Lcdr ALEXANDER G. LYLE,
U.S. Navy Dental Corps
Verdun sector, France
23 April 1918
No one would expect a Dental Surgeon to end up in the heat of battle, Molars and wisdom teeth were usually tended to in the rear.
LCDR Alexander Lyle was attached to the Marine’s 5th Regiment of the Allied Expeditionary force when things went bad, and Lyle found himself in the middle of a significant enemy assault.
Lyle saw an American fall and, under heavy shellfire, rushed out into an exposed position to aid Cpl. Thomas Regan. He applied bandages and administered aid, but it was clear the soldier’s wounds were too severe to wait. The young soldier would not survive being moved.
Lyle refused to pull back and shouted for someone to throw him a medical bag, then the 30-year-old Dentist from Gloucester, Massachusetts, performed emergency surgery right there in front of God and everyone – Including enemy gunners.
The bombardment continued, and with artillery rounds impacting all around, LCDR Lyle continued to administer aid saving Cpl. Regan’s life. Since Cpl. Reagan was Army, and LCDR Lyle was Navy, attached to a Marine Regiment attached to an Army division, a minor pissing contest ensued over who had the authority to recognize LCDR Lyle’s heroism.
In a compromise, the U.S. Navy awarded the Medal of Honor, and the U.S. Army Awarded Lyle the Silver Star for Heroism under enemy fire. Although Lyle remained a dentist in a “non-combat” role, a subsequent action prompted the Army to award Lyle an Oak Cluster for his Silver Star (a second Silver Star) for actions under enemy fire by the Army.
After World War I, Lyle served with the 4th Marines in China from July 1930 to August 1931. During WW2, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral, the first dental officer in any of the armed services ever to attain the level of flag officer. He was Inspector of Dental Activities (Navy’s top dentist) until 1945 and retired at the rank of Vice-Admiral on 1 August 1948.
A milestone in military dentistry is Lyle’s deployment of mobile dental units to care for Navy members while on shore duty, and Lyle is personally responsible for developing an advanced training program for dental officers and technicians.
In addition to the Medal of Honor and the Silver Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Lyle was awarded the Commendation Ribbon, World War I Victory Medal with Overseas Clasp, Yangtze Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the Italian War Cross and Diploma. He also held an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Maryland.
This guy was definitely Not a Fobbit and Not a REMF.