A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany
QMC & MP DOG PLATOONS ...SERVING IN THE PACIFIC!
A large number of War Dogs served with the Army through all the bloody business of island hopping across the Pacific. From Guadalcanal, New Guinea, New Britain, Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, Okinawa, the Philippines ...names that ring with valor ...stand on the records of one or another of the platoons.
Eight Army Quartermaster Corps War Dog Platoons plus some Casual Dog Detachments, and Military Police Dog Units saw action against the Japanese. This page singles out only afew of those dog units, but it needs to be said, that all served with distinction and bravery!
Warbound, The Army's 25th QMC War Dog Platoon
The Army's 25th QMC War Dog Platoon
The first army platoon to go overseas in the Pacific was the 25th QMC War Dog Platoon, under the command of Lt. Bruce D. Walker. When they left San Carlos, California, on May 11, 1944, none of the handlers had any idea where their final destination would be.
At San Francisco, men and dogs boarded the Liberty Ship John Isaacson to begin their twenty-two day sea voyage.
On June 2th, Guadalcanal came into view but that wasn't their assignment because after several weeks of training; they left aboard the freighter USS Taganak, arriving at Bougainville three days later.
It was only a matter of days before the 25th went into its first combat, and the platoon stayed wired in anticipation. Although the initial assaut by Marines had occured over seven months earlier, the island was not yet completely secured.
It took the dogs to seek out the Japanese hiding in the caves throughout the island and seek...they did, in short time the 25th had secured their first island!
Alerting On The Enemy...Burma '44
The 26th, 44th And 45th QMC
The second army platoon to enter the Pacific theater was the 26th, arriving in New Guinea on June 16, 1944, under the command of Lt. James Stanley Head. Lt. Head was especially well qualified to lead, by his civilan experience in training guide dogs.
At first, the 26th, met alot of prejudice and stubborn reluctance to even give the dogs a trail by the operations staffs, to down through the rank and file; dogs were viewed as a hair brained novelty, a probable nuisance, and a distinct liability. At times, opposition was actively hostile. Some reports on them from the Central Pacific, had been unfavorable, and word of failures and limitations, as is often the case with the untried, outweighted successes.
But military orders, said the dogs would be used, and the 26th Platoon's commander, Lt. Head, pleaded for a chance to prove his handlers and dogs worth.
Ultimately, the 26th was given its chance! Its first dogs went into action on Biak Island on July 1st, 1944, with the 41st Division. From that date, the platoon was in continuous combat until its relief on August 1, 1945. They had proven themselves!
26th QMC War Dog Platoon, Luzon Island
On Aitape, it served with the 32nd and 31st Division, making the assault landing on Morotai Island with the latter. Its dogs and handlers were split up among the 43rd, 25th, 6th and 32nd Divisions on January 9, 1945, when they hit the beaches of Lingayan Gulf, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. It was also among the few occupation troops in Japan.
Scout dogs of the 26th, from Sept. 17th to November 10, 1944, led more than 100 patrols, ranging from a five man scouting party to a rifle company of 200 or more. On these patrols, in the field from one to three days, the dogs never failed to alert at seventy-five yards or further. Not a single casualty was ever suffered when a dog was along. With a dog in the lead, scouts moved ahead more rapidly, confident they would not be ambushed.
As one young infantry lieutenant in a report on the 26th stated: "Theirs is a tricky and dangerous job with no credit other than the praise of all the men who work with them." "Time and again, they have saved our patrols from being ambushed. Not only the dogs deserve credit but the men who handle them."
Honors, well deserved, came to the 26th Platoon, its personnel were awarded one Silver Star, eight Bronze Stars, and seven Purple Hearts, two with Oak Leaf clusters; none of the men was killed in action. All members received the prized Combat Infantryman Badge. The platoon also received a unit citation from the 31st Division, and another from the 6th Division.
Especially gratifying after the cold receptions initially given the platoon were those requests for its permanent assignment, along with additional platoons, from the 31st, 25th, and 6th Divisions - the outfits with which it had served longest and on the most difficult operations.
Troops Going Over With Mascot K-9
Prior to the invasions of Okinawa, Lt. Wiley S. Isom, QMC and the 45th War Dog Plaoon arrived on the island of Espiritu Santo, in the New Hebrides on March 8, 1945. The 45th War Dog Infantry Platoon mostly conducted mopping up action on Okinawa, and sentry duty of Japanese POW's
The 39th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon
"More than 200 combat patrols during the period from March 9th to May 23rd, 1945...
More than 200 known enemy killed by patrols after advancing into areas alerted by dogs...
Any number of times, parties were saved from ambush by the alertness of the dogs and their handlers..."
Thus runs the citation of the 39th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon, made by the 33rd Division, one of the four division with which that platoon served in the Philippines
Two deaths in action, one of a handler and one of a dog, also stand on the 39th's Roll Of Honor.
When an assault patrol was given the mission of locating and destroying an enemy machine gun nest, Sergeant Knisely and his German Shepherd, Danny, took the point. Twice the dog alerted, and scouts went forward but were unable to spot the well hidden nest. Then the handler volunteered to lead the patrol as close as possible. Slowly and cautiously they moved up. Danny alerted very strongly, and the sergeant pointed out the gun's exact position. But in the fight that eliminated it and its crew, Knisely was killed. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.
Wolf, another shepherd, was leading an infantry patrol through the Corabello Mountains toward the strategic Belete Pass, when he scented a Jap party entrenched on a hill about one hundred and fifty yards distant. The patrol launched a surprise attack. In the hot engagement that followed, Wolf was severely wounded by shell fragments. Since he never whimpered or showed signs of pain, the men around him failed to notice that he had been hit. As the firing increased in intensity, the Americans realized they were heavily outnumbered and were being encircled. Again the dog, and his handler took post at the point. Three times Wolf's alerts enabled the patrol to avoid Jap columns closing in on it. Wounded though he was, Wolf finally guided the American troops out of the trap and back to their command post. When the gallant animal's wounds were discovered, an emergency operation was performed but could not save him.
Another 39th K-9 hero was Bruce. During a screaming Jap banzai attack on E Company, 27th Infantry, the German Shepherd sighted three Japs with fixed bayonets bearing down on a foxhole in which two wounded American soldiers lay. Bruce rushed out in a fierce charge that routed the Japs and saved the wounded men.
Duchess, #7H74: was also a member of the 39th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon. On April 30th, 1945 Duchess handled by Sgt. Knight, on patrol with the 3rd Battalion, 123rd Infantry, was used in the inspection of enemy cave installations on Luzon in the Philippines.
On approaching a large one, the dog was permitted to go to the entrance. At this point she gave a strong alert. Grenades were thrown into the cave, after which the patrol moved on. Investigation the following day revealed 33 Japanese dead in the cave.
On another occasion Duchess and Sgt. Knight were on patrol with the same unit. Duchess alerted on some Filipino huts, 800 yards away. Closer investigation of the patrol disclosed the presence of the Japs. Mortar and machine-gun fire were used to kill 9 Japanese.
The Last Was The 44th
The last platoon to be activated and sent over seas during WW II was the 44th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon, who along with the 811th Military Police Company, completed mopping up on the island of Saipan. Small pockets of Japanese soldiers, mostly individuals, remained hidden is the vast caves and bunkers, on the island. The scout dogs helped to locate and eliminate these pockets. The platoon remained on Saipan until the war was over, and finally returned to the states, January 6, 1946.
"They Really Paid Off..."
First hand judgement on American War Dogs in the Pacific ranges from Divisional commendations in military language to the blunt accolade of a Marine sergeant: "They really paid off."
Words were backed by deeds: Those handlers lugging dogs whose pads had been cut by coral... Wounded K-9's carried back on stretchers and given transfusions and careful surgical treatment... Dogs, killed in action, given honorable burial. And Dogs For Defense headquarters in New York was receiving from handlers at the front an increasing number of letters, with the request they be forwarded to their dog's owners.
Typical was the one a Marine wrote about his Doberman: "During the past months, Judy and I have been through a lot together and I have become very fond of her. I would like to have her after the war. So if you can possibly see your way clear to part with her I would be forever gratefu to you and although I am not a person of any wealth, I would be only to happy to pay any amount I could afford, if I could have her."
Then and almost invariably the owner's answer was yes.
Returning War Dogs To Civilian Life!
August 8, 1945
When World War II hostilities ended, the Quartermaster Corps and Dogs For Defense put into operation a ambitious plan to return the war dogs to their previous civilian owners; often in better physical condition, than when the military first received them!
Dogs were sent to a reprocessing section for the purpose of rehabilitation for civilian life. Dogs were trained that every human was friendly and tested for such things as reaction to people riding around them on bicycles or placed in an area with a great amount of noise.
Generally the detraining was sucessful but some war dogs remained so sharply aggressive, that their return was not considered safe even at the owner's risk. Others, suffering from a canine counterpart of war nerves continued to be morose and hostile to all civilian strangers. If treatment and rest failed to cure these unfortunates, there was no alternative, but to putting them mercifully to death.
When a canine was considered thoroughly detrained, he was given a final physical exam, and shots. A certificate of faithful service and honorable discharge was made out in his name, and his service record completed. His kit was packed: collar, leash, and a copy of the War Department manual, War Dogs. Then he was ready for shipment home to the owner, which was made at government expense.
Not every dog was requested to be returned. Those owners, who originally wanted their pets returned might have had a change of circumstances, no longer wanted the dog, or were dead. Other dogs, acquired from pounds or various kennels, had no original owners. Many surplus dogs presented serious health risks, not only for other dogs, but for humans as well.
Those surplus war dogs, which the original owners did not desire back were (required by law) to be sold to the public by the Treasury Dept; but even the Army's QMC, who were only keeping enough war dogs to staff four platoons for the new post war Army, and some for breeding, were apprehensive, that some of the returning "war dog veterans," might fall into "the wrong hands" or some breeding kennel.
Once the impending auction was reported in the news (was leaked by military sources), by The New York Times, and The Herald Tribune, the Dogs for Defense once again volunteered its services to the Government for the placement in proper homes of surplus war dogs!
The action marked a return from virtual retirement by DFD, for it had ceased procurement on March 1, 1945, because of the sharp decrease in the demand for new war dog volunteers.
With the announcement, that surplus war dogs were available, applications by the hundreds poured into DFD headquarters, sometimes as many as five hundred a day.
In April 1945, the War Department stated that the dogs would be disposed of through one of the following methods:
1. By issue to the Seeing Eye, Inc. as a prospective Seeing Eye dog.
2. By issue to a military organization as a mascot.
3. By making available to the dogs' former handler.
4. By sale through the Treasury Department.
Each one of the applications were carefully screened by DFD, with special considerations given to former handlers, veterans, and to "owners, whose dogs were killed in service!"
There was one decision to challenge the wisdom of Solomon.
Five veterans had applied for the same dog, all claiming to have served with him. DFD picked the one, whose letter showed the closet bond and indicated he could provide the best home.
Since the "surplus dogs," were still required by law, to be sold, the prices were set low - from $14 to $24, dependent upon the shipping distance, and was intended only to help defray transportation and handling costs. Actual expense amounted to more than twice those charges. The Government and Dogs for Defense covered the difference.
All tole, 17,000 requests arrived, and they were still drifting in well into 1947, long after the supply of surplus war dogs was exhausted.
The Marines Did The Same...
The Marine Corps also established a dog return policy that mirrored the efforts of DFD, and the Army's Quartermaster Corps. Approximately 1,047 Devildogs served wth the Marines during World War II in the Pacific.
After the falll of Japan, the Marines also returned home their war dogs; 232 dogs aboard the S.S. Merick and another 259 through other channels. Incredibly, only 19 of the returning dogs from this group needed to be put to sleep. Several were impossible to detrain and the others had serious diseases that necessitated that they be destroyed.
Of all the dogs returned to civilian life after the war, the Corps never received a report of anyone being attacked, injured or dissatisfied with a dog.
With no future wars on the horizon, the Marines dismantled their war dog program in September of 1946. The Devildogs became history and for the most part forgotten!
While the Government could not absolutely guarantee the future behavior of any returned war dog nor assume any responsibility once it had left either Army or Marine jurisdiction, there were very few complaints as to the behavior of the 3,000 odd dogs discharged from the service.
The following excerpts from unsolicited letters received by the Quartermaster General are reassuring as to the success of rehabilitation.
"DOLF arrived yesterday afternoon in excellent condition and survived the long trip remarkably well. He knew each and all of us immediately and within a very short time had taken up where he left off two years ago. He is beautifully trained and his behavior is remarkable. He had not in the least forgotten many of the things we had taught him." Submitted by John B. Osborn, NewYork
Or the story about one dog, who upon returning home, ran into the house and out the back door to dig up a bone, he burried two years prior.
"Thank you for your good care and training of our dog MIKE. He knew all of us and still remembers the tricks he knew before he entered the service. My son, Edward, an Army officer, and all of us are proud of his honorable discharge and his deportment." Submitted by Mrs. E. Conally, Utah.
"QUEENE seems to be exceedingly happy to be home. She certainly shows the effects of wonderful care and splended training, and proudly exhibits her show off traits. Our son (in the submarine service) is very proud of QUEENE having been in the service." Submtted by Mrs. C. A. Pryor, California.
A Remarkable Record!
It speaks well for the dogs and their discipline that only a very few unfortunate incidents occured. Some of the dogs growled at children, who snapped cap pistols at them, and who could blame them? One bit a young hoodlum, who kept annoying him. Another attacked a woman, who hit the dog first with an umbrella. One dog, which had served for a time in the Pacific, attacked a woman of Japanese descent and slashed her knee. Several would accept only one master in their new home, and were surly to the rest of the family.
Occasional difficultries with a returned war dog, or with a dog reported to have had war service, continued to appear in the newspapers as late as 1947. But of all the approximately 3,000 war dogs discharged by the Army, only four had to be returned to training camps ...a remarkable record.
NEXT: WW II - MILITARY MASCOTS & MORE