It’s hard to picture a dentist as being a hero, but US Army Medic Ben Salomon, who was a dentist before he was drafted in to the US Army as a private in 1940, as World War II was in its early stages. Salomon was assigned, not to the medical units, but rather, to the infantry. It was in the infantry during rifle and pistol qualifications that Salomon was rated an Expert Marksman. He also had medical knowledge that could be used during battlefield surgery. Salomon was assigned to a unit as their medic. Being a medic in wartime means that you are doing the noble thing, a task which is not often recognized as anything special. I think was have all seen the television show, MASH, in which the position of Army Doctor is viewed as mostly safe, far from the front lines, and given to a little bit of hanky panky. It doesn’t often paint a picture of heroic actions, although, sometimes the doctors are heroic (Nevertheless, I don’t mean to say that all military doctors are like the doctors on MASH, who are, after all, playing a part.) Medics serve and protect like every other serviceman, but they sometimes see a lot more of war’s ugly side. These unit medics might saw torn apart friends, horrific injuries, and a lot of deaths. The men they served with every day were their friends, and while the medic was usually behind the unit in a tent, caring for the wounded, these were not strangers to them. They were friends and comrades in arms.
Just one month after Salomon’s promotion to captain, he experienced his first battle. Salomon volunteered to replace the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment’s field surgeon, who had been wounded. The unit was sent to Saipan to fight the Japanese forces. Little did Salomon know that this would be his only battle. When the unit landed in Saipan, they found immediately themselves in one of the most intense fights in the Pacific arena. Apparently this little island had been determined to be vital…no matter which side you were on. The Japanese army was not willing to concede the island and the US Army was adamant that they needed to take it. By the time Salomon’s unit arrived, the Japanese had taken the approach of advance and attack to their own deaths.
The tents for the field surgeons were located 50 yards behind the front, and it was there that Salomon worked to triage the severely wounded men. On July 6, 1944, the Japanese reached the trenches and Salomon’s position. Then on July 7th, the Japanese made it over the trenches and went straight to the medical tents. Inside, Salomon was treating wounded soldiers. He looked up and saw a Japanese soldier storm into the tent and bayonet one of the wounded and unarmed soldiers. Solomon acted instinctively. He grabbed an M1 rifle which was on a table close by and fired, killing the enemy soldier. For a medic, who never expected to need to fire his weapon, that situation must have come as a bit of a shock, but that soldier was not to be the only one Salomon killed that day. He turned back to the wounded soldiers, and then he saw two more enemy soldiers burst into the tent. There wasn’t much room in the tents, and they weren’t designed for hand to hand combat, but the tent soon became the battlefield, nevertheless. Salomon began swinging the rifle and clubbed the first soldier, then jamming the second with the butt of the weapon. Then, he shot one and bayoneted the other.
Immediately, four more Japanese soldiers made their way into the medical tent and tried to catch Salomon by surprise. One of the soldiers had a knife that Salomon kicked out of his hand before firing his rifle, killing one soldier and using his bayonet to kill another. By now, Salomon was out of bullets, so he picked up the knife and engaged with the two remaining enemy fighters. He killed one using the knife before head-butting the other, who was then shot by one of the patients in the tent. After dispatching the enemy soldiers, Salomon ordered his colleagues to evacuate the wounded. He would stay behind to hold off the enemy to give them the extra time they needed. As Captain Salomon loaded his rifle, the 30 wounded soldiers and orderlies in the tent started to retreat. The decision to stay and fight while the wounded were evacuated saved many lives, but Salomon was now in a battle that he had no hope of winning, much less living through. Ben Salomon made his last stand. He commandeered a heavy machine gun and was last seen firing at oncoming Japanese troops.
When the American troops were finally able to return to the area, they found Salomon’s body slumped over the machine gun, surrounded by the bodies of 98 Japanese soldiers. He had been shot 76 times and had 24 bayonet wounds on his body. Yes, Captain Salomon had died in the battle, but not before he killed 98 enemy soldiers, and the wounded soldiers and the medics with him had all managed to escape. Salomon was a serious force to be reckoned with, as the Japanese found out that day.
Medical personnel were considered ineligible for the Medal of Honor at that time, due to the terms of the Geneva Convention, so the request that he be awarded the medal was denied. After numerous other attempts over the years, Salomon’s bravery was finally recognized with the Medal of Honor in 2002, 58 years after his death.
At some point in every life, there comes a need for X-rays. It might be a broken bone, as it was this time for me, when I broke my shoulder three weeks ago, or it might be at the dentist, as he looks for cavities in your teeth, but I think pretty much everyone has an X-ray at some point. This process is so common, that most of us give it little or no thought, but prior to November 8, 1895, X-rays didn’t exist. It was on this day in 1895…120 years ago, that physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen became the first person to observe X-rays. This was a huge scientific advancement that would ultimately benefit a variety of fields, but most of all medicine, by making the hidden things visible. Before the discovery of X-ray, broken bones, tumors, and the location of bullets were all diagnosed by physical examination and a doctor’s best guess. It’s no wonder so many people didn’t survive their injuries or illnesses.
When I broke my shoulder, having the X-rays was something I really gave no thought to, other than sitting there with my shoulder hurting while the technicians did their jobs. Of course, looking at the X-rays of my broken shoulder was interesting. I suppose that comes from my caregiver side. Since taking care of my parents and in-laws, I can honestly say that I have looked at more X-rays than I can count. Each one held an interest to me. It cleared up the mystery of what was wrong with my loved one, and now myself. I have to think too, that were it not for the ability to do X-rays, my surgery to put a plate and nine screws in my shoulder bone, would not have been possible, or at least not easy to do. I’m sure that my prognosis would have been much different. X-rays have made so many things possible, and they aren’t even limited to the medical field. They have helped in many fields. Other than medicine, the other original use for X rays was in studying the inner structure of materials. By firing a beam of X rays at a crystal, the atoms scatter the beam in a very precise way, casting a kind of shadow of the crystal’s interior pattern from which you can measure the distance between one atom and nearby atoms. X-rays are used in airports to look into carry on items to ensure the safety of the passengers on the flight. The criminal justice system has used dental and other X-rays for some time to identify unknown crime victims. X-rays are being used to identify the elements of paintings done by the masters to find out what kind of pigment was used. They help to determine the age of paintings, whether they are genuine or copies and how the pigments change over time. X-rays have improved the work of so many people, by making the hidden things visible.
Röntgen’s discovery of the X-ray was really by accident. He was in his lab in Wurzburg, Germany, where he was testing whether cathode rays could pass through glass when he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. Because he really didn’t know exactly what kind of rays these were, he called them X-rays. I have often wondered just why they were called X-rays. Now I know. It was all because X means unknown. It’s almost funny to call something unknown, when it reveals the hidden things, making them known. No matter what it is called, it is, nevertheless, an amazing find and an amazing advancement in the medical field, and so many others too.
Going to the dentist is not usually something that kids like doing. It normally frightens them because of the painful Novocaine shots and the scary sounds of the drilling. Once they have been there, most don’t want to go back…but my niece, Chantel had a little bit different experience with the dentist, and I will never forget just how funny it was.
Chantel went to a children’s dentist. That was pretty much unheard of in the mid 70’s when she was a little girl, or at least it was pretty new to us. This dentist wanted to make it a good experience for the kids. So, when she had to have her teeth worked on, he gave her something to relax her. That would make her sleepy by the time she would receive the Novocaine shot, and probably pretty numb too. My sister gave her the medicine about 30 minutes or so before the appointment. Of course, it not only relaxed her, it was similar to being drunk. She got pretty goofy.
We were asking her questions just to hear her slurred speech as she attempted to answer us. This was not the first time she had been given this med and so we kind of knew what to expect, and she loved her dentist, because he had found a way to remove the fear of dentistry. Not only was she not afraid, she was always given gum after the dental work, as a reward for doing so well throughout the procedure. No wonder she liked him. What little kid didn’t like gum.
So, we asked her where she was going, and she said, “To da detist.” And then giggling, we would ask her again, just to hear the funny slurred speech. She tried very hard to tell us the whole story of the upcoming adventure she was going to have…with us laughing all the way through it. Finally we asked her why she liked the dentist and she said, “Ma buddy guve me gum.” Aw yes, the ultimate reward for a sweet little girl on medicine to make her relax.