On February 29, 1960, Dr. William Benjamin MacCracken died.
Born on September 2, 1907, in Mt. Vernon, New York, where Dr. MacCracken also completed his primary education, he was graduated from New York University in 1928 and from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1932. Following his internship at the Bellevue Hospital, he completed his residency at the New York Orthopaedic Dispensary and Hospital and was subsequently appointed as Anne C. Kane Fellow for three years at the same institution. Upon completion of his research fellowship, he established his practice in orthopaedics in Oakland, California.
The call of the sea was strong, and the war clouds were gathering, with the result that in September, 1941, Dr. MacCracken enlisted in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant. He was retired from the Naval Service with the rank of Commander and subsequently became associated in the practice of orthopaedics with Dr. Francis Scott of Huntington, West Virginia, on February 1, 1946. Dr. MacCracken was in active practice until the time of his death. He was a Member and Past-President of the Russell A. Hibbs Society, a Member of The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Tri-State Orthopedic Society, as well as several other regional and local orthopaedic organizations.
He was Chief Orthopaedic Surgeon for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. His contributions to the orthopaedic literature were not many, but the few he did write were succinct and of excellent educational value.
Bill, or “Willie” , as he was more affectionately called by his very close friends, was a quiet, modest, and, at times, almost painfully taciturn individual, but behind this facade there was an affectionate heart that asked for nothing and gave everything. The year 1942 and the dates August 17 and 18 are not too far removed from the memory of many of us, nor the submarine known as the “Nautilus,” nor the Second Raider Marine Battalion also known as “Carlson’s Raiders.” Bill was one of them. As if this assignment in itself were insufficient to prove his courage and his selfless devotion to his country and to his fellow-men, Bill, on those two memorable days, so distinguished himself that he was decorated with the Navy Cross by Admiral Nimitz. His citation read as follows:
“For extraordinary heroism and distinguished service above and beyond the call of duty as Senior Medical Officer of the landing force of the Marine Raider Battalion against Japanese held Makin Island August 17-18, 1942. Following the first enemy aerial attack, Lieutenant MacCracken personally carried many of the wounded to positions of greater safety, and by his complete disregard for his own life and this gallant action, he was enabled to administer early and effective aid. When his boat overturned, endangering the life of a seriously wounded private during the first attempt at evacuation, he risked his own life to save that of another by holding the helpless man’s head above water and swimming ashore with him. After returning to his ship, Lieutenant MacCracken performed six major operations under most difficult circumstances and, as a result of his skillful and tireless efforts, he succeeded in bringing all of his cases back to the base line in excellent condition. His skill, courage and fine sense of moral obligation to those entrusted to his professional care were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” Signed, Chester W. Nimitz, Admiral.
He was subsequently decorated a second time by Major-General A. A. Vandergrift of the United States Marine Corps for outstanding service during the invasion of Aola Bay on November 5, 1942. He received other unit citations as well during the various operations of the Second Raider Marine Battalion throughout the South Pacific Area.
Such a man was Bill.
He is survived by his wife, Myrtle May MacCracken, his mother, Mrs. John A. MacCracken, and his daughter, Mrs. James L. Murphy. To them we extend our deepest sympathy for their tragic loss. To those of us who admired him and to whom he was affectionately known as “Willie”, he will always be remembered as a man’s man, a lover of the out-of-doors and of the camaraderie it brought, and as an intense, sincere, painfully honest orthopaedic surgeon who compromised for nothing but perfection.