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Full honors funeral pays tribute to DU alumnus and military career surgeon

Robert Morris Hardaway III (AB ’36) was a captain and surgeon with the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec. 7, 1941. He spent the first 48 hours after the attack operating nonstop on the wounded.

Hardaway went on to serve 36 years in the Army and retired as a brigadier general. He died peacefully in his sleep at age 103 in October 2019 and was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 4, 2021.

He earned an MD degree from Washington University School of Medicine in 1939 and entered active duty in 1940. Hardaway served at Denver’s Fitzsimons Army Hospital before being transferred to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in 1941 as a regimental surgeon with the 8th Field Artillery Regiment. He and his wife, Lee, saw the Japanese planes flying low on their way to bomb Pearl Harbor on the “date which will live in infamy.”

“I was the first doctor at the hospital. I was just going in the door when an ambulance came roaring in. I ran over and opened the back door, and there were four soldiers in there just blown apart. One of them was already dead. Just then, I could hear the bombs going off down in Wheeler Field, which was close by. That was the first time I realized this was a war,” Hardaway said in a 2006 interview.

While he was operating on the wounded, Lee, along with other women and children, was evacuated to Honolulu. After several days at the hospital, not knowing where Lee was, he finally received a note from her. “The letter didn’t say, ‘I’m OK.’ It didn’t say, ‘Are you OK?’ It just said, ‘Go back to the quarters and let Val out,’” he said. He retrieved the little dog and took care of him at the hospital.

After the war, Hardaway returned to Fitzsimons, where he completed his surgical residency. Over the course of his military career, he served at medical facilities around the globe, from Korea and Germany to U.S. sites including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Upon retiring from the Army, Hardaway became a surgery professor at Texas Tech School of Medicine in El Paso. His career achievements include numerous citations and decorations, as well as more than 300 published articles in professional journals and 10 books.

Hardaway’s survivors include his son, Robert Morris Hardaway IV, a professor at DU’s Sturm College of Law.

“Participating in my dad’s funeral was an incredible experience and an honor,” his son says. “To be honest, I have never experienced such a funeral except perhaps on television for a president or other high official. Frankly, I was in absolute awe.”

His friend and colleague, Thomas Russell, also a professor at the Sturm College of Law, describes the ceremony this way:

“Most impressive was the cortège from the chapel into the cemetery. At the front, the Army band played. Behind the band, soldiers marched precisely with shouldered M14 rifles and bayonets. Honor Guards atop six black horses pulled a caisson laden with a flag-draped casket that contained the general’s cremated remains. Behind the caisson was a riderless horse with dress boots reversed in the stirrups. Eleven cannon shots saluted Gen. Hardaway; three volleys of rifle shots from seven soldiers followed. Last, a bugler sounded the melancholy, serene Taps.”

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