Valor Friday

| March 15, 2019 | 8 Comments

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Once again our very own Mason has put together today’s Valor Friday. Today we honor Alexander Gordon Lyle, Weedon Osborne, both USN, and Ben L Salomon, USA, for their incredible bravery displayed during WWI and WWII while serving as dental surgeons. Mason writes..

We all know of the valor displayed under fire my many members of the Medical Corps such as Desmond Doss or Edward Byers. This week though, I’d like to highlight the valor of the least admired in the medical profession; dentists.

One does not usually think of dentists as being at the forefront of military combat, but this week I’ll highlight three that were and showed what a dentist can be made of. Three dentists have received Medals of Honor for valor on the battlefield. When these men ask if you’ve been flossing, you’d better have been flossing.

Alexander Gordon Lyle

Our first dental corps Medal of Honor recipient survived his encounter with the enemy. Alexander Gordon Lyle was awarded his Medal for service during World War I, but continued to serve through the Second World War, retiring as a vice admiral after 33 years of service.

A native of Gloucester, MA, Lyle attended Baltimore College, graduating in 1912 with a degree in dentistry. He joined the Navy in 1915 and was assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment on the Western Front in France throughout the war.

He was among the troops on April 23, 1918 when he would earn his Medal of Honor. As German shells rained down on the Marines’ position, Corporal Thomas Regan fell. Seriously wounded, the good doctor rushed to his aid. As the bombardment continued, Lyle gave such effective surgical treatment that the young corporal was saved. In addition to the MoH, the Army awarded Lyle a silver citation star (the award which would later become the Silver Star medal).

Promoted to lieutenant commander, Doctor Lyle continued to distinguish himself in battle as an officer of the 5th Marines. Lyle earned another silver citation star for actions July 9, 1918.

After the war, Lyle served in a variety of fleet positions, mostly aboard battleships and cruisers. He had service with the Marines ashore in the Valley of the Yangtze River in Shanghai in 1930.

He was promoted to Dental Surgeon with the rank of Rear Admiral in March, 1943. He was the first man of the Dental Corps from any service to be appointed to flag rank. He served in command billets for the remainder of his career, retiring in 1948.

Medal of Honor Citation

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ALEXANDER GORDON LYLE
UNITED STATES NAVY

For extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving with the 5th Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps. Under heavy shellfire, on April 23, 1918, on the French Front, Lt. Comdr. Lyle rushed to the assistance of Cpl. Thomas Regan, who was seriously wounded, and administered such effective surgical aid while bombardment was still continuing, as to save the life of Cpl. Regan.

Weedon Osborne

Lieutenant (j.g.) Weedon Osborne was with the US 2nd Division (AEF) at Belleau Wood. Where the US Marines gained their reputation as hard charging leathernecks with nerves of steel. Both the Germans and allied forces came to respect the sacrifice of the 3,200 American servicemen buried in the Aisne-Marne cemetery at Belleau, France. Because of the actions of men like Lt(jg) Osborne, Belleau Wood is understandably sacrosanct among Marines.

Weedon was a native of Chicago, graduating dental school in 1915. He joined the US Navy Dental Corps as a dental surgeon on May 8, 1917, weeks after the US entered the war. He was assigned to the 6th Marines in March, 1918.

At the start of June, 1918, the 2nd Division (AEF) arrived at Belleau Wood in the midst of a French retreat. This is the battle in which, upon their arrival, officers of the American Expeditionary Force were advised to retreat. To which Capt Lloyd Williams of Osborne’s sister regiment, the 5th Marine Regiment said, “Retreat, Hell! We just got here.”

During the battle, on June 6, 1918, the 6th Marines were embroiled in the battle of Belleau Wood at the village of Bouresches. It was on this morning, in this regiment, that Sgt Maj Dan Daly famously spurned on his troops with something like, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

As the Marines charged into the German machine gun fire, 1,000 men were cut down. Osborne, tending to the wounded during the battle, fell while attempting to carry an injured officer to safety. The Navy awarded him the Medal of Honor and the Army the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. He was the first commissioned officer of the US Navy to be killed in action during land fighting overseas and was just 25 years old. Lt(jg) Osborne was one of only 12 American naval personnel to receive the Medal of Honor during WW1.

Medal of Honor Citation

LIEUTENANT, JUNIOR GRADE WEEDON OSBORNE
UNITED STATES NAVY

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Lieutenant, Junior Grade (Dental Corps) Weedon Edward Osborne, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism while attached to the Sixth Regiment, U.S. Marines, in actual conflict with the enemy and under fire during the advance on Bouresches, France, on 6 June 1918. In the hottest of the fighting when the Marines made their famous advance on Bouresches at the southern edge of Belleau Wood, Lieutenant, Junior Grade Osborne threw himself zealously into the work of rescuing the wounded. Extremely courageous in the performance of this perilous task, he was killed while carrying a wounded officer to a place of safety.

Ben L Salomon

Our final dentist is a story that’s so fantastic it’s hard to believe it’s true. This is the stuff of legend. However unlike many tall tales, this one is real.

A Jewish boy from Milwaukee, Ben Salomon was an Eagle Scout (one of nine who have been awarded the Medal of Honor). After high school he went to Marquette University and then moved to the University of Southern California. He finished his undergrad degree there and then finished USC Dental School in 1937 and began practicing dentistry.

In 1940 he was drafted and started as an infantry private. A natural soldier, he was an expert marksman, and described by his CO as “the best all-around soldier”. Within a year he had risen to Sergeant and was in charge of a machine gun section, training that would prove invaluable later.

He made it until 1942 before someone noticed he was a dentist and Big Army moved him to the Dental Corps and commissioned him a first lieutenant. He tried to remain in the infantry, and his CO attempted to get him commissioned there, but the request was denied. By May 1943 he was with the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division destined for the Pacific Theater.

In June 1944 now Captain Salomon saw his first combat, coming ashore on Saipan with the 105th. Dental work being sparse in active combat, he volunteered to replace the 2nd battalion’s surgeon, who had been wounded on June 22nd. The 2nd battalion was suffering high casualties as they advanced.

On July 7 Salomon was manning an aid station just 50 yards behind the front lines. Soon a major Japanese advance overwhelmed the perimeter and the aid station. Dr. Salomon grabbed a rifle and shot the first enemy to enter the tent, clubbed at least two with a rifle before shooting another, and then bayonetting one. He ordered the wounded evacuated and stayed behind to provide cover for the retreat. Salomon and his rifle joined the few Americans left fighting inside the perimeter, facing a Japanese force of as many as 6,000. He was last seen alive manning a machine gun after its gunner was killed. The battle saw 919 American soldiers dead or seriously wounded, an 83 percent casualty rate.

When the Army returned to the position days later, Capt Salomon’s body was found slumped over a machine gun with the bodies of 98 enemy troops piled in front of his position. He had 76 bullet wounds and many bayonet wounds. It was found that as many as 24 bayonet wounds may have been received while he was still alive. These are not typos. This one man took out more than half a company of Japanese soldiers single handedly.

After discovering this incredible scene, the 27th Division’s historian gathered eyewitness accounts and submitted a recommendation for the Medal of Honor for Salomon. The CG returned the recommendation because Dr. Salomon was a non-combatant under the Geneva Conventions. At the time, the guidelines were that medical non-combatants may not receive the Medal of Honor for actions during an “offensive”. Later interpretations of the Conventions show that medical personnel may use personal weapons in defense only. Even this interpretation would complicate Salomon’s award recommendation because the machine gun he used was a “crew-served” weapon.

The historian re-submitted the recommendation in 1951, again it was denied, though this time for exceeding the time limit for WWII awards. The Surgeon General of the United States Army submitted a third recommendation in 1969. This was approved by the Secretary of the Army in 1970 and forwarded to the Defense Secretary. Again it was returned.

Not until 1998, 54 years after his incredible last stand against a Japanese rush, was the final recommendation submitted through a congressman. President George W. Bush, in 2002, finally gave Dr. Ben Salomon (Capt), US Army Dental Corps, the recognition he had been denied for so many decades. His last stand is an inspiration not just for people in the Dental or Medical Corps, but for anyone in uniform.

Medal of Honor Citation

CAPTAIN BEN L. SALOMON
UNITED STATES ARMY

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 Saipan, 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 2d 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.

Hand Salute. Ready, Two!

Category: Guest Post, The Warrior Code, Valor, We Remember

Comments (8)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    Awesome post Mason, thanks for bringing these men to our attention. And thanks to AW1Ed for allowing it. I know that ‘Ed brought it out, not to toot the horn of Navy Docs, but to show the Valor of these heros. Who’d a thunk! Dentists.

    I forwarded this link to my dentist. Good guy, never served, but his Papa was an Artillery Officer during WWII and also a dentist. (dental school after the war) They are also of the Jewish Faith as was Ben Salomon.

    Hand Salute….Ready…Two!

    • AW1Ed says:

      I’m not a grammar Nazi, but a small correction is required here. I don’t “allow” these articles, it is my honor to post them with the words provided by Mason and others.

      I started Valor Friday with the idea to counter the Stolen Valor losers on display here, and it didn’t take long for y’all to catch on.

      That you did. Thanks to Anonymous, Mason, and others for doing the work providing us with these tales that remind us that Freedom isn’t free.

  2. JacktheJarhead says:

    I heard about Dr. Salomon and his incredible exploit. He must have had a hard time walking with those big brass balls! A true hero in every sense of the word.

  3. 26Limabeans says:

    Great read. I’ll mention it to my veteran Dentist.

  4. CDR_D says:

    Yes, great article. Thanks for posting. Very few people would imagine dentists earning Medals of Honor, but there you have it. BZ to all.

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