Benjamin Saloman was used to fighting for what he believed in. As a young man, he battles to get into the University of Southern California’s dental program. Many universities had a limit of how many Jewish applicants they would accept, but Saloman did it.
In 1937 he graduated and felt called to join the army, mostly because of how Jewish people were being treated in Europe. He attempted to join the Canadian and the American armies, however, both rejected him.
Finally Off to War
Since neither would take him, he launched a rather successful practice in Beverly Hills. His clients included Hollywood types and aspiring actors. In 1940, he was drafted into the army and began his career as a private.
Even though he was highly educated, he threw himself into the training, becoming a successful machine gunner. He assisted those in the barracks with their dental needs by administering free checkups and cleanings.
In 1942, the army pulled him into the dental corps. Salomon did not want to go. Instead he wanted to stay with the machine gun team as a sergeant. The army denied his request.
He went with the 27th Infantry Division to the Pacific Theater. The battalion surgeon was injured in the Mariana Island campaign, so Salomon filled in until a replacement was sent over.
On July 7, 1944, a Japanese commander ordered suicide attacks with a goal of 10 deaths each. Salomon was taking care of a patient when he spotted his first attacker. A Japanese man came out of a bush bayoneting wounded soldiers who were waiting to be treated.
Salomon took matters into his own hands, grabbing the gun and shooting the man, returning to his patient. However, more came. Salomon bayoneted one and shot the second attacker. Still more came. Salomon proceeded to fight, shooting, bayoneting, knifing, and eventually headbutting four attackers.
He knew they could not keep treating the inured men there. He ordered medics to help the injured out of the area and provided them with cover. While the Americans withdrew, no one had contact with Salomon for 15 hours. When the American forces took back the territory, they found Salomon dead on a machine gun with 76 enemy soldiers dead around him.
While the initial bid for his Medal of Honor was rejected, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush, who presented to an ardent supporter, Dr. Robert West.