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Hal B. Jennings, Jr.

Photo Hal Jennings

Surgeons General

HAL BRUCE JENNINGS, JR. (26 August 1915), Surgeon General, 10 October 1969-30 September 1973, was born in Seneca, Michigan.  He  attended schools in Toledo, Ohio, graduating from De Vilbiss High School in 1933. Jennings next studied at the University of Toledo where he undertook a pre-medical course and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1937. He then attended the University of Michigan Medical School at Ann Arbor. At the time of his June 1941 graduation and award of the M.D. degree, he accepted a commission as a 1st lieutenant in the Medical Corps Reserve, but remained at the university to complete a one year internship. On 1 July 1942 he was called to active duty and attended a one month refresher course at the Medical Field Service School, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He then served for over a year in the Medical Training Center at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas and as a regimental surgeon in an engineer training unit at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. He was promoted to temporary captain on 5 February 1943.

In the fall of 1943 he went to the South Pacific Theater where he served successively with the 25th Evacuation Hospital at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides; the 8th General Hospital, New Caledonia; and finally with the Joint Purchasing Board, Auckland, New Zealand. On 11 December 1944 he was commissioned as 1st lieutenant in the Regular Army Medical Corps and promoted to permanent captain on 7 July 1945.  

Captain Jennings returned to the U.S. in May 1946. In August he was assigned to McCornack General Hospital in Pasadena, California to work in plastic and reconstructive surgery on casualties of World War II. He was promoted to temporary major on 30 October 1946. In early 1948, he moved with the last of his plastic surgery patients to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco. While at Letterman he completed a residency in general surgery. He was accepted for further plastic surgery training at the Barnes Hospital of the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis and began two years training with the Blair Brown Group of Surgeons on 1 July 1949. He was promoted to permanent major on 3 February 1950 and to temporary lieutenant colonel on 9 December while he was at St. Louis.

In July 1951 Lieutenant Colonel Jennings reported to Brooke Army General Hospital, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas as assistant chief of plastic surgery to assist in caring for Korean War casualties. While on this assignment, he completed his requirements for and passed the examinations leading to certification in 1953 as a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. On 1 August 1956 he was promoted to permanent lieutenant colonel and concurrently was assigned to Walter Reed Army General Hospital, Washington, D.C. He served as the chief of the plastic surgery service and as consultant to The Surgeon General on plastic surgery. He was promoted to temporary colonel on 10 August 1959.

From July 1961 to June 1964, he served in Germany first as staff surgeon, V Corps in Frankfurt for a year and then, starting in August 1962, as commander of the 130th Station Hospital in Heidelberg. He was promoted to permanent colonel on 1 February 1964. On his return to the U.S., Colonel Jennings assumed command of Martin Army Hospital, Ft. Benning, Georgia in August 1964 and concurrently served as post surgeon. In this assignment he was responsible for the medical support of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), which subsequently deployed to Vietnam as the 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile). He also supervised the medical aspects of the conversion of Ft. Benning from a division-type post to a complete training center, together with the medical care provided casualties from the Vietnam conflict.

In May 1968 he was assigned as command surgeon to the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. He was promoted to temporary brigadier general on 1 September 1968. On 1 February 1969 he assumed command of the 44th Medical Brigade at Long Binh, with additional duty as surgeon, Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam. General Jennings left Vietnam to be sworn in on 1 July 1969 as Deputy Surgeon General and was promoted to permanent brigadier general on 1 August. He was sworn in as The Surgeon General on 1 October and concurrently promoted to temporary lieutenant general.

His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Air Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. He also holds the Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order (1st Class), and the Vietnam Public Health Service Medal (1st Class). In addition to his diplomate, Dr. Jennings is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He held membership in the American Medical Association, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, the Texas Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, the International Congress of Plastic Surgeons, the Foundation of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S., the Association of Military Plastic Surgeons and the Halstead Society (1970).

Source:   Office of Medical History, Office of The Surgeon General, Biographical File.