Dr. Leon T. Davis, the Walter Reed doctor who staged a sit-down to protest his treatment in the Army medical corps, could get up to 8 1/2 years at hard labor from the general court-martial that opens today.
The 30-year-old radiologist, who refused to continue practicing on grounds the Army had broken its contract with him, is charged with deserting going absent without leave, missing his deployment to South Korea and refusing to obey orders.
To many other doctors, Davis has become the Bill Mitchell of the medical corps by publicly protesting the policies of superiors. Mitchell, an Army [WORD ILLEGIBLE] who openly advocated more stress on air power, was convicted of insubordination in a court-martial in Washington 53 years ago.
To many military officers, Davis is a soldier who would not obey orders and should be punished accordingly. Maj. Gen. Kenneth Doileman, who convened the court-martial as commander of the Military District of Washington, took that view in rejecting Davis' request to resign from the Army.
"Each charge pending against Capt. Davis alleges, in some [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a disregard for authority," Dohleman wrote. The general said he considered the "deterrent effect" of court-martialing Davis, adding that "the possibility" that other doctors feel the same way as Davis "is real."
More than 600 doctors have filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington alleging that the military has not lived up to its contracts with them. The suit is pending.
Davis joined the Army during his junior year at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. The deal, as he portrays it, was that the Army would pay for the rest of his medical education in return for his serving two years on active duty as a doctor.
Davis said he was assured when he signed up that as an Army doctor he would work on the latest medical equipment get paid the same as his peers in the service receive 30 days of vacation a year and be allowed to go to medical meetings.
He claims none of those promises was kept.He said much of the equipment he was given to work on a Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the supposed model of Army hospitals, was out of date; he found out he was getting $2,000 a year less than other military doctors with the same experience because of a quirk in the rules, and the other benefits did not materialine as promised.
Therefore, Davis contended, the Army had chosen to nullify its contract with him; he was not longer under contract and thus not subject to Army orders.
"I have exhausted all reasonable alternatives to correct the injustices forced on me which are contrary to the terms and good faith under which I entered into my agreement" in joining the Army, Davis wrote Army Surgeon General C. C. Pixley on Aug. 1 in serving notice he would no longer practive.
Davis, the first military doctor to stage a sit-down over breach of contract, said in in an interview: "I was told I was going to get equal pay for equal work within the military. It's not like I'm asking for the $45,000 I could earn in private practice." Davis makes $21,000 as a military radiologist.
Unless Army Secretary Clifford L. Alexander accepts Davis's resignation, the doctor could receive up to 8 1/2 years at hard labor if found guilty of all charges, according to military lawyers.