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March 15, 2017

1945-53 Major General - Dr. Wallace Harry Graham President Truman's Physician, Normandy Landing, Battle of the Bulge - Graduated from UCM 1932

Major General Wallace Harry Graham, MD - UCM Warrensburg, MO Graduate and Physician to President Harry S. Truman.

Oral History Interview with Dr. Major General Wallace H. Graham, 1985

Wallace Harry Graham (October 9, 1910 – January 8, 1996) was the Physician to the President (1945-1953) during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. Wallace Harry Graham was born to John and Elizabeth (Veneman) Graham on October 9, 1910, in the northeast Kansas town of Highland. In 1919, he moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri, where his father, a physician opened a practice. Graham graduated from Paseo High School in 1928, and attended the University of Missouri for one year. He transferred to Warrensburg State Teachers' College (now UCM University of Central Missouri) where he completed his B.S. degree in 1932.

Wallace H. Graham, 1932 Rhetor, Photo Courtesty of
Vivian L. Richardson, MA, Assist. Dir. McClure Archives and Museum &
University Archivist, University of Central Missouri

Wallace H. Graham, 1932 Rhetor, Photo Courtesty of
Vivian L. Richardson, MA, Assist. Dir. McClure Archives and Museum &
University Archivist, University of Central Missouri
Wallace H. Graham, 1932 Rhetor, Photo Courtesty of
Vivian L. Richardson, MA, Assist. Dir. McClure Archives and Museum &
University Archivist, University of Central Missouri

Wallace H. Graham, 1932 Rhetor, Photo Courtesty of
Vivian L. Richardson, MA, Assist. Dir. McClure Archives and Museum &
University Archivist, University of Central Missouri
Wallace H. Graham, 1932 Rhetor, Photo Courtesty of
Vivian L. Richardson, MA, Assist. Dir. McClure Archives and Museum &
University Archivist, University of Central Missouri
Dr. William Peck, Dr. Ralph Bedell, Dr. Joseph Kallenback, Dr. Janice Gudde Plastino, Vernon Kennedy, Dr. Jack Horner UCM President
Wallace H. Graham, 1932 Rhetor, Photo Courtesty of
Vivian L. Richardson, MA, Assist. Dir. McClure Archives and Museum &
University Archivist, University of Central Missouri
Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, awarded him a medical degree in 1935 after which he completed internships at Kansas City (MO) General Hospital, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; and, Cook County General Hospital, Chicago.

In 1938, Dr. Graham completed post-graduate work in pathology and surgery at the University of Vienna and Vienna General Hospital and Városi Hospital, Szeged, Hungary, the University of Budapest. While there, a German S.S. Officer attempted to recruit Dr. Graham into the German Army. Dr. Graham helped several Austrian Jewish families immigrate to the United States, saving them from the Holocaust. In 1939, he attended the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburg, Scotland before returning to Kansas City to practice with his father. There, he served on the surgical staffs of Kansas City General Hospital, Research Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospitals.

Dr. Graham joined the US Army as first lieutenant on October 4, 1941, serving at Fort Leavenworth (KS), Ft. Leonard Wood (MO), and Ft. Warren (WY), and shipped overseas from Memphis, Tennessee. In 1943, he was assigned to the London University and Hammersmith Hospital for advanced surgical training required for combat duty. In June, 1944, he jointed the Normandy Invasion with the 24th Evacuation Hospital, landing on Omaha Easy Red Beach D-Day +4. 
Wallace Graham, witnesses a twelve year old French female sniper at Normandy, excerpt from "The History of Sniping and Sharpshooting"

He later served with the 51st Field Hospital, the 2nd Armored Division and with the 101st Airborne Division.

He was first wounded at Nijmegen, Holland, on October 30, and received three additional wounds in subsequent battles. After recovering, he served the 9th Army as Chief on Surgeons in the 97th Evacuation Hospital. He attended the wounded Operation Overlord, Operation Torch, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. On at least two occasions, Col. Graham, who was fluent in German, "talked down" German soldiers intent on killing or capturing him. On one occasion, Col. Graham single-handedly "captured" a detail of starving German soldiers and led them back to the Allied Lines where they were fed, then sent to prisoner of war camps. He was present at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp and among the first physicians to treat the prisoners.

Major General Wallace Graham's Military Decorations
Major General O-8, U.S. Air Force
Veteran of:
U.S. Army Reserve 1936-1941
U.S. Army 1941-1949
U.S. Air Force 1949-1953
U.S. Air Force Reserve 1953-1970
World War II 1941-1945
Cold War 1945-1970
Korean War 1951

While in Stuttgart, General Harry Vaughn ordered Col. Graham to Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. In an interview, General Vaughn asked Col. Graham how he would like to be the personal physician to the President of the United States. He responded that he would not because he felt the President needed a general practice physician who was older and more experienced. Additionally, he wanted to care for more than one person, so he returned to his unit. The following day, he was once again summoned to General Vaughn who sternly reminded him he was in the US Army and took orders from superior officers. Thus, Col. Graham began his duty as Personal Physician to the President. While in Potsdam, he provided medical care to the President, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Once back in the States, President Truman arranged for Col. Graham to not only serve as his physician but perform surgery at Walter Reed Army Hospital, and later as a professorial lecturer in surgery at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. Additionally, Col. Graham provided care for visiting heads of state and senior White House staff. In September, 1946, President Truman nominated him for the rank of Brigadier General.
Major General Wallace Graham, Presidential Physician and President Harry S. Truman.
General Graham graduated from UCM Warrensburg, MO

By the end of the war, General Graham had received the following international decorations for medical care to the wounded: Belgium, the Order of Leopold II, Grand Officer and Croix de Guerre with Palm; Greece, Order of the Phoenix, Grand Officer; France, Legion d'Honneur, Commander and Chevalier; Dominican Republic, Order of Juan Pablo Durante, Grand Officer; Cuba, Order of Carlos Finlay, Grand Officer; Brazil, Order of Military Merit, First Class; Nicaragua, Order of Military Merit, First Class; Peru, Medical Distinction; Mexico, Medical Citation and Medical Distinction.
 (Left to right) Col. C. R. Glenn, chief surgeon of Air Materiel Command, Maj. Gen. Malcolm G. Grow, Air Surgeon of the Army Air Force, Brig. Gen Wallace Graham, personal physician to President Truman, and Col. E. J. Kendricks, chief of the aero-medical laboratory at Wright Field, gather for a brief chat during a break in sessions of the first Flight Surgeon school which opened at Wright Field on April 7, 1947.

Wallace Graham picture with President Truman Link

While serving the President, General Graham performed surgery at Walter Reed Army Hospital in the mornings, and then spent the afternoons and evenings at the White House. Each day, General Graham would perform a medical review of the President's health, then consult on healthcare issues, treat patients and represent the White House at official functions. President Truman regularly assigned General Graham to lead medical missions on behalf of the United States Government. His 1953 mission to Saudi Arabia was among the most medically and diplomatically complicated. The Ambassador to Saudi Arabia requested medical care for King Ibn Saud for a growth on his head/neck and severe arthritis. In a matter of days, General Graham, working with the staff of Walter Reed Army Hospital, organized a complete medical and surgical unit with specialists, technicians and equipment to be flown to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Prior to performing King Saud's operation, a Saudi General warned General Graham that if the surgery was not successful, General Graham would be killed. The surgery was successful and General Graham and his staff subsequently treated the entire Royal Family and cementing cordial ties to the US. Other notable medical missions included trips to Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Brazil.

Having become close friends, Dr. Graham continued to care for President and Mrs. Truman until their deaths. Each Sunday afternoon, he visited the Trumans at their Independence, Missouri, home conducting routine check ups. Additionally, Dr. Graham maintained a busy surgical practice at Research Hospital in Kansas City, MO. Being a Kansas City Golden Gloves Champion in the 1930s, he supported the boxing organization throughout his life and served as physician to his son's boxing team.

Dr. Graham married his childhood sweetheart, Velma (Hill), and together they raised three children, Wallace Scott Graham, Heather Graham Foote, and Bruce Graham. Those who knew him, described Dr. Graham as a man of high integrity and who was extremely positive, out-going and somewhat mischievous. He embraced each life experience as an opportunity and adventure. Dr. Wallace Graham died on January 4, 1996, and is buried in Mt. Mariah Cemetery in Kansas City, MO.

In April 1950 President Truman sent Graham with a medical team to visit and assist King Ibn Saud, who, among other things, suffered from severe arthritis. The response from Riyadh was favorable, and the visit helped cement relations between the United States and the Saudi kingdom, which had been strained by the US recognition of Israel.
Dr. Wallace Harry Graham

Dr. Wallace Harry Graham, 85; Was Physician for the Trumans

Dr. Graham waded ashore at Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion in World War II and treated the wounded in the thick of battle, across France and Belgium into Germany. In August 1945, as a colonel stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, he was summoned by Brig. Gen. Harry Vaughn, Mr. Truman's military aide, who was with the President at the Potsdam Conference.
Colonel Graham had never met the Trumans, but his father, Dr. James W. Graham, was a Kansas City physician and a friend of theirs. After an interview with the President, he was offered the post of White House physician and an assignment at the Walter Reed Army Hospital, where he taught and worked as a surgeon.
He had a suite of offices filled with the latest in medical technology on the ground floor of the White House, and he also treated some senior staff members. But, he said in an interview in the New York Times Magazine in 1946, the Trumans were so healthy that he felt like the country's "most disemployed doctor."
Among his duties was to see that members of the Truman family watched their diets, exercised properly and got plenty of sleep.
Once, in 1952, he doubled as a make-up artist when Mr. Truman walked into a door at night. The President got a black eye he tried to hide behind a paint job by Dr. Graham and a pair of sunglasses.
While in the White House, Dr. Graham advanced to the rank of temporary major general of the Air Force. President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated him to the permanent rank of brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve in March 1953.
He continued to look after the Trumans in their hometown of Independence, Mo. When the 70-year-old former President was rushed to a Kansas City hospital for emergency surgery in 1954, Dr. Graham removed his gallbladder and appendix.
Wallace Graham was born in Highland, Kan., and grew up in Kansas City. He developed a lifelong interest in botany while at the University of Missouri and Central Missouri State Teachers College, where he graduated in 1932. He also boxed and was on the track team.
He earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School and shared a private practice with his father until he was called up for duty in the Army Reserve. He was posted to several medical installations and advanced to captain by the time the United States entered World War II.
In the spring of 1944 he was sent to England as a member of the First Hospital Unit of the First Army. He went ashore at Easy Red Omaha Beach four days after D-Day, with the battle raging a few miles ahead.
The hospital unit pitched tents in an open field that had been the scene of fierce fighting a day earlier. By nightfall, his tents, with 400 beds, had taken in close to 900 of the wounded.
The unit saw some of the war's bitterest engagements, including the Battle of the Bulge, where Dr. Graham was wounded.
He was awarded the Bronze Star, and other decorations, as well as medals from France, Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Dr. Graham is survived by his wife of 60 years, Velma Hill Graham; two sons, Dr. Bruce, of Overland Park, Kan., and Dr. Wallace S., of Santa Fe, N.M.; a daughter, Heather Foote of Columbia, Mo., and eight grandchildren.

Major General Wallace Graham Timeline
1910 (October 9) Born, Highland, Kansas
1928-1930 Attended University of Missouri
1932 A.B., Central Missouri State College
1936 Graduated, Creighton University School of Medicine
1936 (June 4) Appointed First Lieutenant, Army Medical Reserve Corps
1937-1938 University of Vienna General Hospital
1938-1939 Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, Scotland
1939 University of Budapest, Hungary
1940 Cook County General Hospital, Chicago, Illinois
1941 Chief Pathologist & Ward Surgeon, Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri
1941 (December 24) Promoted to Captain
1942-1945 Chief of Surgical Service, 24th Evacuation Hospital
1943 (January 30) Promoted to Major
1944 (January 10) Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel
1945 (August 14) Promoted to Colonel
1945-1953 White House Physician; Chief of Surgical Section, Walter Reed Army Hospital
1945-1972 Personal Physician to Harry S. Truman
1951 Promoted to Major General
1953 Returned to private practice
1972-1982 Personal Physician to Bess W. Truman
1996 (January 4) Died, Kansas City, Missouri


Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. "Wallace H. Graham Papers". Retrieved 26 May 2014. 

Memoirs of Wallace H. Graham, Citizen, Soldier and Surgeon, edited by Sandra L. Colyer 

Brown, Taylor Kate (8 June 2015). "The secret US mission to heal Saudi King Ibn Saud". BBC News Magazine. Archived from the original on 8 June 2015.

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