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The Dental Corps

AMEDD Corps History > U.S. Army Dental Corps > Walter D. Vail and the History of the U.S. Army Dental Corps


VOLUME 6, NO. 1 (JANUARY 1935)



(Continued from page 224, October 1934 issue)

The Act of February 2, 1901, authorized the employment of thirty dental surgeons in the Army. The Act approved February 26, 1907, increased this number to thirty-one. During the period from 1901 to 1911, when the rank of first lieutenant was authorized, a total number of forty-seven dental surgeons entered into contract with the Surgeon General. Of these three died while in the service; the contracts of ten others were annulled at their own request; the contracts of four others were annulled for various reasons and one was annulled to permit the dental surgeon to accept an appointment as second lieutenant Infantry.

A total of twenty-nine were appointed first lieutenants under provisions of the Act approved April 13, 1911. Dr. John S. Marshall accepted such appointment April 17, 1911. On the same date Dr. Marshall was placed on the retired list under the requirements of the Act approved June 30, 1882. He retired with the rank of Captain.

Reference is made in the following paragraphs to General Orders and Circulars issued by the Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, in connection with the development of the Dental Service.


General Orders No. 9 (Feb. 6, 1901). The provisions of the Act approved Feb. 2, 1901, authorizing the employment of dental surgeons in the Army are contained in these orders and have been previously referred to (see page 74, April 1933 issue).

*(NOTE—This is the eighth installment of a series of articles pertaining to the organization of the Dental Corps and the development of the Army dental service. These installments are a compilation of available records with such comment as is necessary to connect the record.—W.D.V.).


General Orders No. 39 (March 21, 1901). These orders contained a revision of paragraph 1280, A.R., which authorized the sale of subsistence stores to officers and certain other persons. Contract dental surgeons were included in this authorization.

General Orders No. 46 (April 6, 1901). These orders authorized the Quartermaster Department to sell to contract dental surgeons fuel, mineral oil, lamps, wicks, chimneys, articles of uniform clothing, clothing materials and equipage as needed and when available.

General Orders No. 52 (April 17, 1901). These orders added certain paragraphs to Army Regulations, among which was paragraph 1395 pertaining to contract dental surgeons (See page 118, July 1933 issue).

General Orders No. 53 (April 18, 1901). These orders contained an amendment to Regulations and Decisions pertaining to the Uniform of the Army of the United States. The following is extracted from the orders:

* * *

Uniform of Contract Surgeons and Contract Dental Surgeons.

26. Contract surgeons may wear the undress and field uniform of an assistant surgeon with the rank of first lieutenant, the shoulder straps and ornaments to be in silver instead of gold.

Contract dental surgeons will be permitted to wear the undress and field uniform of an assistant surgeon with the rank of first lieutenant, the straps and ornaments to be in silver instead of gold, and block letters “D.S.” in silver embroidery to be placed between the bars of the shoulder straps.

General Orders No. 140 (Nov. 2, 1901). These orders amended certain paragraphs of Army Regulations. Paragraph 1487 included contract dental surgeons among those entitled to travel expense on joining first station after appointment.


General Orders No. 26 (March 15, 1902). The following is the context of those orders:

“By direction of the Secretary of War, the following rules


and regulations regarding the official relations of the contract dental surgeons authorized by the act of Congress approved February 2, 1901, as published in General Orders No. 9, February 6, 1901, from this office, and their enlisted assistants, to the medical department at military posts where dental surgeons may be serving, are published to the Army for the information and guidance of all concerned:

1. Contract dental surgeons have no official relation to the surgeon of the post, neither have their enlisted assistants detailed under the provisions of paragraph 1581 of the Regulations. except that they may occasionally be attached to the Hospital Corps detachment for rations and quarters.

2. Contract dental surgeons and their enlisted assistants will be mustered on a muster roll which the contract dental surgeon will sign.

3. Should it for any reason be necessary to recommend the excuse from duty of an officer or enlisted man on account of dental disease the contract dental surgeon will report the case to the surgeon of the post, who will take it up on his register of sick and wounded, but in other cases no report of dental operations will be made except by the contract dental surgeon.”

General Orders No. 81 (July 17, 1902) and General Orders No. 132 (Dec. 31, 1902). These orders pertained to changes in Uniforms for Contract Dental Surgeons.

Circular Letter No. 61 (Dec. 18, 1902). This circular referred to a decision of the Secretary of War read “There is no authority of law or regulations for the sale or issue of forage by the Quartermaster Department for feeding the private horses of a contract surgeon or a contract dental surgeon.”


General Orders No. 8 (Jan. 26, 1903). These orders amended paragraph 1574, Army Regulations, to read as follows: “Civilian physicians and dentists may be employed as contract surgeons and contract dental surgeons under contracts entered into by or with the authority of the Surgeon General of the Army. They are entitled to the transportation and fuel allowances of first lieutenants, and when on duty at a post or station where


quarters in kind are provided by the United States they will be entitled to the quarters allowed by regulation to an assistant surgeon Of the rank of first lieutenant ; they are not entitled to commutation of quarters, nor to the ten per centum increase of pay when serving beyond the territorial limits of the United States.”

General Orders No. 33 (Mar. 19, 1903). These orders gave contract dental surgeons equal privileges with officers serving in Alaska, Hawaii, Philippine Islands and Porto Rico in matters of transferring pay accounts.


General Orders No. 103 (June 15, 1904), General Orders No. 197 (Dec. 31, 1904). These orders were practically repetitions of provisions of previous orders on the purchase of clothing .and equipment and uniform regulations for contract dental surgeons.


General Orders No. 67 (May 3, 1905). These orders required contract dental surgeons to make personal reports the same as required of regular medical officers by Paragraphs 843, 835, and 836, Army Regulations.

These orders also required a report to the Military Secretary of the Army by the officer taking the action when contracts were made and annulled with civilian dental surgeons.

General Orders, No. 201 (Dec. 2, 1905). These orders pertained to the field allowance of tentage and baggage for contract dental surgeons.

General Orders No. 207 (Dec. 15, 1905). These orders amended paragraph 1142, Army Regulations, reference baggage allowance on change of station. Contract dental surgeons were authorized to transport at public expense 150 pounds when in the field or on a temporary change of station; 5100 pounds on a permanent change of station.

Circular No. 22 (April 29, 1905). This circular contained a decision of the Chief of Staff, approved by the Secretary of War.(April 13, 1905), which provided that contract dental sur-


geon was entitled to campaign badges for service rendered by him as an officer or enlisted man and that such badges would be supplied in the same way as to commissioned officers.

Circular No. 32 (June 30, 1905). This circular provided that contract dental surgeons were not entitled to select quarters, having no rank and not being officers but that quarters equal to those of a first lieutenant should be assigned by the post commander.

Circular No. 33 (July 13, 1905). This circular read as follows:

“Dental surgeons will hereafter be carried on the muster rolls, and their enlisted assistants on the muster rolls and returns of the hospital at their permanent stations. The enlisted assistant should, at all times, be at the disposal of the dental surgeon, whom he should accompany on a change of station, and his descriptive list should be kept in the possession of the post surgeon, to whom should be invoiced the articles of his personal equipment. Reports of change of status of the enlisted assistant of the dental surgeon should be made by the post surgeon.”


General Orders No. 32 (Feb. 15, 1906). These orders amended paragraph 1044, Army Regulations, which related to the sale of fuel to contract dental surgeons.

General Orders No. 81 (April 25, 1906). These orders pertained to sale of clothing to officers of the Army, contract dental surgeons, and others.

General Orders No. 115 (June 20, 1906). These orders contained provisions for the payment of actual sea travel expenses to officers, contract dental surgeons, and others.

General Orders No. 144 (August 15, 1906). These orders contained another reference to the sale of fuel.

Circular No. 4 (Jan. 20, 1906). This circular referred to personal reports required by officers, contract dental surgeons, and others.

Circular No. 26 (April 30, 1906). The following paragraph is quoted from this circular:

“1. Materials to be used by Contract Dental Surgeons in operating on Enlisted Men. A contract dental surgeon when


operating upon an enlisted man will not use materials other than those furnished by the Medical Department unless the soldier has funds in hand necessary to pay for any finer materials that may be used.— (Decision Secretary of War, April 12, 1906—1111913 M.S.O.)”


General Orders No. 16 (Jan. 25, 1907). Reference was made in these orders to paragraph 1488 that prescribe hospital charges for officers, contract dental surgeons and others. Officers, contract dental surgeons and others were not charged subsistence in field hospitals unless the duration of stay in hospital was longer than 48 hours.

General Orders No. 18 (Jan. 26, 1907). These orders amended field service regulations so as to include the provision of no subsistence charges in field hospitals as just referred to in General Orders No. 16.

General Orders No. 133 (June 14, 1907). These orders contained further reference to field allowance of tentages, wagons and personal baggage.

General Orders No. 139 (June 24, 1907). These orders pertained to shipment of personal baggage at public expense.

General Orders No. 169 (Aug. 14, 1907). These orders amended previous orders relating to the uniform of the United States Army including contract dental surgeons.

General Orders No. 209 (Oct. 10, 1907). These orders amended paragraph 1488, Army Regulations, that provided for hospital charges.

General Orders No. 256 (Dec. 31, 1907). These orders contained amendment to paragraphs 1144 and 1142, Army Regulations, which pertained to transportation of baggage allowances.


General Orders No. 128 (Aug. 12, 1908). These orders amended paragraphs 1418 and 1420, Army Regulations, so as to read as follows:

“1418. Dental surgeons will operate between the hours of


9 a.m. and 4 p.m. upon those officers and enlisted men who are entitled to their services. They may operate upon others, not entitled to free service, before and after these hours, when their services are not required by those entitled to them, but material issued to them by the Government will be used only in operations upon officers and enlisted men of the Army. Emergency work, whether for officers or enlisted men, shall at all times have precedence over the work for those not entitled to free service, without regard to the hours of duty.

1420. For plate work or for the filling of teeth of enlisted men the material supplied by the Government will be used and no other, and dental surgeons are forbidden to enter into any financial agreement with enlisted men involving an obligation for payment for silver, platinum, or gold used for filling cavities in teeth, for the construction of bridge work, for the fitting of crowns, the making of artificial dentures, or other dental work."

General Orders No. 129 (Aug. 13, 1908). These orders were published as a substitute for all previous orders and circulars on the subject of campaign badges.

General Orders No. 183 (Nov. 18, 1908). These orders covered paragraph 1146, Army Regulations, relating to baggage allowance.

On November 23, 1905, the Surgeon General wrote the Commanding Officer, Army General Hospital, Presidio of San Francisco, the following letter (S.G.O. 77613-I)

“Since the establishment of the Dental Corps in 1901 there has been a constant complaint that there is not a sufficient number of dentists to do the work required of them by the Army. Practically every inspector who makes a report in regard to the dental surgeons states that the member of this organization who is in his Department has more work than he can possibly attend to. At the same time, it has come to the attention of this office that a few of the dental surgeons occupy a great part of their time in doing work which is not contemplated by the Act of Congress authorizing their employment. I enclose for your information an extract from report of Major J. P. Wisser of his last inspection of the post at the Presidio, and request that you will give this your consideration and state whether in your opin-


ion the two dentists now assigned to duty at your Hospital are sufficient to do the work required of them. I would also like to know if they give their time to officers and enlisted men of the Army, or whether a great deal of their time is spent in caring for the families of officers and doing outside practice.

“It is my desire that pars. 1425 and 1426, A.R., shall be strictly complied with so that in the future when reports come to this office that dental surgeons are overworked it will be understood that their time has been entirely given to their legitimate duty.

“It has also come to my knowledge that abuses have crept into the work of certain members of the Dental Corps under the provisions of par. 1428, A.R. It has been stated that when those entitled to treatment have asked that other than the cheaper materials be used in the work done for them that dental surgeons have not only charged for the gold used far in excess of The cost price but have also made a liberal charge for their services. This, of course, was never contemplated by the Regulations, and is a great injustice. This abuse attained such proportions at the Military Academy that the Superintendent of that institution required the canteen to keep the materials that might be used by the dentists stationed there for sale at cost price. Some recent correspondence with the surgeon at West Point on this subject is inclosed for your consideration, and I would be glad to know if you consider it practicable for the exchange at your hospital to keep in stock the more expensive materials used by dentists, which are not furnished by the Medical Department.

“In conclusion I desire to say that the dental surgeons at your hospital are a part of your command and I hope will receive the same careful supervision as the rest of the personnel.

“The return of the inclosed papers is requested.”

(A copy of the above letter was sent to all Chief Surgeons, Surgeon, Military Academy, and Chief Surgeon, Division of the Philippines.)

The Commanding Officer, Army General Hospital, Presidio of San Francisco, replied to the above letter substantially as follows:

He dissented from the opinion expressed by Major Wisser, Inspector General, Pacific Division, as to the necessity of an


additional Contract Dental Surgeon at that place for the reason that he believed the work of the dental department of the hospital can be efficiently performed without such increase.

Had no knowledge of engagements in outside practice-by the dental surgeons on duty at that hospital and had been informed by Dr. Marshall that no dental work is being performed there for patients not connected with the Army.

Believing that the materials issued to dentists by the Medical Department are equally as applicable and as efficient as gold when utilized as fillings for cavities in teeth, and, also, in prosthetic dentistry, recommend that in their practice, in the cases of enlisted men the dentists of the Army be required to use these materials exclusively and further that they be prohibited from accepting from such patients any remuneration whatever, either for additional expensive materials or for service rendered.

At this time it did not seem practicable for the post exchange of that General Hospital to keep on hand the extra expensive articles used by dentists.

On Dec. 17, 1909, the Chief Surgeon, Department of the East, Governors Island, N.Y., wrote the Surgeon General requesting a copy of his decision that local surgeons were responsible for dental surgeons temporarily at their stations (S.G.O. 77614-Y).

On Dec. 18, 1909, the Surgeon General replied by indorsement, inclosing copy of his letter dated November 23, 1905, and with the statement that “by the Act of Congress, approved April 23, 1908, the Dental Corps was made a part of the Medical Department of the Army.”

The first clause of the Act referred to read as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That from and after the approval of this Act the Medical Department of the United States Army shall consist of a Medical Corps and a Medical Reserve Corps, as hereinafter provided; and the Hospital Corps, the Nurse Corps and dental surgeons, as now authorized by law. (G.O. No. 67, W.D. May 2, 1908).

(To be continued)