Dr. Cleto Digiovanni Jr.
MACV-SOG (Medical Officer) USMC
Cleto DiGiovanni, Jr. MD was born in Detroit, Michigan on July 26, 1935 and was raised in the same city. He did not have any siblings. After completing high school at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, he went on to attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, graduating in 1956 with an A.B. degree. During his time as a Senior Fellow at Dartmouth (1955-56), he conducted virology research in the laboratory of Dr. John Enders at Harvard and established a virus culture laboratory at the Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover. Cleto then went on to receive his M.D. degree from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1961. He completed his internship from 1961 to 1962 at Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. From 1962 to 1963, he held a U.S. Public Health Service Research Fellowship and conducted research in psychophysiology for the Project Mercury and Gemini space programs at the U.S. Naval Acceleration Laboratory in Johnsville, PA and the Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.
Cleto joined the U.S. Navy as a medical officer and was initially assigned to the 2nd Recon Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. He later volunteered for a one-year tour of duty with the Special Operations Group, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV-SOG) as the SOG Medical Officer and concurrently, the SEAL Team Diving Medical Officer. He extended his tour of duty with SOG by one year, serving with SOG SEAL and Marine Force Recon teams on China Beach near Danang during the first year and with SOG’s Army Special Forces teams at Khe Sanh, Dak To, Dak Pek, and Kham Duc during the second year. After completing his tour of duty with SOG, Cleto was reassigned to the John F. Kennedy Center for Special Warfare at Fort Bragg, where he wrote a manual about the medical support of guerrilla teams located in denied areas. In mid-1966, he was discharged from the Navy as a lieutenant commander and immediately joined the Central Intelligence Agency as an intelligence officer in the Directorate of Operations. He held a variety of operational assignments, including serving as chief of station (overseas) and chief of operations for one of the geographic area divisions in the Operations Directorate. He worked with the CIA in Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Cleto resigned from the CIA at the end of December 1978 and went on to write about security issues in Central America, serve as a consultant to private business interests, and assist in the first Reagan campaign as a foreign policy advisor. In 1983, he returned to medicine by entering a psychiatric residency program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and a behavioral sciences fellowship program at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. While there, he initiated the psychiatric care of patients with HIV/AIDS in collaboration with the late Dr. Frank Polk.
After completing residency, Cleto returned to Federal Service as a staff psychiatrist at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He also held adjunct faculty appointments at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Medicine (Division of Infectious Diseases), and an appointment at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health as a Clinical Care Consultant. At the National Naval Medical Center, he continued his work with clinical care and research projects associated with HIV/AIDS. In the early 1990s, he gradually returned to operational issues and assignments, and from the mid-1990s to his first retirement from Federal Service in 2002, he worked full-time on counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He played a key role in bringing attention to the significance of psychological factors in the nation’s preparations for terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction. During the 1990s, he also served as a collateral duty psychiatrist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hostage Rescue Team, based in Quantico, Virginia. He worked closely with the U.S. Marine Corps’ officer programs and held a collateral duty assignment as the psychiatrist for the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS) and The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico, Virginia. He taught a course called “Human Factors in Combat” for ten years at the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course, Quantico. He held appointments as an Adjunct Professor of Warfighting at the Marine Corps University, Quantico, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, and was a member of the Consulting and Attending Staffs of the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. He retired from the federal government in 2002, but later accepted an invitation to work as the Public Health and Medical Advisor for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Advanced Systems and Concepts Office. During this time, he focused on studying the critical factors in public acceptance of disease containment strategies and was involved in several research activities related to infectious disease outbreaks. He served on several panels and committees related to quarantine, bioterrorism preparedness, and disaster preparation. He retired for a final time in 2007 and lived in Southern California until his death on Sunday, February 12, 2023.
DiGiovanni authored or co-authored over 180 papers, chapters, and two monographs on medical and national security topics. His primary hobby was playing the violin.