The problem nowadays is there are no real heroes anymore,well at least no heroes that are honored in the media. The focus seems to be more on so called reality stars and overpaid athletes, and they are often being portrayed as being heroes for having survived the latest plastic surgery or knee injury. No wonder that there is a culture of being offended by everything.
It is time to start looking at real heroes again, members of the armed and emergency services who put their lives on the line every day or men and women who despite many hardships just keep going regardless. But since this is a historical site I want to focus on an extraordinary man,Benjamin Lewis Salomon, a man who sacrificed his life to save others even though he didn’t need to do it.
Benjamin Lewis Salomon (September 1, 1914 – July 7, 1944) was a United States Army dentist during World War II, assigned as a front-line surgeon. When the Japanese started overrunning his hospital, he stood a rear-guard action in which he had no hope of personal survival, allowing the safe evacuation of the wounded, killing at least 98 enemy troops before being killed himself during the Battle of Saipan.
In 1940 he was drafted into the 27th Infantry Division as a private
Hailing from humble beginnings in Milwaukee, and eventually going on to own his own dental practice, Benjamin Salomon never could have imagined he would one day be one of only three dental officers in the U.S. Army to receive the Medal of Honor.
Salomon started out in the Army as an infantry private
In the mornings he would work on soldiers teeth, and in the afternoon, he would teach infantry tactics. Soon, his superiors began to notice how valuable he was becoming to the Infantry.
He proved to be an expert rifle and pistol marksman and soon worked his way up to a sergeant. Eventually, he was transferred to the Army Dental Corps and commissioned to be a first lieutenant.
He was even awarded the title of “best all-around soldier” in his unit.
In May of 1944, Salomon was promoted to a captain of the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. He had proved himself in training, and his superiors were eager to see him prove himself in battle.
By July the 7th, the Army and Marines had killed nearly 30,000 Japanese soldiers and had about 5,000 more pinned down in the island’s northwest. The Japanese were desperate and had already lost the battle, so their commander General Saito issued the following order: “We will advance to attack the American forces and will all die an honorable death. Each man will kill ten Americans.”
Captain Salomon was running a field hospital 50 yards behind the front line. When the Japanese attacked, he had around 30 wounded men in his station. While he was working on the wounded the Japanese entered the aid tent. Captain Salomon promptly shot the first Japanese soldier, and then another ten with his rifle. He ordered his staff to evacuate the wounded and his last words were, “I’ll hold them off until you get to safety.”
In a battle that lasted a reported 15 hours, Solomon managed to kill nearly 100 Japanese fighters with a machine gun.
Later on, his comrades followed a bloody trail to his bullet-riddled body, which was found curled around the gun he used. He was shot about 76 times.
Capt. Edmund G. Love, the 27th Division historian, was a part of the team that found Salomon’s body. At the request of Brig. Gen. Ogden J. Ross, the assistant commander of the 27th Division, Love gathered eyewitness accounts and prepared a recommendation for the Medal of Honor for Salomon.
The recommendation was returned by Maj. Gen. George W. Griner, the commanding general of the 27th Division. Officially, Griner declined to approve the award because Salomon was “in the medical service and wore a Red Cross brassard upon his arm. Under the rules of the Geneva Convention, to which the United States subscribes, no medical officer can bear arms against the enemy.” However, the guideline for awarding the Medal of Honor to medical non-combatants states that one may not receive the Medal of Honor for actions in an “offensive”. More recent interpretations of the Convention, as well as the US Laws of Land Warfare allow use of personal weapons (i.e., rifles and pistols) in self-defense or in defense of patients and staff, as long as the medical soldier does not wear the Red Cross. Part of the problem in Salomon’s citation was that a machine gun is considered a “crew-served”, not an individual weapon.
In 1951, Love again resubmitted the recommendation through the Office of the Chief of Military History. The recommendation was returned without action with another pro-forma reason: the time limit for submitting World War II awards had passed. In 1969, another Medal of Honor recommendation was submitted by Lt. Gen. Hal B. Jennings, the Surgeon General of the United States Army.
In 1970, Stanley R. Resor, Secretary of the Army, recommended approval and forwarded the recommendation to the Secretary of Defense. The recommendation was returned without action.
In 1998, the recommendation was re-submitted by Dr. Robert West (USC Dental School) through Congressman Brad Sherman.Finally, on May 1, 2002, President George W. Bush presented Salomon’s Medal of Honor to Dr. West. Salomon’s Medal of Honor is displayed at the USC Dental School.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Benjamin Salomon was awarded a Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal, The American Campaign Medal, The Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
I salute you Captain Benjamin Lewis Salomon,may your example be an inspiration for generations to come.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
Los Angeles County
Plot: Great Mausoleum, Columbarium of Guidance, N-21994