WASHINGTON (UP) -- Slowly the time went by until there were just 60 seconds before his battalion must start its "suicide job" on Okinawa.
So Pfc. Desmond T. Doss of Lynchburg, Va., first conscientious object to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, said prayer -- a prayer that every man be "prepared to meet his maker."
"And I believe every man was ready for death," said the 26-year-old medical corpsman whose bravery in aiding his wounded buddies won him the nation's highest award for valor.
Doss was one of 15 servicemen who were in the nation's capital today to receive the Medal of Honor personally from President Truman in ceremonies at the White House.
With his wife Dorothy at his side, Doss sat in his hotel room here to tell of the tense moments before his outfit began a bloody assault on a 400-foot, Jap-held escarpment on Okinawa.
"One minute before we started," he said, "I asked the lieutenant if I could lead the company in prayer. I realized we had a suicide job.
"The lieutenant said I could, so we all knelt there in prayer.
What was his prayer?
"With one-half minute to go, I asked that God give the lieutenant the wisdom and understanding of how to give his orders. That he would realize lives were at stake. Then I prayed for the men and myself -- that God would give us wisdom in how to take all safe precautions necessary and to come back alive, if it be his will.
"I also prayed that every man be prepared to meet his maker before he went up that ladder and I believe every man was ready for death as he climbed the ladder."
The prayer ended, the men stormed the ragged escarpment to meet murderous fire from Jap artillery.
Seventy-five casualties were immediately inflicted, but Doss refused to seek cover. He stayed in the area and carried the wounded to the edge of the escarpment, lowering them by means of a rope litter.
Doss, who said he would rather be known as a non-combatant soldier rather than a conscientious objector, brushed aside the many glowing accounts of his heroism.
"The newspapers bring out what I did," he said. "I like to bring out what God did. It was one of God's miracles that we could take that escarpment."
Among others who came here to receive the Medal of Honor from President Truman was 2nd Lt. John C. Sjogren of Rockford, Mich.