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WWII Canine Heroes

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U.S. Army launches Canine Units

On March 13, 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army begins training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or “K-9 Corps.”

Well over a million dogs served on both sides during WWI, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and providing some measure of psychological comfort to the soldiers. The most famous dog to emerge from the war was Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned puppy of German war dogs found in France in 1918.

When the country entered WWII in December 1941, the American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense began a movement to mobilize dog owners to donate healthy and capable animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. Training began in March 1942, and that fall the QMC was given the task of training dogs for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well.

The K-9 Corps initially accepted over 30 breeds of dogs, but the list was soon narrowed to seven: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, collies, Siberian Huskies, Malumutes and Eskimo dogs. Members of the K-9 Corps were trained for a total of 8 to 12 weeks. After basic obedience training, they were sent through one of four specialized programs to prepare them for work as sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs or mine-detection dogs.

The top canine hero of World War II was Chips, a German Shepherd who served with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender. The wounded Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

U.S. Marine Corps’ War Dogs!

As early as 1935, the Marines were interested in war dogs. They had experienced the enemy’s’ sentry dogs used in Haiti and in the other “Banana Wars” in Central America where dogs staked around guerrilla camps in the jungle sounded the alarm at the approach of the Marines.

The very first Marine War Dog Training School was located at Quantico Bay, Cuba, on January 18, 1943, under the direction of Captain Samuel T. Brick. Fourteen Doberman Pinschers were donated by the Baltimore, Maryland and Canton, Ohio members of the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. An old warehouse served as both headquarters and kennels.

The school’s location was short lived, however. A week later, the War Dog Training Center had been established at Camp Knox, site of a former CCC camp at Camp Lejeune, NC.   They were soon joined by a Boxer named Fritz, the very first dog sworn and signed into the Marine Corp.

Camp leJeune, 1943, Higgins boat training

Dogs For Defense wasn’t the only organization recruiting dogs for the armed services, in 1942 the Doberman Pinscher Club of America was formally approached to procure Dobes for the newly formed Marine Corps War Dog Training Facility at Camp LeJeune, New River, North Carolina.

The Marine dogs were named “Devildogs,” a name, that the Marines earned during WWI, fighting against the Germans. There were also Labs, German Shepherds and other breeds, that were obtained from the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. Actually towards the end of the war, German Shepherds replaced the Dobermans, as the preferred breed. Arriving in Camp LeJeune NC, the new canine recruits were first entered in a forty-page dog service record book. The Marine Corps was the only branch of the service to have such a record for their dogs.

Dobes began their training as Privates. They were promoted on the basis of their length of service. After three months the Dobe became a Private First Class, one year a Corporal, two years a Sergeant, three years a Platoon Sergeant, four years a Gunner Sergeant, and after five years a Master Gunner Sergeant. The Dobes could eventually outrank their handlers.

During World War II, a total of seven Marine War Dog Platoons were trained at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. All of the dog platoons served in the Pacific in the war against the Japanese.

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The First War Dog Platoon, was commanded by Lt. Clyde A. Henderson, and served with the 2nd Raider Battalion on Bougainville. From this and other units, the First Marine Brigade was formed and invaded Guam along with the Third Marine Division and the 77th Army Division.

More units were added to form the 6th Marine Division which invaded Okinawa. The First War Dog Platoon saw action on Bougainville, Guam, and Okinawa. The 2nd, commanded by Lt. William T. Taylor and 3rd War Dog Platoons, commanded by 1st Lt. William W. Putney, saw action on Guam (Lt. Putney was also the vet for both the 2nd and 3rd platoon), Morotai, Guadalcanal, Aitape, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok.

Because of the Dobes’ keen sense of smell and hearing, they could detect the presence of men several hundred yards away. In one instance, the dogs detected the presence of Jap troops one half mile away.

The Dobes’ handlers always had help digging their foxholes, the other Marines always wanted the handler and their dogs nearby.

No unit protected by one of the dogs was ever ambushed by the Japanese or was there ever a case of Japanese infiltration.

Putney War Dog Monument

More than 1,000 dogs had trained as Marine Devil Dogs during World War II. Rolo, one of the first to join the Devil Dogs, was the first Marine dog to be killed in action. 29 war dogs were listed as killed in action, 25 of those deaths occurred on the island of Guam. Today, the U.S. Marine Corp maintains a War Memorial (created by former 1st Lt. William W. Putney, who was the veterinarian for the dogs on Guam; and funded by public donation), on Guam, for those 25 War Dogs that served and died there during WW II.

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Current Military Dog News – 

 Navy working dog donates blood to save Air Force colleague !

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/06/25/navy-working-dog-donates-blood-save-air-force-canine-colleague.html

 

For a more modern story, author DC Gilbert recommends: 

No Ordinary Dog: My Partner from the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John H. Autry IV – Hamlet, NC; US Army, Vietnam, Sgt., 82nd Airborne Division & 75th Rangers, Bronze Star & Purple Heart

Nick Bravo-Regules – Largo, FL; US Army, Jordon, Spc., 2/43/11th ADA Brigade

Okinawa

John Bethea – Sturgis, MS; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division + 173rd A/B Brigade, West Point graduate, Colonel (Ret. 21 y.)

James Cowan – Fort Myers, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI

Arnold Gittelson – CA; USMC, WWII, 1st Sgt.

John Holmes – Selma, AL; US Army, WWII

Francis Kennedy – Pittston, PA; US Army, Korea, artillery spotter, Silver Star, 2 Purple Hearts

Frank Strahorn – Clinto, MD; USMC, Iraq & Afghanistan

Earl Urish – IL; US Army Air Corps, Japanese Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

Phillip “Joe” Woodward – Wabash, IN; US Army, Korea, 37 FAB/2nd Division, 3 Bronze Stars

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