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Leonard D. Heaton

Photo Leonard Heaton

Surgeons General

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.

Personal Data
 

Date and Place of Birth:  

19 November 1902; Parkersburg, West Virginia

Parents: 

Father - George Dewitt Heaton

 

Mother - Emma Dudley Heaton

Marriage:

Sara Hill Richardson, 30 June 1926

Children:

Sara Dudley (Heaton) Mayson

 

Education

Denison University, Granville, Ohio, 1919–1922
University of Louisville Medical School, Louisville, Kentucky, 1922–1926
Army Medical School, Washington, DC, Basic Medical Course, 1926
Army Medical School, Washington, DC, Preventive Medicine, 1929
Medical Field Service School, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, Field Medicine
Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1947

Career Summary

July 1926–July 1927
Intern, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California

1927
Surgery, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California

1928
Ward Officer, Medical Service, Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D.C.

1928–1929
Student, Army Medical School, Washington, D.C. (five months) 

1929
Student, Medical Field Service School, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania (four months) Captain, 1 August 1929

1929
Chief, Surgical Service, Station Hospital, Camp Knox, Kentucky  (three months)

1929–1930
Ward Officer, Surgical Service, Beaumont General Hospital, El Paso, Texas

1930–1931
Ward Officer, Surgical Service, Station Hospital, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii (four months)

1931–1932
Ward Officer, Surgical Service, Tripler General Hospital, Hawaii

1932–1937
Chief, General Surgical Section, Surgical Service, Station Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, Texas

1937–1940
Chief, Surgical Service, Fort Warren, Wyoming Major, 1 August 1938

1940–1942
Chief, Surgical Service, North Sector General Hospital, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii Lieutenant Colonel, 1 February 1942

Nov 1942–Jun 1943
Executive Officer, Woodrow Wilson General Hospital, Staunton, Virginia
Colonel, 13 January 1943

Jun 1943–Sep 1943
Assistant Post Commanding Officer, Woodrow Wilson General Hospital, Staunton, Virginia

Sep 1943–Mar 1944
Executive Officer, Woodrow Wilson General Hospital, Staunton, Virginia

Mar 1944–Oct 1944
Hospital Commanding Officer, 160th General Hospital, 15th Hospital Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Stowell Park, England

Oct 1944–Dec 1944
Medical Unit Commander, 2d Hospital Group, England

Dec 1944–Jul 1945
Medical Unit Commander, 802d Hospital Center, Blandford, England

Jul 1945–Sep 1945
Deputy Chief, Operations Service, Surgeon General’s Office, Washington, D.C.

Sep 1945–Nov 1945
Surgical Assistant, Assistant Chief, Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D.C.

Nov 1945–Jul 1946
Surgical Officer, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California

Jul 1946–Jun 1948
Chief, Surgical Service, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California
Brigadier General, 10 May 1948

Jun 1948–Jul 1950
Director of Professional Services and Chief Surgical Service, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California
Major General, 11 April 1950

Jul 1950–Mar 1953
Commanding General, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California

Mar 1953–Jun 1959
Commanding General, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

Jun 1959–Sep 1969
The Surgeon General, Office of The Surgeon General, United States Army, Washington, D.C.
Lieutenant General, 1 June 1959          

Awards

Distinguished Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters
The Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters
American Defense Medal
European African Middle East Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
American Campaign Medal
Pacific Campaign Medal
National Defense Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Four Overseas Bars