William H. Duncan, M.D. (DE NG Ret.)
William Herbert Duncan is a physician, soldier, who enjoyed extraordinary success in two careers, and
who was involved in a great number of notable causes in his community as well. He was given an
excellent education that served to amplify his native talents. His work ethic and experience brought him
to opportunities that ripened into positions of leadership. His role in two careers tended to reinforce each
other as he took on pioneering leadership roles in each. Duncan was fortunate to benefit from good
timing, but his persistence and labor positioned himself for good fortune.
Duncan was born on February 18, 1930 in Wilmington Delaware. General Duncan can trace his
Scotch/Irish roots back to the War of Independence where his great great great grandfather Alexander
Duncan, 1754-1829 served as a Private 3rd Class, with the Company of Christiana Militia, 1779. His
father was also a notable soldier of distinction.
William is the son of Colonel Silas Blake Irwin Duncan and Elmira Newell, 1894-1946, married 26 June
1918, Millville NJ (just prior to his deployment to France)
His father, Colonel S.B.I. Duncan, was a citizen-soldier as long as one could be, from his early teens
until his death. At the age of fourteen (about 1908) and perhaps before, he was voluntarily pasting and
setting targets for the Delaware Militia at the State Rifle Range below New Castle, as well as running
errands and doing other chores. At seventeen and a half years old in the presence of his father and
mother, he enlisted as a Private of Infantry in the First Delaware Infantry, and subsequently rose
through every enlisted and officer rank to Colonel, an Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group Commander. His
death was premature from and injury/illness contracted during service in the European Theater in World
War II, and just prior to when he was scheduled to receive the rank of Brigadier General as an Air
Defense Artillery Brigade Commander in the Delaware National Guard. He was in the first rank of
Delaware National Guard leaders, and is remembered with great fondness. A National Guard armory
bears his name as well as an annual award for National Guard soldiers. Colonel Duncan had a
distinguished combat record of eight campaigns of Federal Service, from the Mexican Border in 1916 to
service in the First World War and in both the Pacific and European Theaters in World War II. He also
served in numerous calls to State Service to prevent lynching, quell riots, escort World War I Bonus
Marchers through the State of Delaware and to provide for the health and protection of the State of
Delaware in times of disaster.
In addition to his National Guard service, S.B.I. Duncan was Chief Deputy United State Marshall for
Delaware. William Duncan said, “Both my brother and I were privileged to be invited by him to any
Guard or Marshal activity where we would be permitted. In my case it was days at summer camp,
evening drills, other drills and activities. I visited his office in Wilmington often and on occasion went
with him transporting prisoners to a Federal Penitentiary north of Harrisburg.”
The Duncan’s weathered the great Depression handily thanks to the security of S.B.I.’s career as well as
his National Guard duties. The Duncan family owned two houses, at 701 West 31st Street (at Van
Buren) in Wilmington and 115 West 5th Street, in New Castle in the early 1930s. William attended first
grade at Harlan Elementary School 24th and Monroe Streets,and his teacher was Miss Rudert. His older
brother Newell went to Warner Junior High on 18th Street. William remembers assisting in creating his
bedding roll on the living room floor in Wilmington for the annual Guard summer camp.
The family moved back to New Castle before his father was mobilized for National Guard service in
1940. William was ten years old when S.B.I. went on active duty, and sixteen when he came home after a
long wartime absence. William said, “My mother was everything to me. I was brought up during all
those formative years like a single child. Dad in the Army and my older brother Newell away in college
and then the Army.”
To help fill the gap, the family hired childcare help in the person of Sam Gaddis, who was born a slave,
was 87 years old, looked just like Uncle Remus in Song of the South. Gaddis took the young William
everywhere in the New Castle area including hunting and fishing in the woods, fields, marshes, and
creeks along the Delaware River. William favored the shady streets of New Castle. Like many of his peers
he took an interest in sports, especially baseball. He read a lot and exercised his creativity building
model airplanes both rubber band and gasoline powered. It was wartime, and he build aircraft
recognition models and played with toy soldiers.
William remained in New Castle until Eighth grade, attending New Castle Elementary and Junior High
schools. His father died in 1946 when William was sixteen. Colonel Duncan had died as a direct result of
his service World War II. His widow Elmira received a modest widows and orphans pension.
Comparing notes with neighbors she discovered that her pension check was far smaller than her peers.
Investigating, the Army explained that although S.B.I. had signed up for insurance coverage during
World War I, he evidently did not re-sign for World War II service, perhaps in the mistaken belief that he
was already covered. She enlisted the aid of a family friend, military comrade and lawyer - Tom Lodge to
contest her result. After a several years they were able to win a modest increase, but not the sum she
thought she deserved. William’s adolescent circumstances were unprosperous.
William attended William Penn Junior High School until Eighth grade. Newell, his older brother by five
years, was a William Penn High School graduate, but William graduated P. S. duPont, High School
Class of 1947. Duncan still faithfully attends their annual class reunions. He demonstrated early promise.
Academically advanced, he could have graduated at age sixteen, but his mother would not permit it. He
had an early interest in English, and writing. He was High School Sports Editor, and also enjoyed
history. He excelled in science, especially biology. His mother nudged him toward a medical career.
William was also positively influenced by his older brother Newell. He said,“as the younger brother, I
was competitive with Newell, and we had our differences, but in public we were an inseparable team and
as we got older we became, and still are very close. “
Freshman College University of Delaware
William attended the University of Delaware for one year after High School on a “scholarship”. He
recounted that his day began by serving breakfast at Old College to his classmates. At noon he worked
at Kent Hall where he waited on the faculty, bussed tables and did dishes. He had a key and was
responsible for closing the kitchen in the evening. He had a heating cart on which he collected dishes,
and to his relief he was not responsible for pots and pans. For these services, his tuition was waived. He
lived in a boarding house on Delaware Avenue with several classmates. Duncan majored in biology on a
United States Military Academy, West Point
A friend of his father was J. Caleb Boggs who then served in the U.S. House of Representatives and later
would be Governor and U.S. Senator. William sought an appointment from Congressman Boggs to the
US military Academy at West Point as the son of a deceased World War II veteran. The process then
provided for each congressman to nominate one primary and three alternates. William was originally
Boggs’s third alternate, which gave him practically no chance of an actual appointment.
Nevertheless, he took the necessary preliminary tests at Walter Reed Hospital that included physical
aptitude tests as well as academics, which in his case was bypassed as a “political” appointee candidate.
The testers asked him how serious he was about attending the Academy and suggested he take the
academic tests competitively and to waive his right to a “bye’ on the tests. He did this, and scored very
competitively. He was informed by Congressman Boggs office that he was their first place choice in both
the political and competitive categories. He chose the competitive category and matriculated at West
Point on July 1, 1948.
There was one more obstacle to be overcome however. As a child William had been diagnosed with a
“funnel chest” a condition in which the ribs grow inward. He pursued a therapy regimen since age five
designed to counter this condition. As a child he was asked to chase balloons and keep them aloft using
his breath only. Later he was asked to hold his breath while swimming underwater or to hold his
breath as he walked. As a result of this regimen he had a very low heartbeat and respired at a pace far
lower than most of his peers at about six breaths per minute with a very low blood pressure. This was a
concern to the Army doctors who rejected him at his induction physical. He appealed their decision and
was examined a second time at Valley Forge military hospital. Once again, he was asked how seriously
he wanted to attend West Point and once again the reply was enthusiastic. The doctor replied, “You’re
The United States Military Academy at West Point was, in Duncan’s words, “all laid out”, a very
structured environment with daily routines that rarely varied. Academics were scheduled in the
morning until mid-afternoon, then drill, parade, or sports (varsity or intramural). They marched in
formation to all their meals. Saturday was an inspection in the morning and then games or free time in
the afternoon. Church attendance was mandatory and you marched to church.
West Point has one and only one curricula, Civil Engineering with no electives. His work at the
University of Delaware was for naught as no academic credits transferred. Nevertheless they were to be
of value later when he sought his medical degree. William had been a competitive swimmer in high
school and continued for a time at West Point until a sinus infection prevented continuing.
Gentlemen from West Point were expected to know the rules and participate in twenty-two sports, some
familiar, some obscure, including fencing, tennis, golf, speedball, football, kickball to tennis to fencing.
Duncan described his time at West Point as “definitely life changing” although mostly “just plain hard
work”. There were also club activities such as languages, music, and English literature – a way to
provide liberal arts in an engineering school. The curriculum was dominated by mathematics. Duncan
had little use for math except for the discipline required. There were very few electives, but Geography
was a favorite of William taught by a big Pole who had been with OSS during the war.
He served as the Sports Public Information officer reporting on athletic activities. He was a member of
the German Club. Two of the early astronauts were classmates; Michael Collins and Edward White.
Collins was a roommate for a short period of time. The engineering skills he learned at the academy
served Duncan well throughout life. The courses most valuable to him were described as English,
English Literature, Geography, and History.
Boxing was one of the sports they were graded upon. He was paired up with a friend and classmate for a
boxing match. At the very onset of the match his partner with one punch immediately broke William’s
nose. The classmate had been a golden gloves champion. Nursing his bloody nose he somehow finished
the match but was happy to take a “gentleman’s “C” in boxing by doing the minimum required
henceforth for that class.
During the first year 1948-1949) the Plebes were confined to post leaving only for the occasional sports
activity. They were granted Christmas leave but celebrated at the Academy with visitors permitted
including family and friends.
The Academy admitted students who were a day under 22 years old, except World War II veterans who
were allowed to subtract all their active duty time from their biological age to reach 22. There was a
certain amount of hazing but the veterans were usually given very light doses.
During the second year (1950) the cadets trained at Camp Buckner training area near a lake and
mountains, essentially given infantry basic training for about six weeks in July. In August they were
granted leave for the first time outside the gates.
They were scheduled to take an Air Force trip from base to base to familiarize themselves with the Air
Force. There were two groups and Duncan was in the second. The first group did the orientation but
Duncan’s trip was canceled due to the outbreak of the Korean War. Instead they returned to Camp
Buckner to act as training cadre with supervision.
During the third year (1951) Duncan participated in a CAMID invasion exercise. Their Naval Academy
counterparts prepared to invade from ships in a joint operation at Fort Story. The cadets trained at Little
Creek VA using realistic explosives but no live fire.
During a school trip of some kind to New York City during in his third year Duncan found himself
with a free day. He calculated that he could take the train to visit his future wife Doris and his family in
Wilmington and still get back to New York in time to catch the train to West Point. He phoned the
family and there was a happy rendezvous. This was a technical violation of a Wet Point rule that the
cadets must stay within fifty miles of New York City. Unfortunately there was a problem with the train
from Wilmington, and the alternate (Plan B) train left before he could board it. He finally got back to
New York, but too late for the standard cadet train to West Point. He was forced to take a bus from the
Port Authority. On his return he was “gigged” for missing his train and forced to attend a
The court functioned somewhat like a Court Martial. He was not permitted representation, but was not
required to incriminate himself either. He was repeatedly asked why he had missed the train and where
he had been, but he successfully held his ground during the proceedings and admitted nothing. He was
on the verge of acquittal and was excused and escorted out by the recorder to the door. The recorder
candidly asked him on the way where he had been, and Duncan, thinking himself cleared, answered
with the truth. This was a big mistake because officially the proceedings were not over until adjourned.
The recorder relayed the confession to the court and Duncan was found guilty.
His sentence was severe. He was limited to the rank of Private (a fourth year cadet was typically
promoted to Sergeant). He was confined for six months and was ineligible for a leadership role. He had
to march punishment tours in the First Regiment quad on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons with his
By his fourth year William had served his time and was at last promoted with his peers to Sergeant.
Being very close to graduation, he proudly sewed his new stripes onto his dress uniform and his
standard high collar uniform but failed to upgrade all his uniforms. In his fourth year he was made
guidon bearer for his unit. At a morning inspection he grabbed a uniform, but it was one that had not
been upgraded with his new rank. The Company TAC officer conducting the inspection passed him by
and took a few paces, stopped, turned and returned to Duncan, asking, “Weren’t you promoted to
Sergeant?” Being out of uniform earned him another major gig and bust back to 1st Class Private for a
period of several weeks. He was finally able to graduate with his peers once again at the student rank of
Sergeant on June 3, 1952. Duncan graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and was commissioned as
a Second Lieutenant of Infantry, June 1952. Duncan was fortunate to get his branch choice of Infantry
as a large percentage of his class as well as the US Naval Academy class of 1952 had to go in the Air
Force, as there was no functioning Air Force Academy at the time.
William Married the late Doris May Goodley, June 6, 1952, just a few days after graduating. Doris was a
native born Delawarean, raised in Brandywine Hundred, who graduated from the Pierre S. duPont
High School in 1947 and from the University of Delaware in 1951.
Duncan reflected, “Doris and I were High School Classmates but really didn’t know one another, she
lived in the suburbs and I lived in town. By virtue of alphabetical order as Delaware freshmen we got to
know one another. She was very popular in High School and was Vice President of our class and this
popularity carried over to the University of Delaware. It took me quite a while to have my first date
with her. When I went to West Point we started corresponding by mail. Eventually she started coming
up to visit.”
“We were married at Aldersgate Methodist Church, five days after my graduation with our reception at
the DuPont Country Club. The honeymoon was an auto trip visiting historic sites in the south headed
toward Fort Benning Georgia where we stopped long enough to rent an apartment and then continued
our sight seeing headed back north.”
William and Doris raised three children, Charles Irwin, an electrical engineer; Laurie Jay Duncan
McClearen, registered nurse; and William Maurice, electrical engineer.
Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia, Basic Infantry Officer’s Course
Duncan reported to Fort Benning on July 1, 1952 for the Basic Infantry Officer’s Course. He was
assigned to the 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (ARTC). Here he was to learn basic infantry
training, weapons, tactics, leadership, and an introduction to other branches.
Duncan was close friends there with a classmate and former roommate at West Point, Al Thiemy. Al had
been a football player and knew all there was to know about football. William’s hobbies including
printing. He liked to make linoleum block prints and owned a small printing press. He and Al teamed up
to start football pools during the season. Al did the handicapping and Bill did the printing. They took
the cards to class and sold them. Duncan earned enough in this way to take flying lessons at Columbus.
They had to pay off winners who usually netted $3, $5, or $10 but overall they earned a profit. Then one
lucky GI hit the jackpot and it paid about 500 to one. This pretty much bankrupted the venture and
that was the end of the football pool!
The 508th ARTC had a regimental football team from September to November. They won the Third
Army Championship. There was a big party on Saturday night, which was followed on Sunday
morning by a seven mile formation run. The bleary eyed hungover Duncan had no memory of the
previous evenings proceedings when he was called to report to the Executive Officer. He saluted and was
asked “Why did you throw your drink at the Regimental Commander?” (it was fortunately a miss).
Duncan had no recollection of this incident but rued the amount of liquor he consumed. His
punishment was to serve as recorder of every Special Court Martial held for the reminder of his tour
with the 508th.
William and Doris had their first child, Charles Irwin on April 4, 1953 while he was stationed at Fort
Benning. He remained at Fort Benning until December 1953.
Korea December 1953
Lieutenant Duncan was assigned to A Company 17th Infantry 7th Division. During this period he was
awarded the Commendation Medal and numerous service medals. He served on constabulary duty. The
war was over, but there were still armed skirmishes and exchange of fires. They were still dealing with
bypassed North Korean infiltrators, but the biggest part of his duties were dealing with “Slicky Boys”
(Black Marketeers). His company worked with Republic of Korea (ROK) military police.
He was transferred to I Corps, NCO Academy S1 security officer, where he worked with repatriated
(from North Korea) indigenous Koreans he characterized as “tough guys” on post security. A main
supply route (MSR) ran right down the middle of our post and created quite a security problem.
The Black Market was run by “Slicky boys” who had an organization that paralleled the military with
an hierarchical structure. When an arrest was made, if the GI offender carried cash instead of the military
scrip, that was usually a tip off to illegal activity. Duncan’s boss would physically push and shove the
offender to try to learn details of the organization in search of “bigger fish.” He would insist on
witnesses to this act including Duncan, who did not approve of these methods.
The post had an airstrip that was astride the main supply route (MSR). It was a popular destination on
weekends. It often filled with small liaison aircraft as GIs visited the local houses of prostitution. Duncan’
s commanding officer ordered him to raid the facilities with the assistance of local MPs. A pair of senior
sergeants opened the doors to the hooches and ordered the inhabitants to get dressed and form up
outside. They collected ID cards and took names. The soldiers included Turks and other allies. They
found the madam and ordered her to shut the place down which she did (and promptly re-opened days
His commanding officer, a Lieutenant Colonel, knew of the raid and reviewed the list of names. He
ordered Duncan to remove some select names from the list. Duncan refused. He was ordered to amend
the list by the Asst. Provost Marshall of the Corps, and in response Duncan ripped the epaulet of his
rank off his uniform, and threw it onto the table. He knew his active duty career was at an end, as a
He was disillusioned with the Army. Although he had the greatest respect for the enlisted combat
veterans in the ranks as well as the senior officers, he found what he perceived to be rot in the field
ranks. He had witnessed some toxic leadership in the middle officer ranks, alcoholism, abuse of
authority, and just plain ineptness. In his words, these officers “couldn’t sell shoes”.
William and Doris had a second child, Laurie Jay, born September 18, 1954 in Valley Forge PA, while he
was still overseas in Korea.
While in Korea, Duncan began to assemble applications for medical school. He resigned from the Army
at the earliest opportunity, but was involuntarily extended six months and served until discharge in
William Duncan returned to the USA in 1955 and took up residence at a house his father in law had
purchased in Philadelphia at 4538 North 13th Street. He attended medical school at Temple University on
the GI Bill. He affiliated with the 111th Infantry, Pennsylvania National Guard at Broad and Wharton
Streets armory. Duncan had very high praise for the professionalism, knowledge, generosity and
experience of the soldiers in this unit, mostly all World War II veterans with combat experience. He
drilled on Monday nights as the Liaison officer S-3, taking the subway to drill. As a medical student
with a sometimes heavy course load, he was given permission by an understanding leadership, on
occasion, to retire to a quiet room and study in lieu of his military duties.
Duncan attended medical school at a time when the medial establishment was experimenting with a
compressed schedule, presumably to meet a growing demand for doctors. The norm was two years of
basic sciences, then clinical skills, and labs the third year, followed by seeing patients, performing
physicals, writing histories, followed by rotating internships. His class completed the usual 4 year
curriculum in 3 years (Saturday and Summer Classes) and the 4th year was a standard type rotating
internship. Which was usually repeated after graduation in a community away from Temple and the
prelude to residency.
William and Doris’s third child William Maurice Duncan, was born in Philadelphia on December 2, 1958
during William’s last year of medical school. Doris was basically a “stay at home mom.” She still had
strong ties in Wilmington and her mother and William’s mother were very helpful with the children.
William was assigned to Philadelphia General Hospital but his senior year he was directly under a
resident. He took Saturday classes that included book study and science in the first two years. He was
well prepared from his first year at the University of Delaware where most of his pre-med classes proved
to be of value. In his third year he began “clinicals” with a “clerkship” that included rotating internships
in subjects such as OB/GYN, Pediatrics, Surgery, Emergency Medicine, and ENT and Ophthalmology.
By his fourth year of mandatory rotating internships he was already familiar with the procedures
required by state law for certification. He graduated with a Doctor of Medicine from Temple University
School of Medicine, Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1959. He participated in post-doctoral training in
psychiatry and obstetrics in addition to his rotating internship at the Delaware Hospital, 1959-1960.
After med school it was an easy transition returning to Wilmington and settling down. Duncan chose
Family and Community Medicine. He took his state written exams. Upon successful completion, he
opened a practice at 2417 Silverside Road just north of Wilmington Delaware. He saw his first patient in
July 1959. He was an attending physician at Wilmington General, Memorial, and Delaware hospitals.
and simultaneously actively supported the practice of Millard F. Squires, M. D., on Maryland Avenue,
Richardson Park. In six months he had plenty of referrals and almost all the business he wanted for a
A Military transition
Duncan continued to serve in the Pennsylvania National Guard and was promoted to the rank of Major
of Infantry as the Operations and Training Officer of the 111th Infantry Regiment.
In 1963 Duncan was a Major, Infantry Branch with the 111th Regimental Combat Team, Pennsylvania
National Guard, as Operations and Plans Officer. He met for drills on Monday nights at the armory at
Broad and Wharton Streets, a great place to view the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. He was friends
there with an engineer from Thiokol in Elkton Maryland. (significance?)
The Delaware Guard’s 116th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) had been mobilized for the recent
Berlin Crisis. They deployed to Fort Campbell KY and it did not go particularly well. There had been a
shortfall of Medical Equipment missing to the tune of some $52,000. It was not a happy time, there was
dissension in the ranks, fistfights, alcohol, discipline and morale problems resulting in the unit being
released from active duty somewhat prematurely.
Duncan received a phone call from MG Joseph Scannell the Adjutant General of Delaware inviting him
for a discussion at lunch. He accepted. It was at the Hotel duPont Green Room. They were joined by
some of the “graybeards” of the Delaware Guard, many of whom had served together in World War II
including Herb Wardell Sr.
Duncan was asked to take over the leadership of the 116th. He was promised a prompt promotion to
Lieutenant Colonel as an incentive. He also received an assurance of a “straight shot” to Colonel
without concern for the usual mandatory senior service school requirements. He would also be excused
from attending regular weekend drills, and was offered liberal flexibility in meeting attendance
requirements. After some reflection, he accepted.
Some of these promises were later broken as a result of new Army regulations. As of December 31, 1963
all medical personnel were no longer exempt from Profession Military Education and were required to
attend the same schools as their counterparts in other branches. Duncan complied, and took all the
courses required of him.
There remained a cadre of responsible people in the 116th who wanted it to succeed. Building on that
base, Duncan began to recruit new people and was aided by the draft laws. At about this time, they
changed and instituted a “Doctor’s draft” for conscriptive medical service. The unit was inundated with
new applicants wishing to avoid active duty. The 116th rapidly swelled to full strength. Even better, the
unit culture rapidly transitioned to a more professional organization.
Among his successes, Duncan recruited the first female into the Delaware Guard, a lead nurse named Joy
Kaufald. The TO&E of the unit listed a series of various Thoracic, Orthopedic, Neurosurgery and
General Surgery slots. There were rarely perfect match-ups. Most were general surgeons who took up a
new specialty and many surgeons broadened their skills through this cross-training. An example is
Eugene George, a General Surgery resident who became a neurosurgeon and later operated on Joe Biden’
s first aneurism.
The United States began its Vietnam build-up in earnest in 1963. At Fort A.P. Hill and Camp Pickett the
Army began to conduct live fire exercises as part of the training regime. The 116th Hospital was deployed
there in September as part of their Annual Training requirement in support of the regular Army medical
force cadre. They gained a lot of valuable experience setting broken bones, and dressing wounds
accidentally incurred by the vigorous training. They did such a good job, the army asked them to return
at the beginning of the new fiscal year, (October) a couple of weeks after their first rotation. They
completed their annual training for two successive years within about six weeks.
His promised promotion to Lieutenant Colonel was complicated by the fact that he was an Infantry
officer commanding a medical unit. This tended to raise eyebrows in the active component environment.
He would have to transfer to the Medical Corps. However, the Army rule for direct commission to LTC
required 17 years of medical practice. Duncan was too young to meet this criterium. With great
difficulty General Scannell was finally able to secure a waiver to this requirement and Duncan got his
promotion, but it had taken a year of cutting through red tape.
At about this time Duncan also held a civilian position as an Administrator with the Wilmington
Medical Center, which was a relatively new organization founded in 1964 which included four local
hospitals. By now he had his full complement of military physicians, nurses pharmacists and
technicians, but they were housed in an old and crowded building at Wilmington airport dating to
World War II. LTC Duncan arranged for this military medical staff to perform their weekend drills at
these civilian hospitals as volunteers. This was a win/win for the Delaware National Guard as well as
the community as a whole. This successful pioneer model was copied nationally.
In October 1961, Dr. Duncan became the part-time Director of Medical Education for the Delaware
Hospital and served in this role for over a year. He was subsequently appointed the part-time Director
of Emergency Services of the Delaware Hospital with the task of reorganizing the delivery of emergency
care, the paramount change being the provision of this service by full-time emergency room doctors [the
result of a Supreme Court decision]. This appointment was held from 1962 – 1967. During this time, a
merger of the three general hospitals in Wilmington took place and the Director of Emergency Services
position, though still part time, was expanded to organize and manage under one director all three
emergency departments. This combined Emergency Department was responsible for 100,000 patients
visits per year with a full time staff of 13 full-time physicians, part time physicians and residents. This
position also held the full managerial responsibility for nursing and clerical support and other support
staffs such as housekeeping. Simultaneously this position acted as a consultant to both the Riverside
and St. Francis Hospital Emergency Departments.
Dr. Duncan was appointed in July 1967, by the Board of Directors of the newly formed Wilmington
Medical Center as the full-time Director of Ambulatory Services, as a member of the Center’s
Management Team (the first designated Management Team to later be developed and expanded into what
today is known as Christiana Care). This position was responsible for the administration and
management of all the outpatient services (initially in all four merged facilities) of the Medical Center to
include emergency services (he simultaneously served as consultant to both St. Francis and Riverside
Hospitals), the out patient services (including 47 clinics in three distinct geographic locations),
outpatient surgical services, all speech and hearing services, the home care programs, community health
programs, development of a community health coordinator program, employee health service, disaster
planning and liaison activity with numerous private and public agencies from law enforcement to the
longshoremen’s union. Dr. Duncan was extremely active in health “Social Action” and health planning
activities on a local regional and state basis. He resigned with commendation from the Board of Trustees
Duncan was a Charter Diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice in 1970, by examination and
was re-certified by examination in 1977.
On July 1, 1972, Dr. Duncan was placed “on loan” to the State of Delaware as the State Director of the
Division of Drug Abuse Control, at the same time maintaining all the responsibilities held as the
Director of Ambulatory Services with the Wilmington Medical Center. He was responsible for the
management of 42 separate programs statewide with a budget in excess of 3.2 million dollars.
A Military Exercise turns real.
In the Spring of 1968 New Castle County conducted a disaster response exercise centered around a
simulated train wreck near Newark. It included elements from the law enforcement, fire protection, and
EMT community with participation by the 116th Hospital as the lead medical element. It was directed by
Lt Col Al Poppiti who was the Director of Public Safety at the time, as well as a Delaware Guardsman. It
was a very successful exercise and very prescient. The following weekend, race riots in the wake of the
Martin Luther King assassination erupted mainly in Wilmington. The 116th Hospital was well prepared
and ready to act.
Trucks were found and the hospital assembled and drove into town in convoy. LTC Duncan could not
get past the roadblocks from his home, and had to be choppered to the location from the nearby
Springer School. The hospital’s non-medical staff helped to provide security to the Washington and
Market Street bridges over the Brandywine as the medical cadre at the Delaware Hospital treated tear gas
victims, and those who had been injured from bricks and baseball bats. The hospital also served as a
“chain of evidence” center where law enforcement personnel and perpetrators were photographed for use
in judicial hearings.
Military Career Advancement
In those days, every Delaware National Guard officer received an annual interview and assessment from
a board of senior officers. Duncan met such a board in 1968 comprised of General Adams, General
Chidester and the Senior Army Advisor. This interview was atypical in that it became evident that the
panel knew something that the interviewee did not. After routine talk about the recent riots, the hospital’
s forward progress and other more trivial topics LTC Duncan was asked if he could complete Command
and General Staff school within the next year? He answered in the affirmative. He was also asked if he
could also complete the Basic Officer Signal Corps course? Again he answered in the affirmative, and
wondered why an Artillery organization medical officer needed Signals expertise.
The answer of course was that the Delaware National Guard was to undergo a major reorganization
from Artillery to Signals. After successfully completing the requested training Duncan was assigned as
Operations Officer for the 261st Signal Command in 1970. He was at this time a Lieutenant Colonel but
promotable to Colonel, awaiting a lengthy Senate confirmation process.
This put him fourth in the chain of command at the 261st Signals Command behind the Commander,
General Chidester, the Deputy, Everett Kimmey, and the Chief of Staff. In short order, General Chidester
resigned in hopes of appointment to Adjutant General (which failed to materialize). Kimmey moved up
to commander, but was later turned down as a General Officer candidate due to a misstep dating back to
convoy maneuvers during World War II. The Chief of Staff had refused to take the mandatory signals
training course. Nearly overnight, the incumbents above Duncan in the chain of command had been
removed one by one. COL Duncan moved up to Chief of Staff, then Deputy Commander and finally
Commander in turn.
Colonel Duncan assumed command of the 261st Signal Command. He was frocked as a Brigadier General
and by 1974 had pinned on the second star; the position carried as Major General with federal
In the meantime, his medical career was maturing into new positions of leadership. On May 26, 1975 Dr.
Duncan was appointed Vice President of Medical Affairs for St. Francis Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware,
as they were embarking on a major building and reorganization program. The primary functions of the
appointment were administrative duties and responsibilities to and for the hospital’s Medical-Dental
Staff. This position provided development and later line management of an accredited Family Practice
Residency Program, the development of both on campus and satellite primary care centers for the
specialties of Family Practice, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology and full management responsibility
for anesthesia services, Quality Assurance, Infection Control, medical records, utilization review and
outside liaison. Dr. Duncan retired with commendation from the Board of Trustees, January 1993.
Dr. Duncan held an appointment as a Senior Medical Examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration
from 1969 to 1993.
Dr. Duncan qualified as a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and recertified in
1990, now serving as a Life Member. He served several years as Chairman of the Editorial Board of
“Frontiers of Health Services Management,” one of their healthcare journals.
Dr. Duncan held the following appointments: Consultant, Department of Family Practice, St Francis
Hospital; Consultant and Attending Chief Emeritus, Department of Family Practice Medical Center of
Delaware; Clinical Instructor, Department of Family Practice Medicine, Jefferson Medical College,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Assistant Professor, Department of Family Practice and Community Health,
Temple University, School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over these years held many
appointments to Committees doing Peer Review, arbitration of various kinds of disputes mostly among
Duncan was Vice Chairman and later Chairman of the Health Resources Management Council
(Certificate of Need), 1975-1987..
Dr. Duncan was Vice Chairman and later Chairman of the Health Resources Management Council
(Certificate of Need), 1975-1987.
During his tenure as Commander of the 261st Signal Command Duncan participated in numerous
mobilization missions to the Third United States Army, the Army component of the newly formed
Central Command, the Joint Rapid Deployment Force to Southwest Asia. The unit was involved with
overseas maneuvers in Egypt, and throughout the Middle East including Somalia for six months after
the Russians had departed. The 261st also served in WESTCOM, the Army component to the Pacific
Command with responsibilities and maneuvers in Japan, Korea, Okinawa and primary headquarters in
Some of his additional duties included service as appointment by the Secretary of the Army to the
Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General on Reserve Affairs and to the Army Reserve Forces Policy
Committee. By the Secretary of Defense to the Reserve Forces Policy Board. Thrice he served as President
of a gubernatorial committee to recommend the individual to serve as Adjutant General of Delaware of
Delaware, a cabinet level position. He also served on five occasions as a member of the General Officer
Selection board for the National Guard
General Duncan served in his capacity as Commander of the 261st until mandatory retirement on 2 July,
1987. His Deputy was Charles Painter who later served as Assistant Adjutant General for Army. His
Chief of Staff was Layton Johnson, a full time technician. He was succeeded by John MacDonald.
During his 35-year military career General Duncan was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal,
the highest non-valor medal that can be awarded. He was also recognized with State of Delaware
Conspicuous Service Cross (Five Awards) Delaware’s highest ranking medal as well as the Delaware
Medal for Military Merit (Eight Awards) and the Medal for Aid to Civil Authority (Three Awards). He
was promoted to the State honorary Rank of Lieutenant General on retirement.
Duncan’s post military retirement activities included service as Chairman of the National Guard Heritage
Painting Committee, as well as Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Delaware Military Heritage and
William’s wife of 48 years Doris died on June 20, 2000. He married Beth Rhodes, M.D. September 24, 2005
and gained a young stepdaughter, Kristina.
Dr. Duncan was employed by Calvert Ear, Nose and Throat Associates of Prince Frederick, Maryland, to
do general medical practice and oversee the allergy practice staff, in the satellite office, Annapolis,
Maryland office, 2006-2008.
Over time Duncan wrote a significant number of scientific, medical, administrative and historical
Duncan was an active participant at one time or another, in the following military organizations:
Charter President of the National Guard Association of Delaware; New Castle County Medical Society
and the Delaware Medical Society (including its Presidency); Army Athletic Association; Association of
Graduates, United States Military Academy; Company of Military Historians; Association of Military
Surgeons of the United States; Association of the United States Army and the National Guard
Association of the United States.
Duncan served at one time or another as an officer or member of the following Boards of Trustees or
Boards of Directors, committees or organizations: Crittenton Center for unwed mothers; Southbridge
Medical Activities Center (now known as the Henrietta Johnson Community Center; President Temple
University Medical School Alumni Association; President of Temple University General Alumni
Association; Lecturer on Family Life at Brandywine College; President Delaware Academy of Family
Physicians; Chairman, Medical Education Committee, Delaware Medical Society; Chairman, New Castle
County Community Council on Emergency Services; Chairman, State of Delaware, Governor’s
Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council; Chairman, Governor’s Interim Health Planning
Council (later, Delaware State Health Coordinating Council (SHCC), and later the Health Resources
Management Council – noted above); Chairman, Joint Plan Development Committee of the SHCC and
the Delaware Health Council; President, Delaware Academy of Medicine; Co-Chairman Delaware Medical
Society and Delaware Nurses’ Association Joint Practice Committee; Delaware Adolescent Program;
Physicians for Automotive Safety; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Flying Physicians
Association; Civil Aviation Medical Association; Board, YMCA of Delaware; Board, Del-Mar-Va
Council, Boy Scouts of America; Director, Delaware Historical Society; Director, Addiction Coalition;
Strategic Planning Committee, Franciscan Health System; Multidisciplinary Advisory Committee of the
American College of Healthcare Executives; Non-voting Trustee of Temple University; Serve as a
member of the Claims Committees of several malpractice insurance companies; Member, Delaware
Chapter, Society of the Sons of the American Revolution; Member, Military Order of the World Wars;
Member, Military Officers Association of America; Member, George Washington Society.
|Delaware Military History