Being a surgeon is hard enough in the sense that the lives of your patients are literally in your hands. You have to be quick-thinking and, at the same time, very precise. Now, imagine being a surgeon in the front lines of a war where enemies swarm around and crawl under your tent walls as you perform your duty of tending to the wounded. It’s like holding a rifle in one hand and a scalpel in the other. That was exactly what Ben Salomon, the only dentist to ever receive a Medal of Honor, had to deal with during the Battle of Saipan in World War II when the Japanese started overrunning his hospital.

Meet Ben

Benjamin Salomon was born into a Jewish family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on September 1, 1914. He finished his High School at Shorewood High School before attending Marquette University. He then fought his way into the University of Southern Carolina Dental School to pursue the dental program that he wanted to take. American universities could only accept a certain number of Jewish applicants at that time, following a cap. He successfully got in and completed his degree and graduated in 1937. Immediately after, he attempted to join both the Canadian and American armies, but both rejected him. Because of that, Ben Salomon decided to instead push through with his dental career. As a young man, he was able to establish a successful dental practice in Beverly Hills.

Destined To Be In The Army

Things were going well that in 1940, Ben Salomon had a small client base that included people who aspired to be Hollywood actors and actresses when he was drafted into the US Army and began his service as an infantry private, where he took the training and became an expert machine-gunner. While at it, Ben also gave free checkups and cleanings to his comrades in the barracks, applying his expertise.

USS LST-205 beached on a reef along with two another LST during landing operations on Saipan, Marianas Islands, June 21, 1944, as men of the US Army Air Corps 804th Engineer Aviation Battalion roll floating gasoline drums from the ship to shore. (US Army Air Corps/U.S. National Archives, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Two years later, he was commissioned into the dental corps by the Army. Ben was not exactly thrilled with the news and tried to refuse, for he wanted to stay in his position as a Sergeant of a machine gun team. The plea was denied, and he was transferred to the 102nd Infantry Regiment, where a commanding officer labeled him as the unit’s “best all-around soldier.”