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Wilford Hall: the man

official photo of Maj. Gen. Wilford Hall (U.S. Air Force photo)

official photo of Maj. Gen. Wilford Hall (U.S. Air Force photo)

Wilford F. Hall, the man after which the Air Force's flagship hospital would be named entered this world on Aug 12, 1904 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Born to a family of military physicians his life's course seemed already set from the beginning. His father, Dr. Andy Hall was U.S. Army Medical Corps surgeon during the Spanish-American War and in the Philippine Insurrection of 1899-1900. His brothers Marshall and Andy Jr., followed their father into medicine, and in 1922, young Wilford began pre-medicine studies at the University of Illinois. He graduated from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 1928 and was given a commission in the Army Medical Corps as a first lieutenant.

He served in various posts around the country until arriving at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii where he met and in 1934 married his wife Marian Hallett Hutchinson. Mrs. Hall remembers her husband in those early years fondly, "He just had a marvelous personality, he really did, and everybody just loved him. And he wasn't afraid to work, I'll tell you that! He worked very long hours, and he loved his work. When I met him he was stationed at Scholfield Barracks - I spent the winter in Honolulu - where he was not only doing ear, nose and throat work, but also doing all of the obstetrics. He was a very busy man, for sure."

Dr. and Mrs. Hall returned to Randolph Field where Dr. Hall attended the School of Aviation Medicine. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was instrumental in getting Army Air Corps medical service ready for war.

Dr. Hall continued to advance through WWII and into the early days of the Air Force. In 1948, he was appointed as the first Command Surgeon of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) and was officially transferred to the Air Force on July 1, 1949, the day the Air Force began its own medical service. There was a brief interruption in his command while he had a special residency in otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., from March to May 1949, after which he resumed his duties as surgeon of MATS at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Wilford Hall's most notable contribution to Air Force medicine was in the field of aeromedical evacuation. Dr. Hall was an ardent believer airpower and shaped the policy that transported patients by air instead of by group. This allowed for the concentration of medical expertise and decreased medical personnel casualties during times of war. Analysis from MATS headquarters states, "Through diligent application of principles of good management, General Hall...effected the organization of a global aeromedical evacuation system (with) the ability to contract or expand in any part of the world to meet existing requirements in transportation of sick and wounded."

The evacuation of sick and wounded from around the world is still an integral part of Wilford Hall Medical Center's mission today. Wounded can be flown back to the U.S. within hours of being hit. At the hospital in Balad a flight leaves everyday carrying about 20 patients most wounded less than 24 hours before they are airlifted out.

Critically ill men, women and children can be flown to safety from all parts of world. In the aftermath of Katrina 849 patients were airlifted out of New Orleans on the first day alone. At the peak, a planeload of patients (40-80) were loaded and on their way every half hour. The 59th MDW had seven of its ten CCAT (Critical Care Air Transport) teams rotating in and out of New Orleans during the crisis.

This extraordinary capability was made possible by Gen. Wilford Hall and other visionaries. In 1963, this hospital was redesignated in his honor and we are proud to carry his name. 

To learn more, read General Hall's biography.


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