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Published on June 8th, 2009 | by Mike


Capt. Ben Salomon- More Than a Dentist

benBorn: 1 September 1914, Milwaukee Wisconsin

Died (KIA): 7 July 1944, Saipan

Ben Salomon was part of an often overlooked branch of all armed forces. The medical teams. More often than not when people conjure up images of wartime gallantry and American (or Canadian) heroes, it is an image of a camo clad infantry soldier rising  above odds and hardship to accomplish something that most people would find unbelievable. The image is appropriate as this is usually the case. It is complicated to imagine behind the scenes, generally “unnoticed” military personnel doing anything too heroic in the uninformed individuals mind, and perhaps this is why people like Ben Salomon are occassionally overlooked.

Upon graduating highschool Ben Salomon began his life as an academic. In 1937 Ben graduated from the University of Southern California dental college, and eventually was able to open his own dental practice at the age of 23. With knowledge of the impending draft and the fact that WW2s war machine was in full swing, it was no surprise that in 1940 Ben got drafted by the US Army.

Ben began his military career as an infantry soldier, but eventually as the army seen recognizable and very usable skills he was summoned to the Army Dental Corps. Ben was consistently promoted throughout his service and eventually reached the rank of Captain in the year of his death. Not only was he promoted, but he also served as the regimental dental officer for the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division.

It was in 1944 that Ben seen his first combat action, in the Battle of Saipan, and subsequently it was also the last action he would see. He landed in Saipan via boat with the 105th and it did not take long before the soldiers were under extreme fire, and casualties were beginning to pile. The regiments surgeon was wounded during battle and rendered incapable of helping anyone. This is where Ben stood up.

Being the most qualified individual near the combat at the time, Ben offered himself and took over the duties of the wounded surgeon. The soldiers defensive position was a mere 50 yards in front of where Ben attempted to treat the wounded. Unfortunately the number of wounded continued to climb drastically inside of Bens operating tent, and eventually the soldiers were beginning to be overrun.

In an act of selflessness and unbelievable heroism, Ben offered to stay behind at the tent while the other retreated. His objective was to fend off the enemy onslaught long enough to allow the wounded to be evacuated to a safer position. He accomplished his goal, and saved many lives because of his action. Unfortunately he was killed in action as the enemy overtook the position forcing the American retreat.

A couple days passed and eventually a United States army team returned to the site to collect their dead and assess what had gone wrong. When they found Capt. Salomon he was slumped over an US machine gun, with 98 dead enemy soldiers piled around him. Not only this, but his body had been riddled with bullets, 76 to be exact, and he had also been bayonetted countless times, 24 of which likely occurred while he was still alive. It took the enemy an unbelievable amount of firepower and countless stab wounds to bring down one man. The accomplishment was astounding and it resembled the perfect image of an American hero.

Unfortunately, it took until 2002 before Ben was awarded the Medal of Honor because of rules relating to medical officers in combat, outlined in the Geneva Convention. Rules stating that if you wear a red cross and are part of a medical services unit, you are unable to bear arms against the enemy. Fortunately, after numerous and virtually non-stop submissions, Ben got what he deserved. His Medal of Honor is currently on display at the University of Southern Californias dental school, and the citation reads as follows;

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Captain Ben L. Salomon was serving at Saipan, in the Marianas Islands on July 7, 1944, as the Surgeon for the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. The Regiment’s 1st and 2d Battalions were attacked by an overwhelming force estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese soldiers. It was one of the largest attacks attempted in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Although both units fought furiously, the enemy soon penetrated the Battalions’ combined perimeter and inflicted overwhelming casualties. In the first minutes of the attack, approximately 30 wounded soldiers walked, crawled, or were carried into Captain Salomon’s aid station, and the small tent soon filled with wounded men. As the perimeter began to be overrun, it became increasingly difficult for Captain Salomon to work on the wounded. He then saw a Japanese soldier bayoneting one of the wounded soldiers lying near the tent. Firing from a squatting position, Captain Salomon quickly killed the enemy soldier. Then, as he turned his attention back to the wounded, two more Japanese soldiers appeared in the front entrance of the tent. As these enemy soldiers were killed, four more crawled under the tent walls. Rushing them, Captain Salomon kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, and bayoneted a third. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier in the stomach and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their way as best they could back to the regimental aid station, while he attempted to hold off the enemy until they were clear. Captain Salomon then grabbed a rifle from one of the wounded and rushed out of the tent. After four men were killed while manning a machine gun, Captain Salomon took control of it. When his body was later found, 98 dead enemy soldiers were piled in front of his position. Captain Salomon’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

An unbelievable story  from an overlooked, unlikely and often taken for granted military branch.

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