wardogs_posterToday is Pearl Harbor Day.  At dawn on Sunday, December 7, 1941, forces of the Empire of Japan conducted a sneak attack on the United States Pacific Fleet center at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  WWII veterans and their families look towards the pacific in remembrance of the day that “will live in infamy”.  However, there are a few WWII veterans that will look towards the pacific, but not to Hawaii.  They look towards Guam and remember a different sort of fallen comrade.  Their working war dogs.

There is an excellent documentary available called War Dogs of The Pacific.   Directed by Academy Award-winner Harris Done, it tells the story of over 500 dogs that were donated to the military during the war for use in combat. The men who trained and handled some of the dogs tell their touching stories along with historical narrative and stock footage from the war.  It explores the unique bond that formed between the young Marines and their dogs, who teamed up to perform extremely dangerous missions.

andy_wardogThe first battle for the war dog platoons was in Guam, where the dogs were lowered into boats with their handlers, swam to shore with them and helped to take the island from 20,000 deeply embedded Japanese troops. They could search out the occupiers from their hiding place in the dense overgrowth, detect mines and traps, alert troops to approaching Japanese while carrying messages, ammunition and medical supplies. They guarded exhausted sleeping troops in foxholes preventing infiltration.

In the battle for Guam (21 July to 10 August 1944) a Doberman named Kurt saved the lives of 250 Marines when he warned them of Japanese troops ahead.  Twenty-five war_dog_ButchMarine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944.   Kurt was among the casualties.  Upon their deaths, the dogs were taken back to the initial invasion beach at Asan and interred in a small section of the Marine Cemetery. Later small white headstones with their names were erected and it became known as “The War Dog Cemetery Guam.”  In 1989 with the help of the “United Doberman Club’ which furnished most of the dogs for the dog platoon, a monument was erected and dedicated at the Guam gravesite.   The Memorial inscription on the monument reads:

25 Marine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944. They served as sentries, messengers, scouts. They explored caves, detected mines and booby traps.

SEMPER FIDELIS

Kurt, Yonnie, Koko, Bunkie, Skipper, Poncho, Tubby, Hobo Ni, Prince, Fritz, Emmy, Missy, Cappy, Duke, Max, Blitz, Arno, Silver, Brockie, Bursch, Pepper, Ludwig, Rickey, Tam (buried at sea off Asan Point)

Given in their memory and on behalf of the surviving men of the 2nd and 3rd marine war dogs platoons, many of whom owe their lives to the bravery and sacrifice of these gallant animals.

I have not seen this documentary yet but I intend to this week on The Military Channel.  If your cable company carries The Military Channel, it will be on December 12 at 7:00pm and again on December 13 at 2:00am and 8:00am.  (I am assuming these are Eastern times so please check your local listing for your time zone.)  You can also purchase the DVD online.

Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful”, the motto of the United States Marine Corps.  For anyone that has ever loved a dog, this motto lives in your heart.

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