77th logoRifles77TH INFANTRY DIVISION
RESERVE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION INC

Obituaries


COL Theodore Spear Bell

Colonel Theodore Spear Bell passed away on 6 June 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina at the age of 94.  He was a long-time member of the 307th Infantry Veterans Society.

After graduating from The Citadel in 1942, COL Bell was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division.  As a First Lieutenant, he was in command of Company E of that Regiment on 16 May 1945, when it received orders to make a surprise night attack on nearby Ishimmi Ridge, Shuri, Okinawa, which was extremely well-defended by the Japanese.

After capturing that strategic ridge early the next morning, 17 May, Company E repelled numerous attempts by the enemy to recapture it.  However, by 1000 hours, Japanese mortar and other fire had destroyed all of the Company’s heavy and light machine guns, and all but one of its mortars.  In addition, only one of their five radios was functioning.  In the morning of 18 May, they received an order by radio to stay in place at all costs.  By that time, their grenades were exhausted, they were reduced to salvaging rifle ammunition from the bodies of their fallen comrades, and they were out of water.

Nonetheless, despite further furious fighting, Company E continued to hold its position.  During the night of 18 May, litter bearers from other 77th units reached Ishimmi Ridge, bringing some water and ammunition, and immediately evacuating casualties.  On 19 May, the Japanese launched several further attacks which were repelled, despite great difficulty, with the help of supporting artillery and mortar fire from other 77th units which had moved to closer proximity, notwithstanding that radio contact with the Company had been lost.  Finally, Company E was relieved by Company L, 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division during the night of 19-20 May.

Of the original 129 members of Company E, only 28 privates, one noncommissioned officer and two officers survived this operation.  Hundreds of Japanese soldiers had been killed around the ridge by the Company and the other supporting units, and the 77th had advanced several hundred crucial yards towards a Japanese headquarters at Shuri Castle, which eventually was destroyed over 25-28 May.  For his heroism on 17-18 May 1945, 1LT Bell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross later that year.

After the war, Bell remained in the Army, eventually serving for a total of 30 years, and retiring as a Colonel.  During this period, he served at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, as an advisor to the Taiwanese Infantry School, and tours in Korea, in Germany, at The Pentagon and as Commander of the 2nd Training Brigade at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  His last assignment was to the faculty of the U.S. Army War College, at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.  He held a Master’s Degree in International Studies from George Washington University.

For ten years following his retirement from the Army in 1972, COL Bell worked for the South Carolina Veterans Training Office.

On 7 March 2013, COL Bell was honored by the 10th Regional Support Group at a Retreat Ceremony held at Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan.  Our Association was pleased to lend our 77th Infantry Division colors and battle streamers for use at this ceremony.  Click here to view the program, and click here to view a photo of this ceremony, on this web site.

COL Bell was honored at our Annual Ecumenical Memorial Service at Fort Totten on 1 November 2015.

(Click here to view information about the Battle of Okinawa Memorial, and click here to view information about the Okinawa Peace Monument, on this web site.)


 

CPL Desmond Thomas Doss, MOH

 Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss, Sr. passed away on 23 March 2006 in Piedmont, Alabama at the age of 87. After one year of high school, he went to work for a lumber company, and by March 1941 he was working as a ship joiner at the Newport News naval shipyard. A devout Seventh-day Adventist who was religiously opposed to bearing arms or taking human life, he nevertheless turned down the opportunity to receive a draft deferment for World War II based on his employment at the shipyard. After being classified 1-A-O and drafted at the age of 23 in April 1942 at his place of birth in Lynchburg, Virginia, he served with exemplary valor as an unarmed medic in the Medical Detachment (attached to Company B, 1st Battalion), 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division.

On 12 October 1945, when he was a Private First Class, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty” from 29 April to 21 May 1945 at Urasoe Mura during the Battle of Okinawa, after having already been awarded two Bronze Stars in 1944 for actions with the 307th, at Guam and Leyte. He also earned three Purple Hearts, and was diagnosed with tuberculosis (which eventually cost him a lung and five ribs) shortly before leaving the Army in 1946. He was the first conscientious objector ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The following is excerpted from the citation for his Medal of Honor:

“...Private First Class Doss was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Private First Class Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.

On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and two days later he treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making four separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety.

On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Private First Class Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire.

On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited five hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Private First Class Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station.

Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Private First Class 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.” (Paragraph breaks inserted.)

Click here to view an enlarged group photo of the 307th Infantry Medical Detachment, including Private (as he then was) Doss, before their deployment in 1942.

CPL Doss was honored at our Annual Ecumenical Memorial Service at Fort Totten on 5 November 2006.

(Click on photo below to enlarge)

307th Infantry Medical Detachment

307th Infantry Medical Detachment before deployment to Pacific Theater in WWII. PVT (as he then was) Desmond T. Doss is believed to be standing, 9th from the left, in the 2nd row from the top.