Leonard D. Heaton

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Leonard Dudley Heaton
Leonard Dudley Heaton.jpg
Born(1902-11-19)November 19, 1902
Parkersburg, West Virginia
DiedSeptember 10, 1983(1983-09-10) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service1927–1969
RankUS-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Commands heldSurgeon General of the US Army
Battles/warsWorld War II
Cold War
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Legion of Merit (3)

Leonard Dudley Heaton (November 19, 1902 – September 10, 1983) was Surgeon General of the United States Army from 1959 to 1969.[1]


Youth and education[edit]

Heaton was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia. As an undergraduate he attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio graduating in 1922. He then attended the University of Louisville where he would earn his medical degree four years later.

Service years[edit]

Heaton was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Medical Corps Reserve immediately following his graduation from medical school. In 1940 he was assigned as Chief of Surgical Service in Hawaii. He was among the attending surgeons in the aftermath of the attack on attack on Pearl Harbor, where he operated and treated the wounded for over 24 hours straight. With the entrance of the United States into World War II, Heaton was assigned to the European Theater of Operations. Soon after D-Day, he was appointed as the Commander of the 802d Hospital Center in Blandford, England where he had over 12,000 people working under him.

After the war, Heaton was promoted to Brigadier General in 1948. He held many posts including being the commander of the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC. He became the tenth officer to command the hospital.

General Heaton was made Surgeon General of the Army in June 1959, and was promoted to Lieutenant General (three stars) in September, 1959. He was the first Army medical officer to attain this rank, and served a longer term as Surgeon General than any other officer since 1931. Aside from administrative duties, Heaton continued to surgically operate. Among his many patients included President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and Generals of the Army Douglas MacArthur, and George C. Marshall.

As surgeon general, he oversaw the expansion and deployment of Army medical services to Southeast Asia and advocated for the increased use of helicopters for medical evacuation operations in the Army.


Heaton retired from the Army in 1969. He and his wife moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina where they lived quietly until his final illness in 1983. Admitted to Walter Reed in July, he died at his beloved hospital on September 10, 1983.

Heaton's funeral service was held at the Village Chapel in Pinehurst, North Carolina with Chaplain Harry Duncan officiating. He is buried in the Pinelawn Memorial Park in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Heaton's wife, Sara, joined him in death at the age of 95 on December 27, 2000 and is buried at his side in the Pinelawn Memorial Park.[2]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters
Bronze star
American Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
National Defense Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
ArmyDSMribbon.png Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 1st Class
Order of the Crown of Thailand - 4th Class (Thailand) ribbon.svg Order of the Crown of Thailand, Companion
GER Bundeswehr Honour Cross Silver ribbon.svg German Cross of Honour in Silver


  1. ^ "Leonard D. Heaton". US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History.
  2. ^ Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 18 June 2019), memorial page for Sara Hill Richardson Heaton (12 Jun 1905–19 Dec 2000), Find A Grave Memorial no. 199461538, citing Pinelawn Memorial Park, Southern Pines, Moore County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Donald Hall (contributor 49091123).

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Silas B. Hays
Surgeon General of the US Army
Succeeded by
Hal B. Jennings