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Bill Salem

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat


Date and Place of Birth: July 15, 1919 Pittsburgh, PA
Date and Place of Death:    August 14, 2010 Brooklyn, OH
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Outfield/1B
Rank: Lieutenant
Military Unit: Company F, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

 William W. “Bill” Salem, the son of Murry and Sarah Salem – immigrants from Syria – was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 1919. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his father ran a grocery store and Bill was a five-letter athlete at West Tech High School.

Bill signed with the Cleveland Indians organisation in 1941, and played centerfield for the Mansfield Braves of the Class D Ohio State League. In 93 games he batted .293.

Bill was with the Charleston Senators of the Class C Mid-Atlantic League for the spring of 1942, before being sold to the Batavia Clippers of the Class D PONY League in mid-May. He got to play just 12 games with the Clippers (batting .320) before military service beckoned at the end of the month.

Bill was stationed at Camp Perry, Ohio, where he had an opportunity to play baseball and helped the Camp Perry Reception Center team to a string of 21 straight victories. As a second lieutenant, he later served with the 29th Infantry Division, joining them in January 1945. On January 29, 1945, 2/Lt. Salem led an eight-man patrol from the German village of Schophoven, across the Roer river to capture one or two German prisoners for interrogation. At 3am the patrol planned to cross the river bank by means of a hefty tree branch. However, the branch was not long enough and the eight men had to precariously walk across the remaining part of the river. On the other side of the river, Salem began crawling forward towards an embankment. When he was just a few feet away, a startled German soldier raised his head above the embankment. Liutenant Salem shot him dead with his carbine. Another German soldier appeared and Salem shot  and wounded him as he tried to run away. The presence of the American patrol was now known to all and the air was quickly filled with the sound of deadly gunfire and exploding hand grenades. The American patrol hastily retreated to the other side of the river. When questioned later as to why he hadn't stopped to search the wounded man for identification papers, Lt. Salem replied: "Hell, when they start throwing grenades at you and firing burp guns, you don't stop to think of thigs like that!"

Bill Salem was later wounded in Germany, resulting in him losing a lung.

Bill didn’t return to baseball after the war. He became a welder at White Motor's truck plant on East 79th Street. He had a distinguished career as union president United Auto Workers Local 32 at White Motor Corporation, devoting his time to winning worker's rights and universal health care.

Bill Salem, survived by his wife Sophie, passed away on August 15, 2010, in Brooklyn, Ohio, aged 91. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Cleveland.

The Last Roll Call: The 29th Infantry Division Victorious, 1945 by Joseph Balkoski

Date Added April 28, 2020

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