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Dr. Herbert Leonard Warres

World War II combat surgeon became Baltimore radiologist

By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

5:57 PM EDT, October 5, 2011

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Dr. Herbert Leonard Warres, a World War II combat surgeon who later became a radiologist and headed the outpatient radiology department at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center, died Wednesday at North Oaks retirement community in Pikesville. He was 99.

The son of a dress factory owner and a homemaker, Dr. Warres, who never used his first name, was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he graduated in 1928 from Boys High School.

"He was so ill in his early childhood that his name was changed to confuse death — a strategy that served him well for nearly a century — through two invasions, numerous battles, two cancers and a subdural hematoma," said a son, Dr. Stephen Warres, a child psychiatrist who lives in Baltimore.

After graduating from New York University in 1932, Dr. Warres went to Germany for graduate study, but left the country after he prevailed in a "fistfight with a belligerent Nazi who had been harassing a young woman," his son said.

He came to Baltimore, where he earned his medical degree in 1938 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In early 1941, he enlisted in the Army, serving as a front-line battalion surgeon for five years. He participated in the invasion of North Africa in 1942 and the invasion of Sicily the next year, where he was wounded in the right leg.

During the North African campaign, Dr. Warres treated Gen. Lesley James McNair, who was badly wounded in Tunisia.

General McNair had a tendency to expose himself to enemy fire while on the front line checking what he called his enfilade, or military movements in relation to the enemy.

"One day, the German artillery lobbed a shell and he thought he was protected by a hill. When he was hit by the shell, he said, 'I miscalculated my enfilade,'" said Dr. Stephen Warres. "He was badly wounded and taken by jeep to my father, who saved his life."

General McNair was less than amused when the surgeon cut his custom-made shirt from his back.

"It cost $16, and he was annoyed," Dr. Stephen Warres said. "He told my father he was so grateful for what he had done that he could have any post he wanted once he got back to the States. My father told him he wanted to attend the Army School of Radiology, and he replied, 'Done.'"

General McNair was killed in 1944 at St. Lo, France, by "friendly fire" when a bomb fell on his foxhole.

The incident of Dr. Warres saving the general's life was recounted in Rick Atkinson's book, "An Army at Dawn."

Discharged with the rank of captain, Dr. Warres switched to radiology because of his wound, which would no longer allow him to stand for hours in an operating room.

He attended the Army Radiology School and completed a residency in radiology at Sinai Hospital, and took additional training at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

From 1953 to 1965, he was head of outpatient radiology at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center. He was later the first chief of radiology at what is now Northwest Hospital for 12 years and was the hospital's first president of the medical staff from 1963 to 1964.

Dr. Warres endowed the annual H. Leonard Warres Lectureship in Radiology at the medical school.

"He was a wonderful and generous person, and also was an excellent radiologist, good doctor and a genial host," said Dr. John M. Dennis, retired dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Not only did he contribute his money to the medical school, he also contributed two afternoons a week to work in the radiology clinic."

In addition, Dr. Warres maintained a private practice in diagnostic radiology and radiation therapy, first at an office on Eutaw Place and later on Rogers Avenue, from 1947 to 1986.

After retiring in the mid-1980s, he was a health advocacy specialist for the Maryland attorney general's office and worked until he retired in 2001. Dr. Warres chaired numerous committees on aging, narcotics, social justice and education.

His professional memberships included the Baltimore City Medical Society, the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, the American Medical Association, the Radiological Society of North America and the American Radiological Society. He was a founder of the Maryland Radiological Society.

Dr. Warres was a member of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and served as first regional chairman of the American Reform Zionist Association.

He was involved in many interfaith issues and took courses at Baltimore Hebrew College and St. Mary's Seminary and University School of Theology.

He was an avid reader of biographies, family members said.

Services will be held at noon Friday at Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Home, 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

Also surviving are his wife of 72 years, the former Margie Black; another son, Dr. Neil Warres, a psychiatrist, of Baltimore; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com