Memorial to WWII War Dogs is Dedicated -- 1998
A simple statue of a reclining Doberman pinscher evoked 54-year-old memories
for former Marines attending a ceremony at the College of Veterinary Medicine
The unveiling of a memorial to the dogs
who died helping American soldiers liberate the island of Guam during
World War II was dedicated July 17, 1998, at the college during an emotional
ceremony attended by over 200 people. The motto of the Marine Corps--Semper
Fidelis (Always Faithful) on this day was directed toward the heroic dogs
that saved the lives of countless Marines during battle.
The war dogs, mostly Doberman pinschers, were 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. They are credited
with saving hundreds of American lives.
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.
"This is emotionally very hard," said Bruce Wellington, who
served in the 2nd War Dog Platoon as a corporal. "But it's important
that people know what these dogs did in World War II."
dog, Little Prince, depended on his care as much as he depended on the dog.
"He was just another Marine as far as I was concerned and I'm sure
I was just another dog to him." After the war Little Prince went home
with Wellington to California and lived several years as a civilian. "He
was my best friend until the end."
Patrols with dogs were never ambushed during the war, said Putney. "It's
true the dogs paid a heavy price, but they saved many lives, including my
own." Putney, a veterinarian
Silver Star recipient, provided the health care for the dogs on Guam, who
collectively received 40 Purple Hearts.
Spielman, a Marine dog handler from Alexandria, VA, said his memories of
all the dogs serving in Guam are still strong years later. His dog Bunkie
was one who died in action. "He was a small German Shepherd, but it
was his instincts that mattered, not his size."
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. Spielman said although that seemed unusual, the dogs' abilities
were highly respected by the Marines.
"Bunkie out-ranked me,"
said Spielman. "But he earned his spurs."
The bronze statue is of a life-sized Doberman pinscher and was the gift
of Dr. Maurice Acree, a retired Nashville 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 Dr. Putney. He was recently made
an honorary member of the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon during their reunion
Marine War Dog Memorial is an exact replica of the official memorial at
the U. S. Naval Base in Guam, permanently installed at the U. S. Marine
Corps War Dog Cemetery on Guam in 1994, the 50th anniversary of the island's
liberation. It rests on granite base which is inscribed with the names of
the 25 dogs who gave their lives on Guam. Artist Susan Bahary, a sculptor
from California, created the statue which is officially named "Always
The Marine war dog memorial was placed in a prominent location so that clients
and other visitors to the college may learn more about the heroic acts of
the war dogs. The memorial not only honors war dogs, but symbolizes the
special connection people share with dogs, said Acree. The veterinary college
provides a natural setting for the memorial, he said, because of the affection
clients have for their dogs.
"This generous donation
by Dr. Acree once again shows the important bond that human beings share
with animals in society," said Dr. Mike Shires, veterinary dean. "The
memorial will share this story with thousands of clients and other campus
visitors." --Nancy Howell