One Robust Dentist – WSJ

One Robust Dentist – WSJ


Steven Senne/Related Press

Twenty years in the past this month President

George W. Bush

walked into the Rose Backyard and honored certainly one of America’s biggest navy heroes, whose valor had been largely missed for practically six many years. Even at the moment, what number of People know the story of U.S. Military Capt. Ben Salomon?

Salomon’s exploits remained obscure for generations—even his circle of relatives didn’t know the extent of his actions—due to the distinctive set of circumstances surrounding his heroism. The story got here to nationwide consideration basically accidentally. At that 2002 ceremony President Bush posthumously awarded Salomon the Medal of Honor and famous:

For Captain Ben Salomon, no residing family stay to witness this second. And though they by no means met, Captain Salomon is represented at the moment by a real good friend, Dr. Robert West. Welcome, sir.

5 years in the past, Dr. West was studying about his fellow alumni of the College of Southern California’s dental college. He came across the story of Ben Salomon of the category of 1937 . . . 

What a narrative it’s. Earlier than exploring why it took greater than half a century for Salomon to be acknowledged appropriately—and solely then as a result of a fellow alum occurred to be doing analysis in preparation for the one centesimal anniversary of USC’s dental college—let’s look at the actions of Capt. Salomon on a horrific day way back within the western Pacific. In a historical past maintained by the U.S. Military medical division, Col. William T. Bowers (ret.) units the scene:

In June 1944, newly promoted Captain Salomon went ashore on Saipan with the a hundred and fifth Infantry Regiment for his first style of battle. In lively fight operations there was little work for the regimental dentist, so Ben instantly volunteered to exchange the 2nd Battalion’s surgeon who had been wounded in a mortar assault on 22 June.

Two weeks later, the dentist-turned-surgeon can be saving many lives. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society quotes the official quotation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on the danger of his life above and past the decision of responsibility. Captain Ben L. Salomon was serving at Saipan, within the Marianas Islands on July 7, 1944, because the Surgeon for the 2nd Battalion, a hundred and fifth Infantry Regiment, twenty seventh Infantry Division. The Regiment’s 1st and 2nd Battalions had been attacked by an awesome power estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese troopers. It was one of many largest assaults tried within the Pacific Theater throughout World Struggle II. Though each models fought furiously, the enemy quickly penetrated the Battalions’ mixed perimeter and inflicted overwhelming casualties. Within the first minutes of the assault, roughly 30 wounded troopers walked, crawled, or had been carried into Captain Salomon’s assist station, and the small tent quickly stuffed with wounded males. Because the perimeter started to be overrun, it grew to become more and more troublesome for Captain Salomon to work on the wounded. He then noticed a Japanese soldier bayoneting one of many wounded troopers mendacity close to the tent. Firing from a squatting place, Captain Salomon shortly killed the enemy soldier. Then, as he turned his consideration again to the wounded, two extra Japanese troopers appeared within the entrance entrance of the tent. As these enemy troopers had been killed, 4 extra crawled underneath the the tent partitions. Dashing them, Captain Salomon kicked the knife out of the hand of 1, shot one other, and bayoneted a 3rd. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier within the abdomen and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier. Realizing the gravity of the scenario, Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their method as greatest they might again to the regimental assist station, whereas he tried to carry off the enemy till they had been clear. Captain Salomon then grabbed a rifle from one of many wounded and rushed out of the tent. After 4 males had been killed whereas manning a machine gun, Captain Salomon took management of it. When his physique was later discovered, 98 useless enemy troopers had been piled in entrance of his place. Captain Salomon’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to responsibility are in line with the very best traditions of navy service and mirror nice credit score upon himself his unit and the USA Military.

Aside from the half the place our hero dies, this wonderful story reads like a scene from Captain America. However Captain Salomon was actual. How was he not honored within the Forties? Ellen Sorokin wrote within the Washington Instances in 2002:

Quickly after the motion in Saipan ended, Capt. Salomon’s commander nominated him to obtain the medal. Nonetheless, the paperwork stopped after his division officers strictly interpreted a Geneva Conference rule that prohibited medical personnel from receiving valor awards.

That’s the place West, the USC-trained dentist and likewise a World Struggle II veteran, was in a position to decide up the path greater than 50 years later. In response to Ms. Sorokin:

Throughout his analysis, Dr. West discovered that the posthumous award was denied due to an error, not a technicality. Dr. West had found that the commanding common reviewing Capt. Salomon’s suggestion for a medal misunderstood the Geneva Conference rule.

The rule states that medical personnel had been prohibited from bearing arms in opposition to enemy troops for offensive functions, however they might bear arms in self-defense or in protection of the wounded or sick. That meant, Dr. West discovered, that medical personnel might obtain valor awards if these resembling Capt. Salomon had been defending their sufferers and assist stations or hospitals.

Nonetheless, by the point that interpretation got here via, the time restrict on nominations had handed.

West spent years writing letters to numerous authorities officers and at last succeeded in seeing Salomon honored earlier than his personal dying in 2012. That’s based on a report within the San Diego Union Tribune.

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However this wonderful story nonetheless leaves one questioning how the regimental dentist was not solely in a position to rise to the event to defend his assist station, however to carry out in fight on the extent of the best particular operations warriors. Thankfully for the lads in his care, Salomon had initially been drafted into the infantry earlier than the USA entered the battle. Col. Bowers notes:

After primary coaching Ben joined the 102d Infantry Regiment and shortly proved to be a pure soldier and chief. He received awards as an knowledgeable rifle and pistol marksman, and his commanding officer said that he was “one of the best all-around soldier” within the regiment. Inside a 12 months he had risen to the rank of sergeant and was in control of a machine gun part. In 1942 Salomon acquired notification that he was to turn out to be an officer within the Dental Corps. At first Ben tried to stay within the infantry, and his commanding officer requested that he be commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry. The request was denied, and Salomon reported to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, the place he was commissioned a primary lieutenant on 14 August 1942. After a number of months of labor in a hospital, Lieutenant Salomon was assigned in Might 1943 because the regimental dental officer of the a hundred and fifth Infantry Regiment, a part of the twenty seventh Infantry Division.

Characteristically, Ben jumped into his new duties with enthusiasm and ability. Regardless of not having practiced dentistry for 2 years, Lieutenant Salomon was shortly acknowledged as a superb dentist by his sufferers and his fellow dentists. He developed a routine of dealing with dental appointments within the morning and becoming a member of his regiment within the discipline for coaching within the afternoon. Ben was not only a employees observer, but in addition an lively participant in all actions from scorching, dusty hikes and vary firing to crawling via the mud of the impediment programs. He received the entire regimental competitions. Later, his regimental commander described the distinctiveness of his dental officer:

Ben Salomon was one of the best teacher in infantry techniques we ever had. He gave everyone who ever met him an actual carry. He had a method of inspiring individuals to do issues that they may not have achieved in any other case. I feel it was as a result of he himself was probably the most important man most of us ever met.

As President Bush said in 2002:

America will all the time know Benjamin Louis Salomon . . . one younger man who was the match for 100, an individual of true valor who now receives the distinction due him from a grateful nation.


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James Freeman is the co-author of “The Price: Trump, China and American Revival.”


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