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Pres. Truman presents Congressional Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond T. Doss, Photograph, 1945


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


Lynchburg native Desmond T. Doss (1919-2006) was the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. A conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles. By law, only U.S. service members who distinguish themselves “through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” can receive the medal. 

Corporal Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, objected to killing and refused to carry a weapon.  He served as an Army medical corpsman, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Medical Detachment, 77th Infantry Division.  Doss is credited with saving the lives of at least 75 wounded soldiers. Part of his citation states, "Through 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."

Read more in Out of the Box.

Citation: President Harry S. Truman presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond T. Doss, 1945, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.


Social Studies: VS.1, VS.9, US.II.1, USII.7, VUS.1, VUS.11
Art: 4.1, 5.1

Suggested Questions

Preview Activity

Look at It: Look at the photograph. What do you think is happening in the photograph? What do you notice about the man who is the subject of the photograph?

Post Activities

Think About It: Corporal Doss was a conscientious objector and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions as and Army Medic. Why might someone become choose to be a conscientious objector? Why might the be allowed in a time of war?

Current Connections: Today and throughout the last decade, there have been military actions taken around the world. Although being a conscientious objector is still permitted in all branches of military service, the public may not be aware of this option or how often it is used. Why might this be the case? Explain.