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The army goes rolling along ...

During our recent annual conference in Hawaii we talked about serving in the Army and the duties of being a soldier first and provider second. CPT Ben Salomon's heroic actions below symbolize the American fighting spirit and the compassionate care shown for his patients.
SGM Stephen Spadaro


by Jerry Harben

CPT Ben L. Salomon, an Army dentist during World War II, posthumously received the United States' highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, during a ceremony at the White House on May 1. "President Harry S. Truman said he would rather have earned the Medal of Honor than be the Commander-in-Chief," said President George W. Bush during the ceremony. "When you meet a veteran who wears that medal, remember the moment, because you are looking at one of the bravest ever to wear our country's uniform."

Salomon's award recognizes his actions during the Battle of Saipan. He was the regimental dentist of the 105th Infantry Regiment, but volunteered to replace the 2nd Battalion's surgeon, who had been wounded earlier during operations to push the Japanese off the island.

About 5:00 a.m. on July 7, 1944, thousands of desperate Japanese soldiers launched an assault on the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th.

A paper written by Dr. John Greenwood, Army Medical Department historian, describes what happened:

"Ben Salomon had set up his aid station in a small tent about 50 yards behind the forward foxholes and 30 yards from the shore-line. Within 10 minutes of the beginning of the attack, his aid station was overwhelmed with over 30 wounded. Salomon was working steadily on the most serious cases inside the tent when Japanese soldiers began to enter.

"Ben shot the first one, who had bayoneted a wounded American lying on a stretcher. Two more charged through the tent entrance. Ben clubbed them both with a rifle, then shot one and bayoneted the other. Four more began to crawl under the sides of the tent. He shot one, bayoneted one, stabbed another with a knife, and head butted the fourth. "Ben ran out of the tent to get help to defend the aid station. He quickly saw that the situation was hopeless. The Japanese suicide masses had overwhelmed the two under-strength American battalions. Pockets of resistance fought on inside the perimeter, but the bulk of the survivors were being pushed back toward Tanapag village.

"Salomon returned to the tent and ordered his aid men to evacuate the wounded while he stayed behind to hold off the enemy and cover their withdrawal. Salomon then grabbed a rifle and fought on with the few Americans still resisting inside the perimeter. Eventually he manned a machine gun after its gunner was killed. That was the last time anyone saw Ben Salomon alive."

The next day, Americans recaptured the position. The 27th Infantry Division historian, CPT Edmund G. Love, reported that Salomon's body was found at the machine gun he had manned, with 98 Japanese bodies piled in front of the gun. There were 76 bullet holes in Salomon's body, and a doctor determined 24 of the wounds came before he died.

The two battalions had suffered 83 percent casualties during the battle, and two members were awarded posthumous Medals of Honor. Love wrote a recommendation for Salomon to also receive the award, but it was disapproved because the division commander mistakenly believed medical personnel were not eligible.

A second recommendation in Salomon's behalf was denied in 1951 because a time limit for World War II awards had expired. After the time limit was repealed, Salomon was recommended again in 1969, but the previous paperwork had been lost and supporting evidence was difficult to obtain so long after the action.

The final effort in behalf of Salomon's medal was organized by Dr. Robert West, like Salomon a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. After positive recommendations from the Army and the Department of Defense, Salomon's award was finally approved with signing of the Fiscal Year 2002 Defense Authorization Act.

During the same ceremony, President Bush also presented the Medal to the family of CPT Jon E. Swanson, a helicopter pilot killed while marking enemy positions in Vietnam.

"The two events we recognize today took place a generation apart, but they represent the same tradition," Bush said. "That tradition of military valor and sacrifice has preserved our country and continues to this day. Captain Salomon and Captain Swanson never lived to wear this Medal, but they will be honored forever in the memory of our country."

Army Secretary Thomas E. White, Army Chief of Staff GEN Eric K. Shinseki and Sergeant Major of the Army Jack L. Tilley inducted both men into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes on May 2.


ADAA reaches across the world and provides continuing education to Japanese and military dental assistants assigned to Camp Zama.


During our annual conference many ADAA members have adopted "Hooah" into their vocabulary. To clear up any confusion when using the word here is the correct definition. Hooah!

Hooah (who-ah), adj. U.S. Army Slang. Referring to, or meaning anything and everything except "no." Generally used when at a loss for words. Also:

1. Good copy. Solid copy. Roger, good or great; message received, understood. Glad to meet you, welcome. I do not know, but will check on it. I haven't the vaguest idea. I am not listening. That is enough of your drivel ... sit down.

2. Stop sniveling. You've got to be kidding. Yes. Thank you. Go to the next [briefing] slide. You have taken the correct action.

3. I don't know what that means, but am too embarrassed to ask for clarification. That is really neat, I want one too. Amen.

(The White House Press Office and Army News Service contributed to this report.)

SGM Stephen E. Spadaro, United States Army Dental Command, is the senior enlisted soldier in the Dental Command. He has served in the U.S. Army for 24 years.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Posthunous awarding of the Medal of Honor
Author:Spadaro, Stephen E.
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Previous Article:DARW 2002: pride on parade. (Dental Assistants Recognition Week).
Next Article:Gingival health--periodontal assessment. (Free Course).

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