Dr. George Hill Hodel’s 1942 Presidential Appointment as PA Surgeon to U.S. Public Health Service

April 8, 2022
Birch Bay, Washington
In June 2021, I again documented my father’s extensive training as a surgeon providing his medical transcripts which showed 766  hours of surgical training, his performing 53 separate surgical operations and 12 autopsies, followed by a full year of internship at SF General Hospital where he would be performing surgery on a daily/weekly basis. This was followed by his employment as the sole surgeon at a logging camp in New Mexico for seven months. (See below link to that original article.)
SKH Note- There remains no question and all medical authorities that have examined both the Suzanne Degnan and Elizabeth Short bodies and or photographs of the autopsies, are in agreement that the bisections had to have been performed by a skilled surgeon.”  Further, both the Degnan and the Short bisections were an identical procedure known as a hemicorporectomy, where the body is divided by using a scalpel and cutting through the 2nd and 3rd lumbar vertebra.

“A Skilled Surgeon Did It” (Murders and Bisections of Suzanne Degnan Lipstick Murder 1946 and Elizabeth Short Black Dahlia Murder 1947 )


GHH Application for Appointment in Public Health Service 
March 10, 1942

Dr. George Hill Hodel Presidential Appointment 
PA Surgeon U.S. Public Health Service
July 11, 1942

As I have indicated in previous writings, I here again make a clarification and distinction on the “hemicorporectomies” performed on the 1946 Chicago Lipstick murder victim, Suzanne Degnan, age 6,  followed by the same surgical procedure performed on Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short in January 1947.
Critics argue that “it was impossible for George Hodel to be taught a hemicorporectomy at his medical school in 1936, since it was not performed until the mid-1940s.”
That is only true in the sense of it being used as a “last resort” attempt as a life-saving procedure. 
Prior to 1946, in 1936, it was performed as a surgical procedure in autopsies to divide the body by cutting through the 2nd and 3rd lumbar vertebra thus avoiding having to saw through bone.


Here is an article from The Gallup Independent newspaper dated January 17, 1938, where we read that Dr. G. Hill Hodel, as the District Health Officer, apparently is  acting coroner for Gallup New Mexico, and has determined the cause of death on the body of Nick Morros, found in the rear of his shop, “was probably a heart attack.”


  1. Luigi Warren on April 8, 2022 at 3:52 pm


    While I see no reason to doubt that GHH had enough surgical training and facility to perform the post-mortem cutting in the Short and Degnan cases, I’m not convinced the “Surgeon” title in his public health appointments tells us much. There is a tradition of using the “Surgeon” title in the military and in public health even for physicians who aren’t qualified surgeons. “Surgeon General of the United States” is a case in point.

    Incidentally, contemporary news reports reveal that GHH was quite involved in the management of rabies outbreaks in New Mexico, and the *careful* post-mortem decapitation of suspected rabid dogs to support lab testing is a standard practice in these outbreaks. It’s actually mentioned in the new reporting involving GHH.

    Best regards,


    • Steve Hodel on April 8, 2022 at 4:02 pm

      Agreed. But, when everything is taken into account, the documented surgical training hours at UCSF, his internship at SF General Hospital and his sole surgeon at a logging camp, it leaves no doubt he could perform the scalpel bisection on a dead body on both Degnan and Short. Main reason for reposting this again is to identify the section on his application that lists his “sole surgeon at a logging camp experience on this, his Public Health Service application.
      Yes, I’ve seen the articles on the rabid dog search in the newspaper articles. There is also an article where he was as District Health Officer, apparently the acting coroner in Santa Fe and ruled on a death investigation as “an apparent natural death.” Have to wonder what other cases he may have had?

Leave a Comment