Edward Feldman was born on February 26, 1941 into an already accomplished military family; of his two uncles in the military, one had earned 2 bronze stars, and a cousin had received the Distinguished Flying Cross on two separate occasions. With plenty of familial inspiration around him, Feldman dreamed of being an Infantry Marine.
Instead, Feldman pursued a career in medicine. He received his B.S. from Columbia University in 1962, and once he graduated from medical school he joined the U.S. Navy Reserves, and was assigned as a Marine Corps doctor. Feldman deployed to Vietnam, where he was a Navy surgeon in combat zones.
Then-Lieutenant Feldman would receive a Silver Star for an unbelievable act of cool and heroism while in a combat zone. Feldman arrived at the Khe Sanh Combat Base on January 3, 1968, eighteen days before the beginning of the Khe Sanh Siege. On January 21, 1968, the battle began. Feldman had just finished settling into an underground bunker, when within a matter of minutes he received his first patient, while the post came under attack from Vietnamese forces. His patient was a young private who had been struck with an explosive piece of mortar shell. Feldman and his peers believed they only had about 45 minutes before the shell set off in the private’s abdomen, putting the rest of the post in danger. LT Feldman’s Silver Star citation reads:
“Quickly assessing the situation, Lieutenant Feldman directed the erection of a sandbag barricade around the patient over which he would attempt to operate and summoned an ordnance expert to identify the object and assist in removing the suspected explosive device from the injured man. Disregarding his own safety, Lieutenant Feldman removed his helmet and armored vest and exposed himself to the danger of a possible explosion as he began to operate. Displaying exceptional professional ability while performing the delicate surgery under flashlights, he succeeded in removing the live round from the Marine and directed an assistant to carry it outside for disposal. By his courage, exceptional professionalism and selfless devotion to duty at great personal risk, Lieutenant Feldman undoubtedly saved the life of a Marine and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.”
Lieutenant Feldman also took control over medical procedures while in a different active combat zone. In September 1968, as a triage officer at the Marine medical facility in Quang Tri, he was medevaced to the scene of a vicious firefight. As he began administering aid, Feldman realized that all the unit’s officers and senior NCOs were either wounded or killed in action. He immediately took command, reorganizing the remaining troops and vehicles into a defensive perimeter, inside which he began to evaluate and treat the injured. He called for the evacuation of the wounded and dead, and refused to be evacuated himself, staying with his men throughout the night until the Army replaced him the next day. He was later awarded a Bronze Star for Valor for this action.
His courageous actions and fearless leadership throughout his military career earned him multiple awards and decorations, including the Silver Star; Bronze Star with Combat V. Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry; Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon; Presidential Unit Citation: Vietnamese Campaign Ribbon with 3 battle stars; Vietnamese Service Ribbon; and Navy Unit Citation.
Edward Feldman remains the only Osteopath to be awarded a Silver Star for heroism. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Medical Corps before retiring. In his post-military career, he taught at New Jersey Medical School and Western University in Pomona, CA, and was the national surgeon of the Jewish War Veterans for a period of time. Feldman passed away on October 3, 2017 at the age of 76. He is buried at the Miramar National Cemetery.
With thanks to the National Museum for Jewish American Military History for the information in this article.
Originally published in the Jewish American Warrior Tishrei 2021 edition.