Dentists of the 32nd Station Hospital

Although this is the sixth in a series of articles about the men and women of the 32nd Station Hospital (with at least another five to go), this one is particularly important to me on a personal level.  My grandfather Robert Silverman was the unit’s longest-serving dentist, spending a total of 33 months with the hospital.  One of the most rewarding aspects of this project has been learning so much about both my grandfather and the men with whom he worked closely for almost three years.  The following dentists are listed alphabetically.

Howard Andrew Laile, O-357221 (September 8, 1911 – May 29, 2002)

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Dr. Howard A. Laile, almost certainly taken in Algeria in 1943 (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

Dr. Laile was born in Ohio, the son of Irvin (who worked as a plumber, mechanist and later, a steel plant inspector) and Stella Laile.  Dr. Laile graduated from the Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1937.   According to a summary of his career in the 1953 and 1961 Official National Guard Registers, he was commissioned into the Organized Reserve Corps as a 1st lieutenant on June 14, 1937.  He went on active duty on April 1, 1941 and was promoted to captain on August 2, 1941.

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Captain Howard A. Laile, probably taken at the Hotel Transatlantique in Tlemcen, Algeria in 1943 (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

Captain Laile joined the 32nd Station Hospital while it was operating in Tlemcen, Algeria sometime during 1943, most likely replacing Captain Earl Shindell.  He was definitely a member of the unit by November 25, 1943, when he signed a Thanksgiving celebration program along with several other officers from the unit.  On December 31, 1943 he was listed on the 32nd Station Hospital roster as Chief of Dental Service.  He was promoted to major on February 15, 1944.  In April 1945, Major Laile rotated home to the United States on temporary duty for “rehabilitation, recuperation and recovery purposes” via the 7th Replacement Depot.  There’s no indication he returned to the unit before it was deactivated that summer.

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Dental officers of the 32nd Station Hospital: Captain Robert Silverman (left), Captain Irving S. Weiner (center), and Major Howard A. Laile (right), taken in Cesarta, Italy between February and August 1944 (Courtesy of the Wessel Family)

After leaving the 32nd Station Hospital, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel on January 8, 1946.  A July 20, 1952 article in the Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) stated: “Recently named acting battalion commander of the 112th Medical Battalion, 37th Infantry Division, is Lt. Col. Howard A. Laile.”  He apparently remained on active duty until the summer of 1953.

Dr. Laile and his wife Jane raised a daughter and a son.  According to his obituary in the Times Bulletin (Van Wert, Ohio), Dr. Laile practiced in Columbus, Ohio for three decades prior to his retirement.  Dr. Laile died in Columbus, aged 90.

 

Carl Mason, O-399743 (April 12, 1912 – April 1, 2003)

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Captain Philip Opper (left), Captain Robert Silverman (center), and Captain Carl Mason (right) at the 32nd Station Hospital officers’ club in Caserta, Italy in 1945 (Robert Silverman Collection)

Dr. Mason was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts to Samuel (a carpenter) and Dora Mason, who immigrated from Russia.  According to Dr. Mason’s son, he attended college in Iowa, followed by dental school at Tufts College, graduating around 1939.  He is listed as a dentist in various Brockton, Massachusetts directories from 1941 to 1951 (though absent during World War II).

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Captain Philip Opper (left) and Captain Carl Mason (right) relaxing at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta. The note on the back to my grandmother states “I can appreciate your impression of Mason.” That may suggest it was taken shortly after he arrived in August 1944. (Robert Silverman Collection)

There is limited information available about Dr. Mason’s military service prior to him joining the 32nd Station Hospital.  Dr. Mason’s son recalled his father specifically mentioning that he served on Sicily, and that for part of his military career he was assigned to a field unit.  Indeed, Captain Mason transferred into the 32nd Station Hospital in August 1944 from the 400th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion, exchanging places with Captain Irving S. Weiner.  Captain Mason was placed on detached service with the Airborne Training Center’s headquarters in September 1944, but returned to the 32nd Station Hospital in November.  On the December 31, 1944 roster, Captain Mason was listed with the title of Dental Surgeon.  He transferred to the 24th General Hospital in June 1945.

Some time in the early 1950s, Dr. Mason moved his practice to Natick, Massachusetts.  He retired around 1978 or 1979.  Dr. Mason married Thelma Young (1914– 2009) in 1950.  He had one daughter from an earlier marriage; he and Thelma also raised a son and a daughter.  After his retirement, the Masons moved to Boca Raton, Florida.  He died in Florida, aged 90.

 

Earl Shindell, O-398824 (October 24, 1913 – October 12, 2002)

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Captain Earl Shindell (left) posing with the 32nd Station Hospital’s other dentists, 1st Lieutenant Robert Silverman (center) and 1st Lieutenant Irving Weiner (right) in Tlemcen, Algeria in 1943 (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

Dr. Shindell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  As of the 1920 census he was living in Boston with his father Jacob (a Jewish immigrant from Russia) and an older sister and brother.  As of the 1940 census, he was living in Boston.

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Still frame of 32nd Station Hospital Dentists in Tlemcen, Algeria with Robert Silverman at center and Irving Weiner at right, 1943.  Earl Shindell may be the man on the left, but the identification is not confirmed.  If it’s not Dr. Shindell, that would suggest another dentist replaced him briefly prior to the arrival of Captain Howard A. Laile.  (Robert Silverman 8 mm Film)

Captain Shindell was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by December 24, 1942 when the unit was at Fort Benning, Georgia.  Although no titles are given on the list of officers from that date, it is likely that he was Chief of Dental Service, given that he was the highest ranking Dental Corps officer in the unit.

The 32nd Station Hospital’s personnel records from 1943 are extremely limited, but sometime during the year (and no sooner than June) he was replaced by Captain Howard A. Laile.  (Because of poor records, it is not possible for me to be certain that there wasn’t another dentist or dentists who briefly served in the 32nd Station Hospital after Captain Shindell and before Captain Laile.)  In his journal, Dr. Lowell E. Vinsant reported that “Shindell bucked the C.O. and was transferred.”  The date this occurred wasn’t clear, but Alice Griffin’s September 25, 1943 letter to her family reported:

Our mess officer & supply officer & chief dentist have gone & they say there are two more doctors going.  They say this last group were shang-haied out.

Details of Dr. Shindell’s subsequent military career are unknown.

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Dr. Shindell and his wife Lee in 1977 (Courtesy of the Carey Family)

Dr. Shindell married Lee Bialik (who, according to Dr. Shindell’s great-nephew, is related to famous Jewish poet Hayim Nahman Bialik) in New York in 1952.  The couple did not have children.  The Shindells later moved to Brookline, Massachusetts.  A newspaper ad listed him as a retired Associate Clincial Professor at the Tufts University School of Dentistry.  Dr. Shindell’s great-nephew recalled that Dr. Shindell and his wife moved to Israel after his retirement, where he died, aged 88.

 

Robert Silverman, O-1689303 (October 8, 1914 – December 16, 1978)

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1st Lieutenant Robert Silverman in 1942 or 1943 (Robert Silverman Collection)

My grandfather Robert Silverman, known as Bob to his friends, was born in New York to Israel (a tailor) and Anna or Annie Silverman, Jewish immigrants from Russia (present day Belarus in Israel’s case).

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Robert Silverman’s New York University College of Dentistry graduation photo, 1939 (Silverman Family Collection)

Robert graduated from New York University College of Dentistry in 1939.  In September 1939, he started a private practice at 1 Hanson Place in Brooklyn.  Beginning in April 1940, he also worked part time at Cumberland Hospital, with the title of Assistant Visiting Dental Surgeon.

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Robert and his future wife Lucille circa 1940 (Silverman Family Collection)

Somewhere around the middle of 1935, Robert began dating Lucille Segal (1914–1982), my grandmother.  They married at Mount Neboh Temple in New York City on January 12, 1941.  Robert’s friend Dr. Herb Olian mentioned that the long courtship (for the time) was due to the tough financial situation of the Great Depression era.

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Robert and Lucille Silverman wedding portrait, January 1941 (Silverman Family Collection)

After the United States entered World War II, its military began a massive expansion.  Robert was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Army on June 19, 1942.  He reported for duty at Camp Pickett, Virginia, a U.S. Army Medical Replacement Training Center, on July 27.  Not long after, he was ordered to join the 32nd Station Hospital at Camp Rucker, Alabama by August 12, 1942.

In late December 1942 or early January 1943, while the 32nd Station Hospital was briefly stationed at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, Robert had an opportunity to visit his family in New York.  This must have been the last time that he saw his mother, who died in September 1944 while he was still overseas.  Robert’s father died only two months after his return from the war.

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Dr. Robert Silverman in action in Tlemcen, Algeria during 1943. (Robert Silverman Collection)

Robert was promoted to captain on November 3, 1943 while serving in Tlemcen, Algeria.  He continued with 32nd Station Hospital after it relocated to Caserta, Italy.  Robert was listed with the title of Dental Surgeon on the three extant 32nd Station Hospital rosters (December 31, 1943, May 1, 1944, and December 31, 1944), though his Military Occupational Specialty is actually recorded as Dental Officer (3170) rather than Oral Surgeon (3171) on his Officer Qualifications Record.

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Robert Silverman in front of the 32nd Station Hospital’s headquarters in Caserta, Italy in 1944 or 1945. Image made from a combination of two frames in the same scene from his film. (Robert Silverman 8 mm Film)

What survives of Robert’s wartime photos, 8 mm film, and correspondence focuses more on his travels and his hospital friends, with relatively little focus on the hospital.  Indeed, when I contacted Willard Havemeier circa January 2002, he told me that while he didn’t know Robert well, he remembered that Robert was always “seeking out local color”, visiting new places and capturing them on film.

Robert’s sons recall only three stories involving the war.  Both recall him telling of the nearly catastrophic air raid on the 32nd Station Hospital.  My uncle remembers that Robert mentioned that he once spent eight hours operating on a soldier who had attempted suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a .45 pistol.  My father also recalls that after the war, when Robert treated nuns in his private practice, he would regale them with the story about his audience with the pope during the war, without mentioning that there were many hundreds of other soldiers there at the same time!

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Captain Robert Silverman in Egypt at the entrance to King Tut’s tomb, May 1945 (Robert Silverman Collection)

In May 1945, Robert visited Egypt with Major Murray Maurer and Lieutenant Colonel George Evans.  (Dr. Maurer was not a 32nd Station Hospital officer, but a photograph indicates he visited the hospital’s officer club at least once in late 1944.)  In addition to Egypt, Robert also visited the British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel) and explored Jerusalem.

In June 1945, Robert left the 32nd Station Hospital and served brief stints with a number of different units.  The 32nd Station Hospital’s June 1945 report indicates Robert was transferred to the 12th General Hospital.  His stay must have been brief, since his Officer Qualifications Record doesn’t mention the 12th General Hospital at all, instead stating he was with the 70th General Hospital in Florence from June 1945 to July 1945 and the 8th General Dispensary in Naples from July 1945 to August 1945.  However, his records jacket also reveals temporary duty assignments to the 603rd Ordnance Base Armament Maintenance Battalion and 10th Port of Embarkation.

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Robert and his sons circa 1953 (Silverman Family Collection)

Robert was released from the U.S. Army at Camp Dix in October 1945 and resumed his private dental practice.  Robert and Lucille raised two children, my father and uncle.  It is unclear if Robert stayed in touch with anyone from the 32nd Station Hospital, but a man in a group photograph at the unit’s 1962 reunion in New York City (seated at the back left table at far left) strongly resembles him.

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Dr. Robert Silverman in his office; the photo is undated but must have been taken in the 1960s or 1970s (Silverman Family Collection)

At some point after the war, the Silverman family moved into a house with a garage that Robert converted into a dental office.  The downside was that family dinners were frequently interrupted by patients who felt that they couldn’t wait for regular business hours; Robert evidently did not turn anyone away, much to Lucille’s chagrin.

By the 1960s, Robert was tired of dentistry and went back to school.  He earned his master of public health degree from the Columbia University School of Public Health & Administrative Medicine around 1966.  However, he soon left the jobs that he took in his new field and reopened his private practice.  Despite his worsening health, Robert continued to practice dentistry until his death in New York, aged 64.

Future articles in the forthcoming Collections section of this site will cover Robert’s story, photographs, scrapbook, and documents in greater detail.

 

Irving Solwin Weiner, O-482547 (January 5, 1915 – July 28, 2001)

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An undated wartime portrait of Dr. Irving Weiner (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

Dr. Weiner was born in New York City, the seventh child of Harris and Eva Weiner.  His father (a tailor) and mother were Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Poland respectively (both part of the Russian Empire at the time).  In 1916, the family moved to Connecticut and Weiner grew up in Hartford.  He attended Connecticut State College (later renamed University of Connecticut).  In 1939, Dr. Weiner graduated from dental school at the Baltimore School of Dental Surgery (also known as the Dental School, University of Maryland, Baltimore) and began practicing in Hartford.  When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was listed as being 5 feet, 9 inches (175 cm) and 165 lbs (75 kg) with brown hair and blue eyes.

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A young Irving Weiner, almost certainly taken during his training at the Baltimore School of Dental Surgery (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

According to his Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. file, Dr. Weiner joined the U.S. Army on July 7, 1942.  1st Lieutenant Weiner began his military training at the Camp Pickett, Virginia, a U.S Army Medical Replacement Training Center.  A document in Robert Silverman’s files, Special Orders No. 186 (August 7, 1942), stated that 1st Lieutenants Silverman and Weiner were being reassigned from Camp Pickett to the 32nd Station Hospital at Camp Rucker, Alabama with instructions to report there by August 12, 1942.

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Dr. Robert Silverman (left) and Dr. Irving Weiner (right) in Tlemcen, Algiera in 1943 (Robert Silverman 8 mm Film)

A November 2, 1943 letter from nurse Alice Griffin to her family mentioned that Dr. Weiner was “one of the best liked men in the outfit[.]”  She added, “He did me a big favor about a month ago by taking me to Oran – a four hr drive down & same back– and he & Lt. Needles had to turn around & start right back again– just to do me the favor.”

By December 31, 1943, he had been promoted to captain and was listed on the 32nd Station Hospital roster as Asst Ch of Serv – Dental Surg.  His title is basically the same on the May 1, 1944 roster: Asst Chief of Dental Service.  In August 1944, Captain Weiner was reassigned to the 400th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion, exchanging places with Captain Carl Mason, who joined the 32nd.

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Dr. Weiner standing at far left with legendary performer Al Jolson (center, wearing tie) at the 32nd Station Hospital in Tlemcen, Algeria in 1943.  Dr. Robert Silverman is the tall man to the left of Jolson.  Frances Rubin is the woman in the dark uniform second from the right, with Joan Taaffe at far right.  The other individuals in the photograph are unidentified at this time.  (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

Prior to his transfer, Captain Weiner managed the 32nd Station Hospital baseball team, the Red Sox.  A team roster printed after the team claimed the Caserta Eastern League title describes him as “Manager until a few weeks ago, he took charge of the Sox when they were green rookies, and developed them into a team unbeatable both in playing and spirit.”  Despite the photo below, it doesn’t appear that bribery played a major role in Captain Weiner’s managerial success.  The roster stated that Chaplain O’Connor “took over when Capt Weiner’s option was recalled by an Ack Ack outfit.”

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This photo is captioned “Paying off the umpire!!!” Captain Weiner is the man on the right; the other two men are unidentified. (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

Captain Weiner was back in the United States on terminal leave by late 1945.  Dr. Weiner married his wife Lenette (1920–2007) in New Haven, Connecticut on December 11, 1945. He was released from active duty in the U.S. Army effective February 14, 1946 and resumed his dental practice in Hartford circa April 1946.  Dr. Weiner and his wife raised two daughters.

Dr. Weiner announced his retirement on January 1, 1990, ending five decades practicing dentistry.  According to his obituary in the Hartford Courant, he “was a lifetime member of the Hartford Dental Society, the Connecticut State Dental Association and the American Dental Association.”  He also “was past president of the Hartford chapter of the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity and Jewish Children’s Service Organization, and volunteered at the Hartford Dispensary for several years.”  Dr. Weiner died in Hartford, Connecticut, aged 86.

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Last updated October 23, 2019

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