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Martin Solomon of California, D-Day veteran, dies at 102

Folded flag resting on a headstone. (MaxPixel/Released/TNS)

San Rafael resident Martin Solomon, a World War II officer who participated in the D-Day landing, has died at age 102.

Mr. Solomon died of natural causes on Jan. 28 while on hospice care, said his daughter, Karen Solomon Brewer of Maui.

“I think he will be remembered as an old-school gentleman. He was polite, he was helping and giving in a non-ostentatious way,” his daughter said. “He never boasted about himself.”

Mr. Solomon was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and the skipper of a landing craft that took soldiers and supplies to Normandy Beach. He shot down two German planes during the landing, his family said.

Paul Hawley, his friend and caregiver, said Mr. Solomon often talked about his landing at Normandy. Hawley, a Vietnam War veteran, said they were able to trade stories over their shared experiences.

“First and foremost, I can tell you he was very proud to be a World War II vet,” Hawley said. “We’d go out for long rides, Tiburon or Sonoma. He loved being by the water. He was just a true sweetheart. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Mr. Solomon was originally from New York and moved to the Bay Area in 1943 when he was stationed in San Francisco, awaiting his deployment, his daughter said.

Buz Rico, the boyfriend of Cat Brewer, Mr. Solomon’s granddaughter, recalled a story Mr. Solomon told about D-Day.

Mr. Solomon was part of the landing crew on Utah Beach, a code name for one of five sections of the beach at Normandy in northern France where the Allies planned to invade the German-controlled European mainland.

He said he was in charge of LCT-851, a landing craft tank, a large vessel designed to ram up on the beach and offload tank personnel. It was violent, noisy and chaotic on the beach as he and his crew offloaded cargo. He noticed an abandoned vessel filled with ammunition and ordered his troops to offload that one too.

He later noticed a German plane above the beach. He ran up to the deck of the vessel and fired a large caliber weapon in the plane’s path. The plane exploded and went down into the ocean. Another plane emerged and he shot that one as well. It lost its tail and descended behind a hill.

During the firefight, the force of a falling bomb threw him from gunnery and caused him an injury that gave him back pain for the rest of his life.

Mr. Solomon was honorably discharged in 1946.

Mr. Solomon moved to Marin with his wife, Katherine, known as Kay, in 1948. They moved to Salt Lake City, but returned to Marin to live for decades on a 55-foot vessel called Kittiwake off the San Rafael shoreline.

Cat Brewer, who lives in Daly City, remembered fishing in San Rafael harbor with her grandfather. When she was older, they listened to jazz and he regaled her with stories about the war.

“I feel great relief that he went on his own terms,” she said. “He was not a man of many words really. He told his stories. He wanted to be remembered for his stories. But he was always there to help. He was solid as a rock.”

Barbara Machalk of Novato said she knew Mr. Solomon for many years.

“We were so grateful when he came into our lives,” she said. “He could remember back to his fifth birthday party. He would tell wonderful stories about his life, about the war, his wife, his travels and adventures. They just don’t make them like that anymore.”

Mr. Solomon gave up his car when he was 101 years old.

Angela Gwen, 65, has worked at San Rafael Joe’s for 40 years. In her last 30 years as manager, she got to know Mr. Solomon, his wife, and the guests that always joined him at “his table” — booth No. 60.

“He was such a kind, sweet soul,” she said. “He wanted to know how your life was going. We just always had to make sure he had his same table.”

Mr. Solomon is survived by his sister, Joan, his daughter and granddaughter. A private ceremony at a military cemetery in Dixon is planned.


(c) 2023 The Marin Independent Journal

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