Ferguson
2012-05-31 8:47 AM

Didn't the Maccabees Revolt sort of the issue of Sabbath observance for soldiers, making it clear it was an essential service?  What do you think Jews do in the Israeli Army, particularly when they were attacked on the holiest day of their year - Yom Kippur?

Edwin A. Schwisow
2012-05-29 9:21 PM

I suspect that as a percentage of church membership, Seventh-day Adventist youth enlist at a far lower rate than members of mainline and evangelical Sunday-keeping churches. Conversely, many Adventist youth enlist in the National Guard—and as the U.S. has stretched to fight two simultaneous wars abroad, the Guard has become a major source of personnel.

Of interest to me is the fact that it does not appear uncommon for Adventists in the military to demand accommodations in diet to satisfy their health preferences/convictions. I know of one case where an Adventist soldier asked for and received Kosher food; another follows a vegetarian regime.

Kimberlee Green
2012-05-29 10:24 PM

I will be happy to see this movie when it comes out!

If the producers do a credible job with Mr. Doss's story it should create positive press for Adventists. It should also generate a lot of interest and have more people actually searching us out!

We as a church should be happy for this opportunity for non-SDAs to learn about the heroism of Desmond Doss and the beliefs of the Adventist church.

2012-05-30 1:54 PM

I am surprised at some of the attitudes expressed in this thread. I have read one of the books on the life of Desmond Doss and his service in the Pacific Theater of Operations in WWII. I serve in the Calif State Military Reserve and other faculty at LLU serve as line officers in the National Guard. It is a privilege for me to serve in the armed forces reserves and teach the combat medics basic autonomic pharmacology. Pacifists and SDA pacifists exist because of the brave men and women under arms protect this right. In my basic weapons training it became clear to me that what stands between a pacifist and someone who would rob them of their life, is a member of the armed forces and part of our creed is "...we are defenders of freedom and the american way of life." 

Desmond Doss' life should be honored in pictures. Hollywood has actually done some very good portrayals of American servicemen in WWII. Band of Brothers comes to mind and having read Stephen Ambrose's book on Easy Company along with Major Winters "Beyond Band of Brothers", HBO and Hollywood did an admirable job. Was there some fiction to enhance the dramatic effect? Yes, but very little. One such instance was the attack on Foy by Easy Company. The film depicts the death of Lt Norman Dike. That did not happen. Lt Dike survived and was immediately relieved from his command by then Captain Winters the battalion commander because of his incompetence.

Just because the script writers may take some poetic latitude, the story of Desmond Doss should be honored in pictures. His life and service is a true profile of courage.

George Tichy
2012-06-01 11:53 AM

I hope one day, not too far away, Hollywood will do the same with  Desmond FORD!!!

2012-06-01 2:52 PM

A Desmond Ford movie?  That would be quite a script!

Herbert Bodenmann
2012-06-01 1:33 PM

Switzerland, a neutral country, has an army with the only goal to defend the country. Young men are still drafted. As Adventists we have to teach them noviolence and/or non-combattancy before they have to decide whether they will serve in the army or do a civil service. The problem in the USA with (lots) of underprivileged Adventists choosing voluntarely military service and combattant forces shows that Adventism develops in different directions.
When we as Europeans wear jewelry some Adventists in the US make quite a problem out of it but they have no problem with their young men serving in combattant forces that kill other men! We in Europe, may also be blind on another eye!
From my Swiss perspecitve the problem in the US regarding combattant Adventists has also a big social component: If whole parts of the society have no chance to ever make a living I understand that they choose the army because if offers them an alternative. Christianity, as I understand it, should always help the underprivileged and not only help them with care pakets from time to time but create on the political and structural level the basis that they have a chance to earn their living.
A christian live has much more political implications then we as Adventists have imagined. We can't simply preach the gospel and not invest at the same time our strenght and creativity for a just society.

Ervin Taylor
2012-06-02 12:37 AM

Mr. Bodermann's perspective about political and cultural differences between American and European Adventism is well made and on point.  Adventism evolves at difference rates in different environments. Our European co-religionists have a better understanding than American Adventists of how Adventist Christainity can and should contribute to advancing a just society.   Our obsession with "end of the world" myths cause us sometimes to forget our responsibilities as members of civil society.   

v. dan miller
2012-06-01 1:40 PM

I served 2 years in the U.S. army 1961-1963.. And I was NOT a pacifist. Neither was Desmond Doss. He supported the allied effort but was not willing to take someone's life. I first met Doss in 1955 when we took an auto mechanics class together at Wildwood Institute. He was truley a Christian gentleman. His greatest stories were about his Sabbathkeeping experiences. If a movie is made about him, I hope that these experiences are emphasized.

v. dan miller
2012-06-01 1:51 PM

I want to add to my posting that I also was a conscientious objector (cooperator).

Elaine Nelson
2012-06-01 3:41 PM

What is more objectionable in military service to Adventists:  non-combatancy or sabbath?  Or both?  How those two objections can fully be practiced in the military seems rather far-fetched.

Gregory Matthews
2012-06-02 9:06 AM

My military service includes the following:
 2 years enlisted (drafted) active military service.
18 years active service as an SDA chaplain.
service in the Washington DC National Guard.
service in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Coming from a perspective that includes multiple types of military service, I will say that SDAs who hold traditional, conservative views on Sabbath observance and service in an armed capacity should not enlist in the U.S. military.  They will have too many conflicts with their beliefs.

However, the typical SDA of military age today is no longer a conscientious objector.  It isn't even a consideration on the most part.    The SDA Church is divided on this point.  It is from this divided perspective that the official position of the denomination is that this is an individual decision and we are to provide pastoral care to all of our members, regardless of the position that they take on military service and/or conscientious objection.

As to Sabbath observance:  The typical SDA who enlists in the U.S. military has moved to a perspective of Sabbath observance that does not beleive that military requirements violate their convictions on Sabbath observance.  This movement in belief and practice corresponds with what we are seeing in a large segment of  Adventism today.

The numbers of people serving in the U.S. military who are of SDA background are large.  On every assignment as an Army chaplain I would obtain a listing of those assigned to that base who claimed SDA background.  In every case, I would be given a listing of 100, or more, military people who claimed SDA background.  In some cases they were actual members.  In other cases they had not formally joinded the SDA church, but they listed the SDA church as their church of preference.

NOTE:  Chaplains and medical personnel may be able to serve in the U.S. military and maintain so-called traditional, conservative, SDA beliefs. 


v. dan miller
2012-06-06 11:55 AM

When in the army as a conscientious objector I really had no big problem being one. I had a "heap" of problems being a Sabbath keeper. As a medic attached to an infantry unit I often was assigned to being on duty as a medic and ambulance driver when different platoons were training and being on duty when our whole battalion was on maneuvers. I felt that being there in case of sickness or injury was appropriate.

Where I drew the line was I did not participate in training on Sabbath. I endured belittleing by the captain (battalion surgeon), threats of courts martial, attempts of embarrassment by others, etc. I felt that I took the right stands in the various circumstances.

Interestingly enough sometimes I had various other non-Adventist, non Christian, soldiers come to my "defense" from time to time. (I was the only SDA on the entire post).

I wouldn't "undo" my army experience for a million dollars. Neither would I do it again for a million dollars.

I am happy to have been a twenty-year man. Two years in and eighteen out.

2013-04-16 5:47 AM

How nice it would be for the younger ones to know about him and also "stand for the right though the heavens fall".

v. dan miller
2013-04-17 9:16 PM

I think a movie would be wonderful. No doubt many younger SDAs know very little about him and what he stood for. Also new converts probably know very little about him. And the public at large know nearly nothing.

William Noel
2013-04-18 9:31 AM

Having read the story of Desmond Doss and having had the privilege of meeting him on several occasions, I am delighted to see the story receiving this attention and retelling.  There are many dimensions to the story that can inspire our youth.  Doss stood for what he believed at great risk to himself.  That he was able to survive in intense combat and do what he did when so many other medics died is a heroic tale where I have only heard him give credit to God. 
My children were in grade school the first time they met Desmond Doss.  They were greatly impressed by both his heroism and humility.  In high school my son joined the Civil Air Patrol where he was recognized as a rising leader.  Several times he told me that Desmond Doss was one of his role models.  Today he serves in one of those military units that will have to go unidentified due to the nature of their missions.  Though he is no longer a member of the church, he has told me of at least one occasion where he was challenged by a situation and the question in his mind was, "What would Desmond Doss have done?"


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