Artist: Michael Koulermos
Writer: Inge Pudlowski
DENTIST • SOLDIER • HERO
When you think “war hero,” a dentist is probably not the first image that comes to mind. But Captain Benjamin Salomon was not your ordinary dentist.
Salomon served as the dentist for the U.S. Army’s 105th Infantry during World War II. While they were stationed in Saipan, one of their surgeons was wounded; Salomon jumped at the chance to take his place. And so on the morning of July 7, 1944, he found himself in a field hospital 50 yards behind the front lines.
This just happened to be the day the Japanese attacked, their commander’s words echoing in their minds: “We will advance to attack the American forces and will all die an honorable death. Each man will kill ten Americans.”
Soon the field hospital was overwhelmed with wounded Americans. As the bloody battle wore on, the enemy infiltrated the medical tent itself. Salomon took control, ordering the able-bodied to evacuate the injured while he and a few others covered their withdrawal. Armed with rifles and a machine gun, he fought off the suicidal Japanese for as long as he could, taking out 98 before being mortally wounded.
When his bullet-ridden body was found two days later, he was wearing his Red Cross brassard, making him ineligible for recognition as a hero under the Geneva Convention. But in 2002, after decades of determined interviews, paperwork and follow-ups—along with a new understanding that medical personnel could indeed bear arms in self-defense or defense of the injured—Captain Benjamin L. Salomon was awarded the Medal of Honor.