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Photo Silas Hays

Surgeons General

SILAS BEACH HAYS was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on 18 February 1902. He attended grammar and high schools in Washington, DC, and West Chester, Pennsylvania. He then attended Iowa State College for two and a half years and transferred to the State University of Iowa, from which he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1925 and a Doctor of Medicine degree under the ROTC program in 1928.

General Hays was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corps on 4 June 1928, and assigned to active duty. He received his Regular commission as a 1st lieutenant on 1 August 1929. After interning at Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California, during 1928 and 1929, he was given the post of ward officer in the medical service of that hospital for 12 months. His forcefulness, professional competence, conscientiousness, diligence, and promise as a medical officer were soon recognized by his superiors in this his first Regular Army assignment.

At the end of a year, Lieutenant Hays entered the Army Medical School, Washington, D.C. in 1930. He graduated from that school in 1931, then entered the Medical Field Service School, graduating in 1931 also.

Following brief tours at Camp Dix, New Jersey, and Letterman General Hospital, General Hays was transferred to Hawaii in 1932 where he served 29 months at Tripler General Hospital as chief of the genito-urinary section and assistant in general surgery. In 1934, he was assigned to Walter Reed General Hospital at Washington, D.C. for 20 months training in general surgery and urology. He then became Chief of Surgical Service at the U.S. Soldiers Home in Washington.

General Hays entered medical supply work in 1937 at the New York General Depot in Brooklyn. He was selected to go to the Army Industrial College in 1939 and in June 1940, graduated from that institution and assigned to the Finance and Supply Division of the Surgeon General's Office.

In his first assignment in the Surgeon General's Office in July 1940, Hays earned praise from Lieutenant Colonel Tyng for his wide knowledge of medical supplies and their relation to other supply services. That knowledge rendered him unique in that he possessed more knowledge of the Supply Service than any other officer in the Medical Department. Tyng considered him of tremendous value to the Service by reason of his education, his experience, and his general adaptability to any given situation.

Early in the summer in 1942, Colonel Hays was elevated from his subordinate position to the newly created position of Director, Distribution Division, Supply Service, Surgeon General's Office. In this capacity he had complete jurisdiction of the storage and issue of medical supplies in the continental United States. This was at a time when operations were expanding rapidly because of the tremendously increased procurement program, many times larger than any such program ever before undertaken by the Medical Department.

General Hays was awarded the Legion of Merit in October 1944 for outstanding service from August 1942 to February 1944. As Director, Distribution Division, later enlarged to Distribution and Requirements Division, Office of the Surgeon General, he organized the storage and issue activities of the Medical Department supply operations including the development of an Inventory Control System closely coordinated with issues.

By use of his extensive knowledge of supply and administration, and by close and energetic personal supervision, Colonel Hays effected an efficient Supply Service during a period of accelerated activation when supplies, trained personnel and facilities were most difficult to procure. Without his inspiring leadership and extraordinary devotion to duty, the formation of an outstanding service would not have been accomplished with such success and efficiency.

In February 1944, he went to the European Theater to study supply problems in the Officer of the Chief Surgeon. The following May, he was assigned to the European Theater as Chief of the Supply Division in the Office of the Chief Surgeon. Maj. Gen. Paul R. Hawley, Chief Surgeon of the European Theater, in his recommendation of Hays for promotion to general officer on 23 May 1945, cited his outstanding service.

Hays organized and developed a system of key depots among medical supply depots. By 6 June 1944, he had completely reorganized the theater medical supply program and his success in the venture was evidenced by the fact that no critical shortages arose at any time during the early progress of the invasion.

Hays was primarily instrumental in arranging for air shipments of whole blood, penicillin, and other medical supply items which, it was anticipated, would be in critical demand during the war of movement across France and into Germany. As Communications Zone took over the supply program from the armies, Colonel Hays established a depot system which provided adequate distribution of stocks for direct support of the armies and for Communications Zone installations

Hawley noted that Hays assumed responsibilities of the theater medical supply program from the outset of the most critical planning period in the theater's history, the 90 days immediately prior to the invasion of the Continent. He instituted the stock control system which established theater levels for each item in medical supply, he initiated a system of central supply accounting which enabled him to know the theater position of any item at any given time, and he perfected a replenishing system from the United States.

For his services in the Office of the Chief Surgeon in the European Theater, Colonel Hays was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Legion of Merit. In June 1945, the French Provisional Government awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm and in November 1945, named him an "Officer de l'Ordre de la Sante Publique."

In August 1945, General Hays returned to the United States and three months later was appointed chief of the Supply Division in the Office of the Surgeon General. In May 1950, he was named Surgeon of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, with station at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

In September 1950, Hays became Surgeon of the Japan Logistical Command, with headquarters at Tokyo, Japan. He was responsible for directing and coordinating Medical activities for the whole of Japan and in support of the Korean conflict as well. General Hays planned and supervised the conversion of additional facilities to accommodate general hospital units arriving from the Zone of Interior. Occupation facilities, limited in scope, were seriously taxed to meet large numbers of battle casualties, but through an astute organization of limited facilities, equipment, and personnel, he instituted procedures whereby a large percentage of casualties which might otherwise have been evacuated from the theater, returned to duty.

Working with air transportation authorities and the Eighth Army, he devised and perfected an air evacuation system so that casualties received definite treatment sooner, and were expeditiously routed to specialized hospitals with less strain on the rail transportation systems.

General Hays returned to the United States in August 1951 to become Deputy Surgeon General at Army headquarters. A year later, Maj. Gen. George E. Armstrong, The Surgeon General of the Army, noted that he could be absent from his office on long official trips with complete confidence, that the decisions made and the actions taken by Hays in his absence will be sound, logical, and resourceful.

Hays, he felt, was unselfish and completely objective in his thinking and possessed of a remarkable mind, able to approach the most complex problem to single out and identify those elements which are fundamental to its solution and to arrive at a logical conclusion without being diverted by irrelevant details. Armstrong noted that Hays was completely loyal to the best interests of the Service and to the maintenance of the highest standards of medical care. Hays, he felt, was both liked and respected by all of his associates.

In March 1955, General Hays was named Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, and took the oath of office as The Surgeon General of the Army on 1 June 1955. During his 4-year tenure of that office, he discharged his duties with high distinction and received only the highest praise for his keen intellect, calmness, soundness of judgment, stability, forcefulness, aggressiveness, tact, and administrative ability. Before retiring in 1959, he served briefly as Special Assistant to The Surgeon General.

General Hays initiated and sponsored medical research to assure an effective medical serve in line with changing ideas of warfare. Of great significance also was his sponsoring of research in methods of protecting personnel against exposure to radioactivity and in the development of treatment methods for those exposed to it. He inaugurated courses in the management of mass casualties and headed a traveling team of experts in this field who spread information in methods of dealing with the dangers of nuclear warfare. Under General Hays' guidance, laboratories were established overseas to investigate possible disease hazards to U.S. troops and human plasma research was intensified.

General Hays vigorously supported a hospital construction program to replace outmoded facilities. He also implemented and supervised the program of dependents' medical care for members of all the uniformed services. His aggressive support of a preventive psychiatry program, in which mental hygiene service units were established hd assisted in effecting a marked decrease in psychiatric admission rates in hospitals and treatment centers.

For his initiative in many significant accomplishments and for his leadership and professional competence in the development of new techniques of diagnosis and therapy in many specialized fields, General Hays was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (first Oak Leaf Cluster) on completing his tour as The Surgeon General in 1959.

Personal Data

Date and Place of Birth: 18 February 1902, St. Paul, Minnesota

Date and Place of Death: 24 July 1964, Arlington, Virginia

Parents: Willet M. Hays and Ellen (Beach) Hays

Marriage: Marjorie (Murtagh) Hays

Children: James Murtagh Hays and Ellen Carol (Hays) Raetzsch


High School, West Chester, Pennsylvania, 1919

Iowa State College (Engineering, 2 ½ years)

B.S., University of Iowa, 1925

M.D., University of Iowa, 1928

Army Medical School, Washington, D.C.,1931

Medical Field Service School, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, 1931

Army Industrial College, Washington, D.C.,1940

Career Summary


Intern, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California
1st Lieutenant, USAR, 4 June 1928


Ward Officer, Medical Service, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California
1st Lieutenant, Regular Army, 1 August 1929


Student Officer, Army Medical School, Washington, D.C.


Student Officer, Basic Course, Medical Field Service School, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania


Assistant to the Surgeon, Camp Dix, New Jersey

Captain, 28 July 1931


Assistant to Ward Officer, Orthopedic Section, Surgical Service, Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, California


Chief, Genito-Urinary Section, Surgical Service, Tripler General Hospital, Honolulu, T.H.


Assistant Chief, Surgical Service; Ward Officer, Genito-Urinary Section, Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D.C.


In charge of Surgical Service and G.U. Clinic; Assistant Operating Surgeon, Hospital, U.S. Soldiers' Home, Washington, D.C.


Student in Laboratory, Procurement Planning, and Storage and Issue Sections, New York General Depot, Brooklyn, New York


Student Officer, Army Industrial College, Washington, D.C.


Director, Distribution and Requirements Division, Supply Service, Surgeon General's Office, Washington, D.C.
Major, 27 July 1940
Lt. Colonel, 9 March 1942
Colonel, 9 January 1943


Chief, Supply Division, Office of the Chief Surgeon, Hq. ETOUSA


Chief, Supply Division, Office of The Surgeon General, Washington, D.C.


Special Assistant to The Surgeon General, U.S. Army


Headquarters, U.S. Army, Pacific
Ft. Shafter, Hawaii.


Headquarters, Japan Logistical Command


Deputy Surgeon General, U.S. Army
Brigadier General, AUS, 9 April 1952
Major General, AUS, 9 July 1952


The Surgeon General, U.S. Army


Retired, 31 July 1959


Member, American Medical Association
Fellow, American College of Physicians
Member, Association of Military Surgeons
Honorary Fellow, American College of Chest Surgeons
Honorary Member, American Foundation for tropical Medicine
Member, Board of Directors, Army Mutual Aid Association
Member, Board of Commissioners, U.S. Soldiers Home
Member, Board of Directors, Gorgas Memorial Institute
Member, Board of Governors, American Board of Physicians
Member, Board of Managers, Walter Reed Memorial Association
Member, Executive Committee, National Board of medical Examiners
Ex-officio member, Leonard Wood Memorial Advisory Medical Board
Theta Delta Chi
Phi Rho Sigma
Alpha Omega Alpha

Awards and Decorations

Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal with Germany and Japan clasps
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Croix de Guerre with Palm
Order of Sante Publique


Hays, Silas B. "Medical Preparedness." JAMA 168 (September 1958): 254-257.

________. "Medicare Law." Military Medicine 120 (January 1957): 19-20.

________. "Who, Me Teach?" U.S. Armed Forces Medical Journal 8 (June 1957): 781-783.

________. "Program for Medical Preparedness." U.S. Armed Forces Medical Journal 7 (February 1956): 242-261.

________. "Military Hospitals." Military Medicine 118 (March 1956): 177-185.

________. "Military Problems and the Civilian Physician." J. M. Assn. Georgia 45 (November 1956): 465-469.

________. "The Problem of Mass Casualties." Medical Arts & Sciences 10 (1956): 52-58.

________. "William Crawford Gorgas, Master Sanitarian." U.S. Armed Forces Medical Journal 5 (October 1954):1469-1480.

________. "The Army Medical Service." U.S. Armed Forces Medical Journal 4 (February 1953): 167-174.

________. "The Manufacture of Clinical Thermometers." Military Surgeon 84 (April 1939): 367-373.