May 17, 1948
“I’ll admit that it is rather difficult for me to look upon a conscientious objector with patience…While your four sons and my three nephews were risking their lives to save our government, and the things for which we stand, these people were virtually shooting them in the back. I ran across one conscientious objector (Desmond Doss) that I really believe is all man…I decorated him with a Congressional Medal of Honor….the majority with whom I came in contact were just plain cowards and shirkers.”
(from Eleanor and Harry, The Correspondence. 2002)
This letter was addressed to Eleanor Roosevelt in response to her request that he reconsider pardons for COs. Letter was saved but not sent, and he later mailed Eleanor a copy of the Attorney General’s statement regarding the report in question, including a personal note that there would be no review because the report was complete and he approved it
Doss was generally reviled during most of his military service as a medic because of his religious conscientious objection to killing. Even though there is absolutely no evidence that he ever failed to pursue his duties, he was generally considered cowardly simply on the basis of his anti-war beliefs. When he happened to be assigned a position of great danger and responded bravely, he became the public “exception.” Had his assignments kept him shipboard, he would surely have remained one of Truman’s assumed cowards.
It could be said that to hold to your principles when the world is against you is what requires the greatest bravery.