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Army dentist, killed 98 Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Saipan before he was killed – after being shot 76 times

Goran Blazeski

Benjamin Lewis Salomon was a Jewish American dentist and soldier. He was born on September the 1st, 1914, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the fall of 1940, he was ordered to report for induction into the Army and Dr. Ben Salomon became an infantry private.

He had his basic training and he joined the 102nd Infantry Regiment. After a while, he proved to be a superb shot and he won awards as an expert rifle and pistol marksman. He was a natural soldier and his commanding officer said that he was “the best all-around soldier” in the regiment. It took him only a year to become a sergeant, and he was in charge of a machine gun section.

Benjamin Lewis Salomon. Photo Credit
Benjamin Lewis Salomon. Photo Credit

In 1942, the American Army offered him a lieutenant’s commission in the Dental Corps. Salomon preferred to remain an infantry non-com and he declined the offer. His commanding officer requested that he be commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry. The Army denied the request and in August 1942, Lieutenant Salomon was sent to Hawaii to fix the 105th Infantry’s teeth.

He worked on soldiers teeth in the morning and in the afternoon he taught infantry tactics. According to the commander of the 105th, Salomon was the best instructor they ever had and he was the most vital person of all. It took him another year to be promoted again to captain.

Captain Salomon went ashore on Saipan with the 105th Infantry Regiment in June 1944. As a regimental dentist, Salomon didn’t have much work, so he volunteered to replace the surgeon, who was wounded.

Marines take cover behind a M4 Sherman tank while clearing Japanese forces from the northern end of the island of Saipan. 8 July 1944
Marines take cover behind an M4 Sherman tank while clearing Japanese forces from the northern end of the island of Saipan. 8 July 1944

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.”

Lt. General Yoshitsugu Saito, commander of the Imperial forces
Lt. General Yoshitsugu Saito, commander of the Imperial forces

The attack was bloody and brutal, and lasted for about 15 hours. The next day when the island was secure, Captain Salomon’s body was found lying next to a machine gun. They had bayoneted him and shot him for 76 times. In front of him, the bodies of 98 Japanese soldiers were found. He managed alone to kill 98 of the enemy’s soldiers, and it’s impossible to know how many lives he saved.

On May the 1st, 2002, President George W. Bush posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Ben Salomon. He deserved it more than anyone.

Goran Blazeski

Goran Blazeski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News