In 2011, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), named after yellow fever researcher Walter Reed, was combined with the National Naval Medical Center to form the tri-service Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
In 1938, the United States Congress appropriated funds for the acquisition of land for the construction of a new Naval medical center, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected the present site in Bethesda, Maryland, on July 5, 1938.
Ground was broken by John McShain Builders for the Naval Medical Center on June 29, 1939 by Rear Admiral Percival S. Rossiter, MC, USN, (Ret.). President Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Tower on Armistice Day, November 11, 1940.
The original Medical Center was composed of the Naval Hospital, designed to hold 1,200 beds, and the Naval Medical School, the Naval Dental School (now the National Naval Dental Center) and the Naval Medical Research Institute. In 1945, at the end of World War II, temporary buildings were added to accommodate up to 2,464 wounded American sailors and marines.
In November 1963, the autopsy of U.S. President John F. Kennedy was performed at Bethesda. On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas with his wife, Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and his wife, Nellie. The wounded president was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Parkland doctors and local coroner insisted that they perform the autopsy, since he had been murdered in Dallas County. However, with concern for the security of the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, the Secret Service demanded that the assassinated president's body would be taken to Washington, D.C. immediately aboard Air Force One.