Monday the 30th of May is Memorial Day in the USA, the day when we remember our fallen soldiers. There is one Jewish soldier that you should know about, truly an amazing guy. His name is Ben Salomon, the only son of Benjamin and Bess Salomon from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Ben was a dentist. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army, but they had lost his medical credentials. So Ben trained as an infantryman and became expert with a rifle and machine gun. Because of his skills and leadership ability, Salomon rapidly rose in the ranks; he made it all the way to sergeant. Then the Army finally recognized him as a dentist. Believe it or not tooth cavities was a major issue for the Army, so they made him an officer and he spent his work day filling teeth. However after work, he trained soldiers on how to shoot.
The war took him to the island of Saipan, part of the Mariana Island chain. Saipan is an island in the Pacific, currently belonging to the United States, but it World War II it was part of the Japanese Empire. Saipan held strategic importance to the USA, who planned to use it for attacking Japan by air using the B-29 Super Fortress bomber.
In 1944 there were 30,000 Japanese soldiers garrisoned on the island. In June, 71,000 U.S. Army infantry and Marine units landed on the island. Resistance was fierce; on the first day we took 2,000 casualties. It took three weeks of heavy fighting to secure the island. The battle cost us about 14,000 killed and wounded. Of the 30,000 Japanese defenders, less than 1,000 were taken prisoner. Civilian casualties were high; about 20,000 perished.
When it became apparent to the Japanese defenders that the battle was hopeless, their commander resolved to fight to the last man
He assembled the remaining 3,000 able-bodied troops who charged forward in a final Banzai attack. Amazingly, behind them came the wounded, with bandaged heads, crutches, and civilians, all barely armed, some with bamboo pointed spears. The Japanese surged over the American front lines, engaging both army and Marine units.
He was the acting battalion surgeon at the battalion’s Aid station. His unit was overrun, and he helped with the evacuation of wounded soldiers. For what followed, Ben was awarded the Medal of Honor.
This is how the citation reads:
CAPTAIN BEN L. SALOMON
UNITED STATES ARMY
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.
There is really nothing more for me to say. May his memory be for a blessing.