Herbert G. Stoecklein – Rear Admiral, Untied States Navy

Herbert G. Stoecklein, 88; spearheaded new naval hospital
By Jack Williams
October 19, 2005

As casualties began to mount in the Vietnam War, Herbert G. Stoecklein's assignment as commanding officer of the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton took on new urgency.

In addition to supervising the treatment of wounded servicemen flown to the hospital, he spearheaded plans for a new, $20 million facility to meet increasing demands.

Then, after being promoted from Captain to Rear Admiral, he took on another formidable challenge: serving as commandant at Balboa Naval Hospital, an outmoded facility whose resources were stretched to the limit.

When Admiral Stoecklein retired from the Navy in 1974, his work was far from done. He lobbied forcefully for a new hospital to replace the original Balboa Park complex and assumed a wide range of civic leadership roles.

Among them: presidencies of the United Services Organization, the San Diego Council of the Navy League, the San Diego chapter of the American Heart Association and the Combined Health Agencies of San Diego County.

Admiral Stoecklein died Sunday at his Del Cerro, California, home of complications of radiation treatment, which he was receiving for skin cancer, said his son Ronald. He was 88.

In 1972, after serving as senior medical officer of the Atlantic Fleet, he was assigned command of Balboa Naval Hospital. Many of the buildings of the hospital were nearing 50 years old and were sorely in need of modernization.

A longtime proponent of a new naval hospital, Admiral Stoecklein campaigned for a Murphy Canyon site. Instead, under the leadership of U.S. Rep. Bob Wilson (R-San Diego), the replacement hospital was built on 74 acres of Balboa Park's Florida Canyon. Completed in 1987, it became the San Diego Naval Medical Center.

Herbert George Stoecklein was born December 14, 1916, in Pittsburgh. He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Pittsburgh and received his medical degree from Hahnemann School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

In 1942, he entered the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade. Serving as a medical officer with the 6th Marine Division in the Pacific during World War II, he earned a Bronze Star.

In a cave converted to a treatment center for the wounded, Admiral Stoecklein was assisting in a surgery when enemy forces attacked. Using his .45 pistol, he defended the cave and shot down some of the attackers.

Admiral Stoecklein served during the Korean War with the 2nd Marine Division. Subsequent assignments sent him to the University of Illinois and to Balboa Naval Hospital for further medical study.

In 1956, he left San Diego for Guantanamo, Cuba, where he negotiated the release of sailors, Marines and civilians who had been taken hostage by Fidel Castro's rebel forces, which were fighting the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship from their bastion in the Sierra Maestra mountains. (Castro's insurgency triumphed on January 1, 1959.)

Admiral Stoecklein returned to the United States to serve with the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, D.C., and later at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. In 1963, he wrote a guide for medical personnel to be used throughout the Navy.

In August 1967, he assumed command of the hospital at Camp Pendleton and immediately began planning to replace 90 wooden structures of World War II vintage.

In November 1969, Congress approved funds for an ultra-modern new hospital.

For his efforts at Camp Pendleton, which included coordinating medical services for evacuees from Vietnam, Admiral Stoecklein was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal. He was promoted to Rear Admiral and assigned as a medical adviser to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In retirement, Admiral Stoecklein applied the leadership and organizational skills that distinguished his naval career.

He headed the School of Medical Associates (SOMA) in an effort to inform the public about the new school of medicine at the University of California San Diego. He served as chairman of the board for the Philip Y. Hahn School of Nursing at the University of San Diego and served in a similar capacity with the Alvarado Hospital Medical Center Advisory Board.

“During the course of civic activities, he developed an interest in the travel business,” his son said. Organizing trips for friends, business professionals and retired military officers, Admiral Stoecklein circled the globe, always with his wife, Jane, at his side.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years; daughter, Barbara Viola of Virginia Beach, Virginia; sons, Ronald of Carlsbad and Donald of Henderson, Nevada; five grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Mission San Diego de Alcala. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. on 4 January 2006.

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