NOTAM 13-2015 (Mitchell)

Golden Eagle NOTAM
CAPT Robert E. “Doc “ Mitchell, USN (Ret)

Honorary Member

Dear Golden Eagles,

It is my sad duty to inform you that Honorary Member, CAPT Robert E. “Doc “ Mitchell, USN (Ret), made his Last Take-Off on August 4, 2015, in Pensacola, FL, at the age of 97.  Doc was born on May 19, 1918, in San Diego, CA. He was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and received his MD degree from McGill University Faculty of Medicine in Montreal, Canada in 1947.  While at McGill as a student in 1946, he met Viola Elizabeth (Liz) Miller, a Registered Nurse and they married that year.

Doc was commissioned in the U. S. Navy on July 1, 1947 and performed his internship and residency at the U. S. Naval Hospital in San Diego and Oakland, CA.  From September 1949 to September 1950, he served as the Assistant Medical Officer at NOB Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean, and then returned to the U. S. Naval Hospital in Oakland.  LT Mitchell next  attended the Army Medical Service Graduate School at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, graduating in February 1953. He served as Assistant Medical Officer in Naples, Italy, from March 53 to December 54, and then became research assistant at the School of Aviation Medicine at NAS Pensacola, FL, where he served until April 58. During this time, CDR Mitchell was designated a Naval Flight Surgeon on June 24, 1955 and he became the principal physician involved in the follow-up studies of the "Thousand Aviator" project initiated by Doctor Ashton Graybiel in 1940.   Doc Mitchell worked on this project until 1993.  His next assignment was as Senior Medical Officer aboard the USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) from April 58 to July 60.  During this tour, he served as  Medical Officer for Commander Carrier Division 7 from May to Nov 58, followed by service with the Commander Carrier Division 1 from June to Sep 59.

CAPT Mitchell again served as Research Assistant at the School of  Aviation Medicine at NAS Pensacola from July 60 to June 65.  Doc then went to Southeast asia to serve as Staff Medical Officer for the First Marine Aircraft Wing in Danang, Vietnam, where he flew 34 combat missions as an observer.  From Vietnam, CAPT Mitchell transferred to the Naval Station in Rota, Spain, as Senior Medical Officer and later served as Commanding Officer of the U. S. Naval Hospital Rota from August 1966 to 1970.  His final assignment was as Commanding Officer of the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, NAS Pensacola. During this tour, he pioneered studies of repatriated Vietnam Prisoners of War (POW) and created the only surviving component of the original tri-service Center for POW Studies established in 1972. The Mitchell Center (which was named to honor Doc) consults and offers services to individuals from all branches of military service, including all 21 former POWs from the Gulf War and 8 former POWs from Operation Iraqui Freedom. Doc Mitchell was a highly decorated, often honored, truly distinguished medical researcher and scholar. I can tell you that all of the Vietnam POWs  who I know think of Doc as a Saint!  He will be missed!

Doc's wife Liz passed away in January 2013 and he is survived by his daughter Anne and son-in-law Al Hargis who have accompanied Doc to many of the recent Golden Eagle reunions while Doc was in a wheel chair and needed assistance.  Doc's Memorial Service will be held at the NAS Pensacola Chapel in a couple of months. When final plans for the service are complete, I will send out a special notice.

In Sadness,

Don Boecker-Pilot