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 Philip Oldham “Phil” Geib, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired) on October 11, 2020 at age 99. Rear Adm. Geib enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in August 1942 and went on to serve as a Medical Corps Doctor until his retirement in October 1977 as the Fleet Surgeon for Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, with additional duty as senior Medical Officer for all Norfolk major commands. He deployed to the Korean War aboard carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA 45) in 1952-1953. His commands included Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan and Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Phil Geib graduated from Franklin and Marshal College in Lancaster, Penn. in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science in General Science. On August 25, 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was commissioned as an ensign. He subsequently resigned his commission on May 10, 1943 and the next day entered the Navy V-12 program to study medicine, reporting for active duty in July 1943. On June 21, 1945 he graduated from Temple University with a degree as Doctor of Medicine and was commissioned a lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Naval Reserve and continued on active duty.
Lt. j.g. Geib’s first duty station was an internship at Naval Hospital Chelsea, Mass. commencing in June 1945, finishing as a Staff Medical Officer. In July 1946, Lt. j.g. Geib reported to the U.S. Navy Operating Base Leyte-Samar, Philippine Islands as a General Medical Officer. In July 1947, he was assigned to Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Va. On March 23, 1948, he was honorably released from active duty. While in the inactive reserve he obtained resident training in surgery at Scotland County Memorial Hospital, N.C.
On January 9, 1949, Lt. j.g. Geib reported for active duty and was assigned to Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Penn. under instruction and was promoted to lieutenant in May 1949. On July 22, 1949 he augmented from the U.S. Naval Reserve into the U.S. Navy. In February 1950, Lt. Geib reported to Naval Hospital Corpus Christi, Texas as Ward Medical Officer. In May 1951, Lt. Geib was re-assigned to the U.S. Navy Medical Unit of Tripler Army Hospital, Oahu, Hawaii. During this period he deployed to the Korean War combat zone aboard carrier Valley Forge (CVA 45) from December 1952 to February 1953. In July 1953, Lt. Geib returned to Portsmouth Naval Hospital for duty under instruction in surgery, and was promoted to lieutenant commander in July 1954.
In September 1954, Lt. Cmdr. Geib reported to the Naval Hospital Annapolis, Md. as Surgical and Medical Officer, and was promoted to commander in October 1955. In September 1957, Cmdr. Geib assumed duty as Medical Officer on the battleship USS Iowa (BB 61) for a midshipman summer cruise to South America, the International Naval Review at Hampton Roads and major NATO exercise “Strikeback.” In 1958, Cmdr. Geib was designated a Diplomate with the American Board of Surgery. In February 1958, he reported to Naval Hospital Portsmouth as Assistant Chief of Surgery/Acting Chief of Surgical Service. In 1960 he became a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons. He was promoted to captain in July 1960.
In September 1962, Capt. Geib reported to Naval Hospital Pensacola, Fla. as Chief of Surgery. This was followed in July 1964 by a tour at Naval Hospital Great Lakes, Ill. as Chief of Surgical Service. In August 1968, he reported to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan as Executive Officer and Chief of Surgical Service. In July 1969 Capt. Geib assumed command of Naval Hospital Yokosuka with additional duty as Surgeon Advisor and Staff Medical Officer for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan. During this period, Naval Hospital Yokosuka was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation. In July 1971, Capt. Geib assumed command of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was awarded his first Meritorious Service Medal.
Capt. Geib was promoted to rear admiral on July 1, 1972. In August 1972, Rear Adm. Geib reported to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Washington, D.C. as Assistant Chief for Research and Military Medical Specialties. In July 1974, Rear Adm. Geib assumed duty as Fleet Surgeon for Commander-in-Chief U.S. Atlantic Fleet, with additional duty as Assistant Chief of Staff for Medicine on the staffs of Commander-in-Chief Atlantic, Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, Commander-in-Chief Western Atlantic, and Commander Ocean Submarine Area. In July 1967, Rear Adm. Geib became Medical Training and Readiness Officer for Commander Training, U.S. Atlantic Fleet while retaining his responsibilities as Fleet Surgeon of Commander-in-Chief U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Rear Adm. Geib retired on October 1, 1977.
Rear Adm. Geib’s awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal (2), Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal.
Following retirement from active duty, Rear Adm. Geib served as the Norshipco Company Physician until 1993. He continued to serve as an Assistant Professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Family Medicine, for which he received a prestigious award, while also serving as a member of the Medical School Admissions Committee. He continued seeing patients until he was 95. He was also a member of the Portsmouth Academy of Medicine, the staff at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, the Rotary Club of Portsmouth (serving as a former chapter president and Paul Harris Fellow) the Portsmouth chapter of Retired Military Officers, the Portsmouth Assembly, the Town Point Club of Norfolk, and Trinity Episcopal Church. In 2019, he was awarded a Distinguished Citizen Medal by the Portsmouth-based Fort Nelson chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Phil Geib’s first wife Frances M. (Parker) Geib (pre-deceased in 1999) was serving as a Navy Nurse when they married in 1949.
Phil Geib was described as “ever the optimist” who “had a smile for everyone” and “looked at the sunny side of everything.” This may be a secret to his longevity, but he was also an extraordinary surgeon, Medical Corps Officer and Navy leader. There are no doubt many people, Navy family members and service members who owe their lives to Doctor Geib, both during and after his service on active duty. In particular, his time at Tripler Army Hospital involved treatment and saving the lives of Korean War casualties, as did his time deployed on carrier Valley Forge during Korean War combat strike operations. Under his outstanding leadership, the Naval Hospital in Yokosuka was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation (very rare for a shore command at the time) for superb treatment of several thousand casualties from the Vietnam War, and his tour in command of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune included treatment of Marine casualties returning from the Vietnam War. He used these lessons to ensure the highest state of medical readiness for U.S. Navy forces in the Atlantic, even during the austere budgets of the 1970’s. He was so passionate about his work that he continued teaching medicine and treating patients almost to the very end of his life. It is hard to imagine a more fulfilling occupation than saving lives and he did it well. Countless patients, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and our nation, owe him a deep debt of gratitude that should never be forgotten.
Rest in Peace Admiral Geib.