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Raymond W. Bliss

Photo Raymond Bliss

Surgeons General

RAYMOND W. BLISS was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on 17 May 1888. He graduated from Tufts College, Medford, Massachusetts, in 1910 with a Doctor of Medicine degree and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corps on 19 September 1911.

In June 1913, he graduated from the Army Medical College, Washington, DC. In September 1914, he went to Fort Apache, Arizona, and then to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in May 1915. Two years later, in August 1917, he returned to the States and assigned to the command of the base hospital, Camp Wheeler, Georgia.

In October 1918, he moved to the position of Commander, General Hospital No. 35 at West Baden, Indiana, and in May 1919, became Commander, General Hospital No. 20, Whipple Barracks, Arizona. In February 1920, Bliss received orders to Fitzsimons General Hospital, Denver, Colorado.

From August 1920 to September 1921, Bliss took a special surgery course at the Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then remained in Boston for study in the surgical clinics and further instruction at Harvard College.

In October 1921, Bliss became executive officer of the hospital subdivision of the Veterans' Bureau in Washington, DC.

In January 1923, he transferred to Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, DC. In November 1924, Bliss went to Camp Stephen D. Little, Arizona, as Camp Surgeon and Medical Supply Officer.

Bliss went to Sternberg General Hospital, Manila, Philippine Islands, in April 1929, and became Assistant Chief of Surgical Service there in July 1930. Upon his return to the United States in May 1931, Bliss was assigned to duty at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he became Assistant Chief of the Surgical Service in July 1931, and Chief of Surgical Service in July 1936.

In November 1936, Bliss went to William Beaumont General Hospital, El Paso, Texas, as Chief of Surgical Service.

In September 1940, Bliss went to London as a Military Observer. Upon his return in January 1941, he was assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, as commanding officer of the post hospital. In February 1942, he became Surgeon, Eastern Defense Command and First Army, Governors Island, NY. In June 1943, he became Chief of Operations Service, Surgeon General's Office, Washington, DC.

"It was during this period that General Bliss demonstrated his remarkable ability to plan medical support on every continent for all types of combat operations. He was largely responsible for actuating several unique operational developments featuring the widespread use of air evacuation in the combat zones, from oversea areas of operations to the United States, and the distribution of patients within the United States; the system or regional hospitalization and the establishment of specialized general hospitals to meet the needs of combat casualties; and the establishment of convalescent hospitals as definitive treatment centers for certain types of neuropsychiatric patients, and as final treatment centers for large numbers of sick and wounded. His masterful planning assured adequate medical support at the time and place needed, and the successes achieved by military medicine during World War II attest to the soundness of the detailed medical plans." (1)  

During the war, Bliss made extensive trips to Pacific Ocean Areas; and later he was named an Observer at the Atom Bomb Test at Bikini.  

In August 1944, he became Assistant Surgeon General, Surgeon General's Office, Washington, DC, and on 1 June 1947, Bliss became the Surgeon General of the Army for a four-year period.  

As the Surgeon General, General Bliss was not content to rest on past accomplishments, and he launched a vigorous campaign to institute many reforms within the Army Medical Service. His efforts focused primarily on preparedness for future conflicts, and he was determined to offer the military physician ample opportunities to increase his professional competence and to undertake medical research that was essential to his professional growth and that of the Army Medical Service. (2)  

Army hospitals became training institutions for the first time in history by offering residency training programs to the career officer. Health education and preventive medical programs were expanded and given new vitality. Laboratories were expanded and satisfied Bliss's great concern for facilities capable of conducting research and study of the pathology of diseases with emphasis on both clinical and preventive medicine. He led the way in the vigorous investigation of any suggestion which had promise of increased protection or better therapy from the effects of nuclear radiation. (3)  

Basic to all these developments was his firm belief that the best medical defense that could be offered in future wars was an alert corps of highly competent and progressive physicians who, together with the other professions allied to medicine, would be capable of meeting any new situation. (4)  

General Bliss, in rebuilding the Army Medical Department on a sound professional basis, solicited increased utilization of professional civilian consultants to integrate the work of civilian medicine in military medical planning and operations. He nurtured the system of visiting civilian consultants with an increased role for these specialists in the teaching programs of Army hospitals. (5)  

The soundness of his reforms finds evidence in the high quality of medical service provided by the Army during the war in Korea. The low death rate, the high recovery rate, and the high morale of the casualties demonstrate the effectiveness of the progressive and specialized training programs initiated by General Bliss. (6)

1. Leonard D. Heaton, "Raymond W. Bliss," Military Medicine vol 3, n. 5, (May 1966): 458.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid., 459.

6. Ibid.

Personal Data

Date and Place of Birth: 17 May 1888; Chelsea, Massachusetts

Date and Place of Death: 12 December 1965

Parents:

Marriage:

Children:

Career Summary

1911-1913

Commissioned at first lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corps, 19 September 1911, and served on active duty. He received his Regular Army commission as a first lieutenant in the Medical Corps on 20 May 1913.  

1913

Student and Graduate, Army Medical College, June 1913, Washington, DC.  

1913-1915

Fort Apache, Arizona  

1915-1917

Schofield Barracks, Hawaii Captain, 7 June 1916
 

1917-1918

Commander, Base Hospital, Camp Wheeler, Georgia. Major, 15 May 1917  

1918-1919

Commander, General Hospital 35, West Baden, Indiana  

1919-1920

Commander, General Hospital 20, Whipple Barracks, Arizona  

1920

Fitzsimons General Hospital, Denver, Colorado  

1920-1921

Special Surgery Course, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and for study in the Surgical Clinics and further instruction at Harvard College.  

1921-1923

Hospital Subdivision, Veterans' Bureau, Washington, DC  

1923-1924

Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, DC
 

1924-1929

Camp Surgeon, Camp Stephen D. Little, Arizona  

1929-1931

Sternberg General Hospital, Manila, Philippine Islands, then in July 1931, appointed Chief of Surgical Service  

1931-1936

Assistant Chief of Surgical Service, and five years later, Chief of Surgical Service, Fort Sam Houston, Texas Lieutenant Colonel (permanent), 20 May 1933  

1936-1940

Chief of Surgical Service, William Beaumont General Hospital, El Paso, Texas  

1940-1941

Military Observer, London, England  

1941-1942

Commander, Post Hospital, Fort Sill, Oklahoma  

1942-1943

Surgeon, Eastern Defense Command and First Army at Governors Island, New York  

1943-1944

Chief of Operations Service, Surgeon General's Office, Washington, DC Brigadier General, 13 September 1943  

1944-1947

Assistant Surgeon General, Surgeon General's Office, Washington, DC  

1947-1951

Surgeon General, United States Army Major General, 1 June 1947

Honorary Degrees

Doctor of Science (honorary), Tufts College, Medford, Massachusetts, 1944

Doctor of Laws (honorary), University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, February 1948

Awards

Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
French Legion of Honor
Italian Crown

Writings

Bliss, Raymond W. "Surgeon General's Observations in the Far East." Bulletin of the U.S. Army Medical Department 8 no. 1 (January 1948): 1.

________. "The Army Medical Department Faces the Future." Bulletin of the U.S. Army Medical Department 8 (January 1948): 31-37.

________. "Military Responsibility for Civilian Health in War." The Military Surgeon 104 (April 1949): 247-250.