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Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Joint Task Force National Capital Region/Medical
The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as the National Naval Medical Center in August 2003.
Location 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Montgomery County, Maryland, United States of America
Care system Military
Hospital type Teaching
Beds 345
Founded November 11, 1940
Other links
Bethesda Naval Hospital Tower
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is located in Maryland
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Location 8901 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, Maryland
Area 1 acre (0.4 ha)
Built 1939
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body Federal
NRHP Reference # 77000700[1]
Added to NRHP March 8, 1977

The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), formerly known as the National Naval Medical Center and colloquially referred to as the Bethesda Naval Hospital, is a tri-service military medical center located in the community of Bethesda, Maryland, near the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health. It is one of the most prominent U.S. military medical centers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and the United States, having served numerous U.S. presidents since the 20th century.


  • History as the National Naval Medical Center (1940–2011) 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • Kennedy assassination 1.2
    • U.S. Presidential visits to NNMC 1.3
    • Modernization 1.4
  • History as the WRNNMC (2005-present) 2
    • The 2005 BRAC 2.1
    • Construction and cost overruns 2.2
    • Current operations 2.3
  • List of Commanders 3
    • Commanders of the National Naval Medical Center 3.1
    • Commanders of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

History as the National Naval Medical Center (1940–2011)

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
The JTF CapMed logo
Active November 11, 1940 – present
Country  United States of America
Type Military hospital
Part of U.S. Department of Defense
BG Jeff Clark, MC, USA
Army Element, Distinctive Unit Insignia[2]

Early history

In 1938, the United States Congress appropriated funds for the acquisition of land for the construction of a new Naval medical center, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected the present site in Bethesda, Maryland, on July 5, 1938.

Ground was broken by John McShain Builders for the Naval Medical Center on June 29, 1939 by Rear Admiral Percival S. Rossiter, MC, USN, (Ret.). President Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Tower on Armistice Day, November 11, 1940.

The original Medical Center was composed of the Naval Hospital, designed to hold 1,200 beds, and the Naval Medical School, the Naval Dental School (now the National Naval Dental Center) and the Naval Medical Research Institute. In 1945, at the end of World War II, temporary buildings were added to accommodate up to 2,464 wounded American sailors and marines.

Kennedy assassination

In November 1963, the autopsy of U.S. President John F. Kennedy was performed at Bethesda. On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas with his wife, Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and his wife, Nellie. The wounded president was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Parkland doctors and local coroner insisted that they perform the autopsy, since he had been murdered in Dallas County. However, with concern for the security of the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, the Secret Service demanded that the assassinated president's body would be taken to Washington, D.C. immediately aboard Air Force One. This decision was made to overrule Texas law. An autopsy was performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital during the evening of November 22, 1963. The manner in which the autopsy was conducted and photographic analysis of it have become the subject of controversy.

U.S. Presidential visits to NNMC

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan wave from a Bethesda hospital window after his cancer surgery in 1985. Both would eventually be patients at the hospital again.

When NNMC was dedicated in 1942, its original intention was to provide medical care to military personnel only. But since Franklin D. Roosevelt had paralysis of his lower extremities, the medical center immediately offered to provide the President with any medicine or treatment necessary to keep him physically fit for the presidency. With that, an official White House doctor was appointed by the President to sort out medical issues with him. Since FDR, most presidents have used a military hospital close to Washington, D.C., either Bethesda or Walter Reed AMC, as the primary facility for them and their immediate family to receive medical care. Each president pays for any of his medical expenses personally.

Franklin D. Roosevelt selected the site of the hospital, laid the cornerstone, and made formal dedication remarks at the hospitals opening on November 11, 1940.

Acting President clause of the 25th Amendment,[3] and on January 5, 1987, Reagan underwent surgery for prostate cancer which caused further worries about his health. At this time, Reagan was 76 years old.

First Lady Nancy Reagan, on October 17, 1987, underwent a mastectomy due to breast cancer.


In August 1960, a $5.6 million expansion project was initiated and consisted of two five-story wings attached to the main building's east side. Completed in the summer of 1963, Buildings 7 and 8 provided space for 258 beds and replaced the World War II temporary ward buildings.

In January 1973, the mission of the Naval Medical Center was modified to include the provision: "to provide coordinated dispensary health care services as an integral element of the Naval Regional Health Care System, including shore activities, as may be assigned." This change established the National Naval Medical Center Region and placed all naval health care facilities within the Naval District Washington under the authority of the commanding officer of the Medical Center.

The new inpatient buildings and the Naval Medical Center were consolidated into one command on September 1, 1973, to form National Naval Medical Center. In 1975, an extensive renovation began which included the construction of two new buildings: Building 9, a three-story outpatient structure, and Building 10, a seven-story, 500 bed inpatient facility, with a combined area of more than 880,000 square feet (82,000 m²).

In 1979, the remaining temporary buildings were replaced with a multi-level staff-parking garage. This addition made National Naval Medical Center one of the largest medical facilities in the country. The original Naval Medical Center tower was since listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

History as the WRNNMC (2005-present)

The 2005 BRAC

In accordance with the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure recommendations, an Office of Integration (OI) was formed in November 2005 to oversee the merger of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC). That merged facility was to be staffed by Army, Navy, and Air Force medical personnel and become the core of an integrated military medicine system in the National Capital Region (NCR). What in 2005 were three medical centers, a small community hospital, and 19 clinics offering medical care to military beneficiaries in the NCR was to become, with oversight of the OI, a single tri-service medical center, a large tri-service hospital in Northern Virginia, and 20 area clinics.
The 2008 groundbreaking ceremony

Construction and cost overruns

George W. Bush officiating.

The goal of the merger was for the government to ultimately spend less maintaining a new building than an old one. It was estimated that the new facility would cost about $172 million less to manage each year. The original 2005 estimate of the cost of shutting down WRAMC, and shifting it across town to Bethesda, and other locations, was "just under $900 million" according to Brian Lepore of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The “payback period” — i.e., the point after which the full amount of the investment will have been recouped and at which savings actually commence — was to have started in 2011. But the relocation cost unexpectedly rose by 245% between the original 2005 projection and the 2011 opening. Instead of under $900 million, it turned out to be about triple that at $2.7 billion. Thus the payback period is expected to begin about seven years late, around 2018. One reason costs skyrocketed was that construction costs went up, partly due to a huge amount of building materials being sent to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. According to Todd Harrison, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in 2005, “when they made their initial estimates of what it would cost … they did their best estimate …. A lot of things have changed since then. Construction costs have gone up." The GAO agrees that the WRNMMC project tripled in price mostly because of a rise in construction costs.[4]

The NNMC was rechristened Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on September 14, 2011, shortly after the closing of the WRAMC.

Current operations

WRNMMC serves as the location of the headquarters for Joint Task Force National Capital Region/Medical, a tri-service task force providing command and control for most medical treatment facilities in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey. The WRNMMC continues to provide all the services it provided as NNMC, having additionally absorbed many departments and services from WRAMC.

In September 2013, a ceremony placed U.S. Army Brigadier General Jeff Clark as the commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center - Bethesda. BG Clark is the first Army commander of the medical center.

List of Commanders

Commanders of the National Naval Medical Center

Dates of Service Commander
1935–1936 CAPT Ulys R. Webb, MC, USN
1936–1938 RADM C.S. Butler, MC, USN
1938–1941 RADM H.W. Smith, MC, USN
1941–1942 RADM C.M. Oman, MC, USN
1942–1944 RADM C.W.O. Bunker, MC, USN
1944-1944 CAPT John Harper, MC, USN
1944–1946 RADM W.M. Chambers, MC, USN
1946–1948 RADM T.C. Anderson, MC, USN
1948–1951 RADM M.D. Willcutts, MC, USN
1951-1951 RADM C.A. Swanson, MC, USN
1951–1952 RADM W.J.C. Agnew, MC, USN
1952–1953 RADM B. Groesbeck, Jr., MC, USN
1953–1955 RADM L.O. Stone, MC, USN
1955–1956 RADM H.L. Pugh, MC, USN
1956-1956 CAPT E.C. Kenney, MC, USN
1956–1959 RADM T.F. Cooper, MC, USN
1959–1960 RADM B.E. Bradley, MC, USN
1960–1962 RADM F.P. Kreuz, MC, USN
1962–1963 RADM R.B. Brown, MC, USN
1963–1965 RADM C.C. Galloway, MC, USN
1965–1966 RADM C.L. Andrews, MC, USN
1966–1968 RADM G.M. Davis, MC, USN
1968–1969 RADM R.O. Canada, MC, USN
1969–1973 RADM F.P. Ballenger, MC, USN
1973–1975 RADM R.G.W. Williams, MC, USN
1975–1976 RADM D.E. Brown Jr., MC, USN
1976–1981 RADM J.T. Horgan, MC, USN
1981–1984 RADM Q.E. Crews, MC, USN
1984–1985 COMO R.G. Shaffer, DC, USN
1985–1987 RADM R.G. Shaffer, DC, USN
1987–1988 RADM Donald L. Sturtz, MC, USN
1988–1991 RADM Donald F. Hagen, MC, USN
1991–1994 RADM Davis M. Lichtman, MC, USN
1994–1997 RADM Richard I, Ridenour, MC, USN
1997–1999 RADM Bonnie B. Potter, MC, USN
1999–2002 RADM Kathleen L. Martin, NC, USN
2002–2004 RADM Donald C. Arthur, MC, USN
2004–2007 RADM Adam M. Robinson, MC, USN
2007–2008 RADM Richard R. Jeffries, MC, USN
2008–2011 RADM Matthew L. Nathan, MC, USN

Commanders of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Dates of Service Commander
2011–2013 RADM Alton Stocks, MC, USN
2013–Present BG Jeff Clark, MC, USA

See also


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  2. ^ "Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, US Army Element". Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "What is the 25th Amendment and When Has It Been Invoked?". History News Network. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  4. ^ Bowman, Tom, “When Will Closing Walter Reed Pay Off? Maybe 2018”, All Things Considered, August 15, 2011.

External links

  • Official website
  • DoD Lodging Worldwide
  • Navy Lodge Bethesda
  • National Naval Medical Center at the Wayback Machine (archived September 26, 2002)
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