FROM STAFF REPORTS
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 hundreds 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 wounds received.
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 groups 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 troops of the enemy's
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 use in the military, and is a friend of Putney.
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