Michael DeBakey receiving the Legion of Merit Award from Surgeon General Norman Thomas Kirk

Michael DeBakey receiving the Legion of Merit Award from Surgeon General Norman Thomas Kirk
The Legion of Merit was established by an Act of Congress in July 1942, and it was the first U.S. decoration that could be awarded to citizens of other nations. It could be awarded for combat or noncombat services, and served to recognize those "who shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services." DeBakey received the award for his contributions toward the development of auxiliary surgical groups, later called mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) units. Norman Thomas Kirk, a native of Maryland, graduated from the University of Maryland in 1910, and proceeded to become a well-known military surgeon. During World War I he worked at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC, and is credited with having treated at least one third of major amputations performed during the war. He provided valuable service at various hospitals throughout the country and headed a hospital for specialized treatment of soldiers during World War II. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Kirk Surgeon General, and under his guidance "the U.S. Army in World War II achieved a record of recovery from wounds and freedom from disease never before accomplished in history." Many years later, in August 1960, DeBakey operated on Kirk's aneurysm, but Kirk died a week later. Other individuals in this photo have not been identified.
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Courtesy of Katrin DeBakey.
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