In December 1967 U.S. soldiers were attacking a North Vietnamese base camp in Vietnam. As it began to get dark, they dug in anticipating a night counterattack. Lieutenant Morris settled into his foxhole when King, their German Shepard war dog, jumped into the hole on top of him. Just then Morris needed to relieve himself. But he couldn’t move King – he was heavy, wouldn’t budge, and the hole was too small to move him to the side. As a result the Lieutenant had a “very distasteful accident” with the dog lying on top of him. Immediately after that, King decided to leave for another hole that was less stinky. Apparently the risk of moving out of shelter was a better than staying with the smell.
On December 4, 1966, Nemo and Airman Bob Thorneburg were on patrol near the company’s airbase in Vietnam. The two came under enemy fire and the German Shepherd took a round to his eye and Throneburg was shot in the shoulder. Despite his wound Nemo attacked the enemy, giving Throneburg the time he needed to call in reinforcements. After Throneburg fell unconscious, Nemo crawled on top of the soldier’s body to protect him from harm. The dog didn’t let anyone touch his fallen handler; it took a veterinarian to remove Nemo when things quieted down. Nemo and Throneburg both recovered from their wounds, and Nemo received a honorable discharge due to his injury.
After the events set forth in my Kurt the Doberman blog, the Marines declared Guam secure after three weeks of fighting in 1944. But some 8,000 Japanese soldiers remained, hidden in the jungle. The war dogs were asked to find them. “That’s the worst fighting you can get into,” said a former Marine. “You can’t see the enemy. You can’t hear them. You can’t smell them. But the dogs can.” So at the front of nearly every mission to hunt down the Japanese hiding on the island was a war dog and its handler. Dogs led more than 500 patrols on Guam and due to their skills prevented many costly ambushes. One of those missions was detailed in Dobermans in Action in the Pacific, Part 2, where a Marine was bitten by an over stressed Dobie. Read these past Doberman stories and all my previous blogs at simplysoldaz.com/blog.
Kurt was a Doberman that landed on Guam in WWII on July 23, 1944. The next day Kurt led Marines climbing the hill above the beachhead. It was a crucial moment, as the Americans were trying to secure a foothold on the island. Kurt set out, zigzagging in front of the troops with his handler, searching for the enemy. Soon Kurt froze, indicating approaching Japanese soldiers in the bushes ahead of the Marines. As the Marines took cover and prepared for a firefight the Japanese shot his handler and threw a number of hand grenades which wounded Kurt. Kurt was the first dog to be buried in what would become the war dog cemetery on Guam. 24 more dogs that served in the Pacific theatre, many Doberman Pinschers, followed. A life-size, bronze statue of Kurt paid for by the United Doberman Club graces a monument erected to commemorate the sacrifice of all the dogs buried in the cemetery.
Chips was a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky mix in the American army during WWII. During the invasion of Sicily in 1943, Chips and his handler were pinned down by an Italian machine-gun. Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the Italian pillbox, attacking the four gunners and forcing them to surrender. In the fight, he sustained a scalp wound and powder burns when a bullet grazed his head. Later that day, he helped take ten Italians prisoner. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart, and met both President Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. But when he met General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chips bit him on the hand! Later his medals were revoked because it was decided that animals can’t be awarded “human” medals. But in 2018, Chips was awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest award for valor an animal can receive.
One of the Doberman Pinchers used by the Marines in the Pacific in WWII was “Lucky”. He was used, like many of the other Dobermans, to locate Japanese snipers using the dogs’ smell, hearing and vision. During one successful mission where multiple snipers were located, Lucky’s handler was wounded. Lucky stayed beside him until he was found. But when the medic started to render first aid Lucky growled, but then relented when he understood that his handler was being helped. But when the handler died and the medic left, Lucky wouldn’t let anyone else approach. To retrieve the body the Marines had to throw a noose from a distance over Lucky’s head to pull him away. That kind of loyalty was typical with war dogs, which were closely bonded to their handlers.
Antis is the only dog who officially was allowed to fly with his master in World War II. He was found as a just weaned German Shepherd puppy in no-mans land in France in 1940, after his future master crashed landed near the locked home he had been abandoned in. From there they were inseparable, with Antis becoming one of the smartest dogs ever. He learned commands in minutes, and seemed to anticipate the needs of his air force buddy. But his unwavering devotion got him in trouble when his master went on a date, and Antis broke out of his home, ran to the train station, hopped a train to the right town, and found his master on the street. He never wined or complained even when wounded multiple times during his airborne duties. Following the war he received the Dickin Medal, the highest award of honor an animal can receive. The latest book about this life and adventures is The Dog who could Fly by Damien Lewis.
In a blackout darkened alley of Paris in 1917, an American soldier stumbled over what he thought was a pile of rags. It turned out to be a scruffy terrier, who decided to not to leave the soldier’s side, even when he went to the front. “Rags” assisted the soldier in his dangerous job of laying down communications wire and carrying messages. Rags worked diligently with no fear of the heavy shelling, even when wounded by shrapnel. Eventually as his fame grew he became the division mascot, and was awarded several medals for bravery. After the war, division veterans entered Rags into a prestigious dog show, but when he arrived he was rejected as not being a pure breed. After the snub was publicized, a public uproar forced the show to admit Rags at the next one, where he was declared champion of the newly created War Dog category. After a long life, the hero of Meuse-Argonne was buried with full military honors.
Although Doberman Pinchers started out as the Marines’ official combat dog, by the end of WWII they were replaced by German Shepherds (see my blog Dobermans Flunk Out of the War). An example of why Dobies were dropped is the experience of Clarence Rea when out on a mountain night patrol on Saipan. The dog did what it was supposed to do by stopping and pointing his nose at where a Japanese soldier was hiding. But then it turned and attacked Clarence, biting him on his side below the rib cage. Luckily for him, a cartridge belt prevented the Doberman’s teeth from penetrating his skin. Clarence believed that if he hadn’t had the belt on “my stomach would have been all over that mountain”. This shows that the stress of the job was often too much for Dobermans, and could make them act erratically.
An Alsatian and Collie cross, Bing made more than 20 parachute jumps in World War II. He joined the British army in 1944, and his first action was in Normandy on D-Day. It wasn’t all smooth sailing – he had to be ‘helped’ out of the plane with a piece of meat, and then landed in a tree and had to be rescued. Bing was trained to locate the enemy – when something didn’t seem right, he would freeze and point towards the danger with his nose. His faithful service was credited with saving hundreds of servicemen from ambush. He received the Dickin Medal in 1947, the highest award of honor an animal can receive.