A memorial to the dogs who died helping American Soldiers liberate the
island of Guam during World War II was dedicated Friday at the University
of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
The Marine War Dog Memorial is the only one of its kind in the country. It
is an exact replica of the official memorial at the U.S. Naval Base in
The dogs, mostly Doberman Pinschers, were "recruited" from civilian life
and trained to serve as mine detectors, messengers and sentries.
Twenty-five of the dogs were killed during fierce fighting on Guam in 1944,
and they are credited with saving hundre
ds of American lives.
Dr. William Putney, retired commanding officer of the 3rd Marine War Dog
Platoon now living in Los Angeles, attended the ceremony. Five other
Marines who served as dog handlers at Guam also attended.
"Patrols with dogs were never ambushed during the war," Putney said. "It's
true the dogs paid a heavy price, but they saved many lives, including my
own." Putney, a veterinarian, provided the health care for the dogs on
Guam, who collectively received 40
Purple Hearts. Putney himself received the Silver Star for destroying an
enemy machine gun position in Guam and was awarded the Purple Heart for
Art Spielman, a Marine dog handler from Alexandria, Va., said his memories
of all the dogs serving in Guam are still vivid, 54 years later. His dog
Bunkie was one who died in action.
"He was a small German Shepard, but it was his instincts that mattered, not
his size," he said.
The interest in using dogs by the Marine Corps began in 1935 when Central
American guerrilla soldiers used dogs as sentries to alert the soldiers.
This lead to the use of dogs in combat during WWII.
Camp LaJuene, N.C. was the home of the War Dog Training School, and a total
of seven War Dog Platoons were trained there. Each dog went through a
rigorous course of obedience for a period of six weeks. After basic
training, the dogs were divided into gro
ups for specialized training: scout, messenger or infantry. Scout dogs were
sent first with the handler to detect mines or enemy troops. Messenger dogs
would follow their handler's trail and carry correspondence or supplies.
Infantry dogs alerted the troo
ps of the enemy's presence.
Handlers were referred to as "dogmen" in the military. Dogs entered the
Marines with the rank of private and could be promoted, sometimes
outranking their handlers.
In August 1945, the War Dog Platoons were disbanded. Many of the dogs were
retrained for civilian life and sent back to their families, while several
remained with their handlers. There were 1,047 dogs enlisted during the
war, with 465 serving in combat.
The bronze statue of a life-sized Doberman Pinscher is the work of
California artist Susan Bahary. It was the gift of Dr. Marice Acree, a
retired physician and client of the veterinary college. Acree has long had
an interest in Doberman dogs and their us
e in the military, and is a friend of Putney.
Memorial honors dogs
Published: Sat Aug 22, 1998 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 01:34 p.m.