Sergeant Benjamin Kaufman was an unassuming young man who grew up in Brooklyn, rooted for the Dodgers and found himself going to Syracuse University when the United States became a participant in World War I in 1917.
Kaufman responded to the call to arms and joined the Army, where he was assigned to Company K, 308th Infantry. He excelled in camp sports and the company respected him as being a tough soldier and a good sport. He quickly rose to the rank of sergeant and he twice refused the honor of becoming an officer.
Kaufman proved to be a hero almost as soon as he was in combat in France. He became blinded by a gas shell while aiding in the rescue of several of his men. Despite his refusal of medical help, doctors forced him to go to the hospital. For fighting men like Kaufman, the hospital was no place to be. He borrowed a uniform and made his way back to his outfit. Kaufman was quickly faced with a court martial for leaving the hospital. However, Army officers saw it Kaufman's way and dropped the charges so that he could rejoin his outfit.
While serving in an advance detail in the Argonne on October 4, 1918, Kaufman and his men came under heavy fire from a German machine gun. Two of his men were wounded. Kaufman realized that he had to silence the machine gun before help could reach the wounded men.
Before he could use his own weapon, Kaufman was struck in the arm by an enemy bullet. With his shattered, bleeding right arm hanging limp at his side, Kaufman advanced on the enemy, lobbing hand grenades with his left arm. He eventually reached the German position and captured a surviving German soldier.
Kaufman returned to the American lines with his prisoner. He fainted from the loss of blood after revealing the position of the German lines, which made it possible for the Americans to move forward.
Kaufman received awards for bravery from nine foreign governments. The United States awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war, he became active in the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, serving as national commander in 1941 - 1942. The Ben Kaufman Post 156 of the JWV in Trenton, New Jersey, is a living memorial to a man who alwavs had a smile on his face even when the going was rough.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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Last updated 18 October 2006