Captain Ben Salomon's delayed Medal of Honor
In order to defeat Japan, a lot of battles needed to be fought throughout the Pacific Theater. The Japanese Imperial Army was not filled with average soldiers who fought with the civilized warfare the Geneva Conventions had in mind when the rules were written. Civilized warfare meant certain soldiers like the wounded weren't supposed to be bayoneted, while the Japanese soldiers had no problem doing just that.
History List has ten battles that were considered the greatest in the entire Pacific, which includes the Battle of Saipan. Some of the battles were lost, but most were won by the Allies. The losses were hard lessons learned, and the successes got the allies closer to Japan.
Ben Salomon, a Jewish Army captain from Milwaukee, was on the strategically important island of Saipan near the village of Tanapag on July 7, 1944, for the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. Taking the island put them in range of mainland Japan.
Capt. Benjamin Salomon (source).
On that day, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were attacked by somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese Imperial soldiers. It was one of the largest attacks during the entire Pacific Theater. Losing the battle would have cost the American forces the entire island.
Both battalions' perimeters were penetrated. Within half an hour of the fighting, wounded American soldiers and Marines were carried or walked or crawled to aid stations, which were little more than small tents that soon filled to capacity.
Captain Salomon witnessed a Japanese soldier bayoneting wounded soldiers near an aid tent. He took a squatting position and killed the enemy. These were the first of many wounded Captain Salomon tried to help, and he did save many lives.
From We Are the Mighty:
:But two more attackers rushed through the front. Salomon clubbed both, then bayoneted one and shot the other before soldiers started to climb in under the tent walls ... shot one, knifed one, bayoneted a third, and head-butted the fourth." The fourth was shot by a wounded American soldier.
Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their way to a regimental aid station. He grabbed a rifle from one of the wounded American soldiers and made his way to a machine gun to cover their escape. Four enemy soldiers were killed before he could get to a machine gun in order to buy time for the wounded to evacuate.
We Are the Mighty gives a detailed report about what happened and what was discovered by American forces who had retaken the position:
Contact with Salomon was lost for 15 hours as the American force conducted a withdrawal and then slowly took the territory back. When they found Salomon, he was laying on a machine gun, dead, with 76 bayonet and bullet wounds. Dozens of enemy dead were arrayed before him, a blood trail showed where he had repositioned the gun multiple times, almost certainly while fatally wounded, to continue covering the retreat.
By the time the fighting ended, over 900 Americans were either killed or seriously wounded with a casualty rate of over 80%. Without the heroes from that battle, like Captain Salomon, it would have been the death or capture of every American on the island.
Brigadier General Ogden J. Ross was the assistant commander of the 27th Division. At his request, Captain Edmund G. Love, the division historian and one of the people who found Salomon's body, was directed to gather reports about potential Medal of Honor recipients.
Seven Medals of Honor were given in time for the heroism that took place during the Battle of Saipan. All were given posthumously. Here is a link to those who put their lives on the line for their fellow soldiers and Marines.
It took four attempts and decades before Captain Salomon received his much deserved Medal of Honor. The delay had nothing to do with him being Jewish, but wearing the Red Cross. Captain Salomon was an Army dentist who was playing the role of surgeon out of necessity. Technicalities resulted in the delay, but it did happen in 2002, where he became the only dentist to receive the Medal of Honor.
The citation can be read in its entirety here:
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 Siapan, 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 2nd 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.