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Benjamin Kaufman

(1894 - 1981)

Benjamin Kaufman was a Jewish American soldier who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor during World War I.

Kaufman was born March 10, 1894, in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn. Attending Syracuse University when the United States became a participant in World War I in 1917, Kaufman enlisted in the Army and was assigned to Company K, 308th Infantry. He quickly rose to the rank of sergeant but twice refused the honor of becoming an officer.

During one of his first combat operations in France, Kaufman was blinded by a gas shell while aiding in the rescue of several of his men. At the hosptial he borrowed a uniform and secretly made his way back to his outfit.

On October 4, 1918, while serving in an advance detail in the Argonne, Kaufman and his men came under heavy fire from a German machine gun. Two of his men were wounded but were unreachable because of the enemy gun. Kaufman, himself struck by an enemy bullet that shattered his right arm, 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. In recognition of this galantry in battle, the United States awarded Kaufman the Medal of Honor, the country's highest military decoration.

After the war, Kaufman became active in the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and served as national commander from 1941 to 1942.

Benjamin Kaufman died on February 5, 1981, at the age of 86 in Trenton, New Jersey. He was survived by his wife, the former Dorothy Finkle; a daughter, Rita DeVries; a sister, Jennie Edwards, and two grandchildren.

His medal citation reads:

He took out a patrol for the purpose of attacking an enemy machine gun which had checked the advance of his company. Before reaching the gun he became separated from his patrol and a machine-gun bullet shattered his right arm. Without hesitation he advanced on the gun alone, throwing grenades with his left hand and charging with an empty pistol, taking one prisoner and scattering the crew, bringing the gun and prisoner back to the first-aid station.

Sources: Jewish Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, compiled by Seymour "Sy" Brody;
Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.