By: Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Milton Chipman Clegg, Dental Corps, U.S. Navy (retired) on December 20, 2019 at age 86. Milton was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on March 21, 1957 and served as a Dental Corps Officer until his retirement on July 1, 1992 as the 29th Chief of the U.S. Navy Dental Corps.
Milton graduated from the University of Utah in 1956, with a degree in Experimental Biology. He was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1957 while a freshman in dental school at the University of Maryland. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in December 1957. Upon graduation from dental school, he was promoted to lieutenant and reported for active duty, with his first assignment at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay. In August 1963, he commenced duty as Assistant Dental Officer, Naval Training Center, San Diego, where he subsequently augmented into the U.S. Navy from the Naval Reserve. In July 1965, he reported to the Dental Officer aboard the amphibious command ship, USS Estes, which deployed to Vietnam three times and was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in August 1965.
In July 1967, Lt. Cmdr. Clegg reported to the Naval Dental School, NNMC, Bethesda, where he completed the graduate course in Comprehensive Dentistry. In June 1968, Lt. Cmdr. Clegg assumed duty as Assistant Dental Officer at NAS Point Mugu, Calif. Promoted to commander in June 1970, he assumed duty as Dental Officer for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Chinhae, Republic of Korea. In September 1972, he reported to the Navy Regional Dental Center at Newport, R.I. as Assistant Dental Officer.
Promoted to captain in October 1975, he assumed duty in June 1976 as Senior Dental Officer at NAS Keflavik, Iceland. In July 1978, he became head of the Branch Dental Clinic at Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C. In June 1980, he assumed command of the Third Dental Battalion, Third Force Service Support Group, Fleet Marine Force Pacific. In May 1983, he assumed command of the Naval Dental Clinic, Camp Lejuene, N.C. In August 1985, Capt. Clegg reported to the Naval Medical Command, National Capital Region as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Dental and in August 1986 was designated a Rear Admiral (lower half) while serving in a billet commensurate with that grade. In 1986 he was awarded a Master of Science in Systems Management from the University of Southern California. In September 1986, he reported to the Office of the CNO as Director Resource Division (OP-931) in the Office of the Director of Naval Medicine. He was promoted to Rear Admiral (lower half) on November 1, 1987.
In November 1987, Rear Adm. Clegg assumed command of the Naval Dental Clinic, San Diego. In January 1989, he reported to the Naval Medical Command as Director, Dental Care Operations Division, MEDCOM-06/Chief of the Dental Division and Chief of the Dental Corps. On March 1, 1989, he was promoted to Rear Admiral. In October 1989, Rear Adm. Clegg reported to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery as Assistant Chief for Dentistry, BUMED-06, Chief of the Dental Division and Chief of the Dental Corps. As Chief of the Dental Corps, he supervised 1,750 dentists providing care to U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Rear Adm. Clegg retired on July 1, 1992.
Rear Adm. Clegg’s awards included the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2), Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal (2), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3), Overseas Service Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He also received the Exemplary Service Award from the U.S. Public Health Service in 1992.
After retirement, Rear Adm. Clegg served as the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at Northwestern University Dental School for seven years. He was a member of Phi Kappa Alpha, the American Dental Association, serving as a member of the House of Delegates for that organization. He was also a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, the Federation Dentaire Internationale, and an honorary member of the Republic of Korea Military Medical Society. He was also a Fellow in both the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists.
A burial ceremony with full military honors was held at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery on January 7, 2020.
Dental Officer is one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. Navy – after all, who actually likes going to the dentist? Nevertheless, a tooth abscess in a forward deployed situation can have the same effect as a combat casualty and can be disruptive to operations. There is no question that dental readiness is an important part of combat readiness. From Vietnam, to Iceland, to Korea, Milton Clegg ensured the best possible dental care to Sailors and Marines, and did it so well he rose to be the 29th Chief of the Dental Corps were he ensured the best dental care to the entire U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. He served our navy and nation with extraordinary dedication and distinction. His leadership no doubt positively impacted following generations of Navy Dentists and leaders of the community. His legacy lives on in the great dental care that Navy receives today.
Rest in Peace Admiral Clegg.