Military Bios

Brigadier General John R. Copenhaver:

Military Branch:United States Airforce
Died Dec. 25, 1982.
John B. Copenhaver was born at Marion, Va., in 1902. He graduated from the Marion High School in 1920. Intending to go to West Point, he attended Virginia Military Institute for two years. Following a six months illness, however, his West Point nomination was cancelled. He decided to study medicine. General Copenhaver completed pre-medical requirements at the University of Virginia and graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in 1930.
The general was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps in 1930 and finished Army Medical School in 1931. He received his regular Army commission in 1932.
His first assignment was as an intern at Walter Reed General Hospital at Washington, D.C. Upon completing internship and an additional year's special training in ear, nose and throat surgery, he attended the Medical Field Service School at Carlisle, Pa.
Following graduation from this school, he was assigned to the Civilian Conservation Corps at Eureka, Calif., as district surgeon from July 1932 to July 1933; next as district surgeon for the CCC at Lewiston, Idaho, July 1933 to June 1934. That year General Copenhaver was transferred to the Philippine Islands.
During his stint at Fort Statsenburg, P.I., he served respectively as attending surgeon, July 1934 to January 1935; assistant surgeon and chief, Surgical Services, February 1935 to March 1937; and officer-in-charge, Out-Patient Services, March 1937 to May 1938. Upon his return to the United States he attended the School of Aviation Medicine, graduating in October 1938.
That same month, General Copenhaver was assigned to Kelly Field, Texas, as chief, Aviation Medicine Division. Two years later he was ordered to Ladd Field, Alaska, where he served as officer-in-charge, Cold Weather Testing, August 1940 to December 1941 (This outfit prepared the first manuals for military operation in cold climates); post surgeon, Cold Weather Testing, January 1942 to November 1942; wing surgeon, November 1942 to July 1943.
Upon his return to the United States, he served as assistant surgeon at Headquarters Air Force Training Command, Fort Worth, Texas, from August 1943 to April 1944. From Texas he was assigned as surgeon of the Eastern Technical Training Command at St. Louis, Mo. This assignment ended January 1945, when he assumed the surgeon's position, 4th Air Force, San Francisco, Calif. He held this position until assignment as surgeon for the 12th Air Force hospital commander, March Field, Calif., in January 1946.
In June 1946 he was assigned as commander of the Air Force's largest hospital at Lackland Field, San Antonio, Texas. In June 1949, General Copenhaver was transferred to Europe where he assumed command of the Air Force hospital at Wiesbaden, Germany, from July 1949 to June 1952.
From July 1952 to September 1954 he was commander of the Air Force hospital at Sampson Air Force Base, N.Y., and from September 1954 to August 1956 staff surgeon, Technical Training Air Force at Gulfport, Miss.
Returning to Alaska, in August 1956, he was appointed command surgeon, Headquarters Alaskan Air Command. On April 16, 1959 he was assigned duty as surgeon, Tactical Air Command, Langley AFB, Va.
General Copenhaver's interests vary from reading a quiet book to the excitement of bagging Alaskan big game. His grizzly, brown and polar bear are record trophies. In addition he holds a number of skeet and trap shooting titles.
During his college years he saw action on the football field and tennis court and stills maintains a keen interest in both sports.
General Copenhaver, a person of deep religious convictions, hails from a family of ministers (grandfather and two uncles). He attends church regularly and is active in community activities. A member of Beta Theta Pi and Phi Chi (medical fraternity).
General Copenhaver has been awarded the Asiatic Theater Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, American Defense Ribbon, American Theater Ribbon, Army Commendation Ribbon, World War II Victory Medal and Army of Occupation in Germany.
General Copenhaver enjoys preparing outdoor meals and prefers casual to formal attire. An avid reader, he lists professional books as among his favorites. He enjoys classical music and the arts. The sports-minded Copenhaver family considers Alaska an outdoorsman's paradise. Not addicted to cliches or 'pat' saying, the general nevertheless likes to expound on the contribution a doctor in service can make. He has enjoyed most of his tours as hospital commander at various U.S. Air Force installations. Stresses accuracy, loyalty and sincerity in all relationships. A firm advocate of physical fitness; evidenced by the rugged hunting and fishing trips in which he has participated. Frowns upon insincerity, premature judgement, slipshod work; insures accuracy and conciseness by frequent inspections. Maintains an interest in both military and civilian communities and has a keen desire to be of service to both.


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