|OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY AMEDD REGIMENT AMEDD MUSEUM|
HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY
Leonard D. Heaton
Leonard D. Heaton was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on 19 November 1902. He attended Denison University, then the University of Louisville in 1922, receiving his Doctor of Medicine degree in June 1926. He married the former Miss Sara Hill Richardson two weeks later.
Heaton was appointed a first lieutenant in the Medical Corps Reserve and assigned to active duty on 17 July 1926. He received his Regular Army commission as a first lieutenant in the Medical Corps on 3 August 1927. After serving as an intern at Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, General Heaton served tours of duty in Hawaii, Fort Sam Houston, William Beaumont General Hospital, Woodrow Wilson General Hospital, and Walter Reed General Hospital.
While Chief, General Surgical Section, at the Station Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from 1932 to 1937, his only child, Sara Dudley Heaton, was born on 24 September 1933.
From 1937 to 1940, Heaton was assigned to Fort Warren, Wyoming, serving a military population of about 10,000 as surgeon.
In 1940, then Major Heaton was assigned to Hawaii for his second tour as Chief of Surgical Service, North Sector General Hospital, Schofield Barracks. On 7 December 1941, at 0700, Heaton and his assistant, Major Ball, were preparing to get into a car and go to a surgical conference in Honolulu, when Japanese planes began a strafing run at them. At first suspecting an error by our own Air Corps, he knew better when he saw the Rising Sun on the undersides of the wings. He immediately reported to the hospital and began operating on the wounded, which he continued to do for over twenty-four hours straight. The major problem he had involved determining the order of handling the wounded.
In 1942, now Lieutenant Colonel Heaton returned to the United States. After a year at Woodrow Wilson General Hospital, Staunton, Virginia, he received orders as commander, 160th Hospital, Atlantic City, New Jersey, in January 1944, and took the unit to England in April 1944. After D-Day, 6 June 1944, Heaton was appointed Commander, 802d Hospital Center, Blandford, England, and had nearly 12,000 people working for him at that time.
Colonel Heaton returned to The Surgeon General’s Office in 1945, and was then assigned to Letterman General Hospital in November 1945 as surgical officer. In May 1948, Heaton was promoted to brigadier general and assumed the additional duty of Director of Professional Services at Letterman. In April 1950, General Heaton was promoted to major general and assigned as Commanding General, Letterman General Hospital.
On 1 April 1953, Major General Heaton was appointed Commanding General, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC. He became the tenth officer to command the Center which included Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Walter Reed Army Hospital, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Army Central Dental Laboratory, and Army Prosthetics Research Laboratory at its three locations, Washington, DC, Forest Glen, Maryland, and Glenhaven, Maryland. He also became the nineteenth officer to head the Walter Reed Army Hospital Component, the original installation around which the center was formed in 1923. As commander, General Heaton continued to perform surgery, successfully operating on President Dwight D. Eisenhower for ileitis in June 1956. He also removed an abdominal cancer from former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in November of the same year.
On 1 June 1959, General Heaton was made Surgeon General of the Army. He also became the first Surgeon General to be promoted to lieutenant general, that occurring on 9 September 1959. As Surgeon General, General Heaton continued to operate. His patients included President Eisenhower, Secretary of State Dulles, and Generals of the Army Douglas MacArthur, and George C. Marshall.
During his later years as Surgeon General, he led the expansion and deployment of Army medical services for the war in Southeast Asia. He fought for increased numbers of helicopters for medical evacuation operations, explaining to medical colleagues, the public, and Congress how best to save lives. One of his major projects included the replacement of old hospitals at the various posts in the United States with modern hospitals.
Lt. Gen. Leonard D. Heaton retired on 1 September 1969. He died 10 September 1983 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Denison University, Granville, Ohio, 1919–1922
July 1926–July 1927
Nov 1942–Jun 1943
Jun 1943–Sep 1943
Sep 1943–Mar 1944
Mar 1944–Oct 1944
Oct 1944–Dec 1944
Dec 1944–Jul 1945
Jul 1945–Sep 1945
Sep 1945–Nov 1945
Nov 1945–Jul 1946
Jul 1946–Jun 1948
Jun 1948–Jul 1950
Jul 1950–Mar 1953
Mar 1953–Jun 1959
Jun 1959–Sep 1969
Distinguished Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters