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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral Mary A. F. Hall, NC, USN

July 29, 2022 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command

It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral (lower half) Mary Alice Fields Hall, Nurse Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired), on 21 July 2022 at age 87. Rear Admiral Hall entered the U.S. Navy in November 1958 and served in the Nurse Corps until her retirement in October 1991 as director, Navy Nurse Corps. She was the first military nurse to command a hospital, and the first Navy nurse since World War II to be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Her commands included Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay and Naval Hospital Long Beach.

Mary Hall earned her diploma in nursing from Episcopal Hospital of Nursing, Philadelphia, becoming a registered nurse in 1955. She entered the U.S. Naval Reserve on 26 November 1958 with a rank of lieutenant (junior grade), reporting for active duty on 22 January 1959. She first reported to Naval Hospital, St. Albans, New York, for the five-week course at the Navy Nurse Indoctrination Center. In March 1959, Lieutenant (j.g.) Hall was assigned to the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, serving as a charge nurse/coordinator. She was promoted to lieutenant in June 1961.

In June 1962, Lieutenant Hall returned to Naval Hospital St. Albans, serving as a charge nurse/coordinator. She augmented from the Naval Reserve in August 1962. In September 1964, she was assigned to the Headquarters, First Naval District, while attending nursing school at Boston University, earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) in 1966 as one of the first generation of Navy nurses to earn advanced degrees. She was promoted to lieutenant commander in January 1966.

In May 1966, Lieutenant Commander Hall reported to Naval Hospital Guam, serving as educational coordinator. In January 1968, she was reassigned to Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, serving as supervisor, outpatient department, responsible for ambulatory care. She was promoted to commander in April 1971.

In July 1971, Commander Hall attended the University of Maryland School of Nursing, Baltimore, earning a master of science degree in nursing (MSN—Administration) in 1973. In January 1973, she reported to the Naval Regional Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia, as nursing coordinator and patient care coordinator. In June 1975, Commander Hall was assigned

to Naval Hospital Quantico, Virginia, as director of nursing services. She was promoted to captain in September 1978.

In November 1978, Captain Hall reported to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BuMed) as head, Professional Branch/Nursing Division. In June 1981, she was assigned to the Naval Regional Medical Center, Newport, Rhode Island, as director of nursing services.

In June 1983, Captain Hall assumed command of Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In May 1985, she assumed command of Naval Hospital Long Beach.

On 1 September 1987, she was designated a rear admiral (lower half) for service in a billet commensurate with that rank and assigned as director, Navy Nurse Corps, and deputy commander for personnel management. She was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) a month later on 1 October. Her job title changed with reorganizations from commander, Naval Medical Command, and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery to assistant chief of staff for personnel management in BuMed. However, from 1987 until 1991 she served as the director, Navy Nurse Corps. During her tenure she took action to deal with an acute shortage of Navy nurses, including creating the technical nurse warrant officer program, enabling nurses with associate’s degrees to enter the Navy and receive a commission upon completion of a bachelor in nursing degree. She also oversaw the expansion of the Naval Reserve nurse program from 56 percent in 1986 to 109 percent in 1991. More than 50 percent of these nurses were activated during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the largest such deployment since World War II. Under her leadership, Navy nurses deployed in large numbers to the theater of operations, providing critical medical services not only to Navy and Marine Corps units, but to other services as well (especially in the early months) ashore in Saudi Arabia. Rear Admiral Hall’s actions in support of Desert Shield/Storm earned her the Distinguished Service Medal. She retired from active duty on 1 October 1991.

Rear Admiral Hall’s awards include the Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal (three awards); Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Unit Commendation; National Defense Service Medal (two awards); and the Navy Overseas Service Ribbon (two awards).

Rear Admiral Hall was a member of many professional, civic, and military organizations. She is the namesake of the annual nursing award to recognize contributions made through peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications.

Rear Admiral Mary Hall was described as a visionary, trailblazer< and consummate leader of the Navy Nurse Corps, and that is probably an understatement. She was among the first generation of Navy nurses to obtain advanced nursing degrees, and the strong support for advanced education became a hallmark of her leadership later in her career. She was the third Navy nurse to screen for command, but the first nurse from any service to command a hospital, an assignment previously limited to male physicians and administrators. She then became the first nurse to command two hospitals consecutively. Her superb leadership was recognized, and she was appointed as the director, Navy Nurse Corps, serving in that position for four years, which included leading the extraordinary support by the Navy Nurse Corps to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Once source says she was the first Navy nurse to be awarded a Distinguished Service Medal since World War II, another says it was the first ever. Either way, it was a tremendous achievement and testament to her abilities. She was described by those who knew her as “tough as nails, yet compassionate…with a contagious laugh.” Others described her as “a most efficient and professional leader who exacted loyalty through personal example of leadership. She exuded pride and dedication in all that she did and her personal excellence was fortified with a wonderful sense of humor.” Perhaps the last word should go to another director of the Navy Nurse Corps, Rear Admiral Joan Engel (1994–1998), who said, “She was bigger than life, but always had her feet on the ground. Her work ethic was unlimited. She gave her all—no matter what position she was assigned.” And, for giving her all, the U.S. Navy should always be grateful for the extraordinary service of Rear Admiral Mary Hall.

Rest in Peace, Admiral Hall.