An often forgotten combatant from World War II will be formally honored next month when the first memorial to dogs that accompanied U.S. soldiers in the battle for Guam is dedicated.
The War Dog Sculpture - of a Doberman pinscher, the most common breed used to fight in the war - will be installed at the U.S. Naval Base at Guam. It was paid for by the United Doberman Club."They were not just a bunch of dogs," said Dr. William W. Putney, a veterinarian for the Marines during the war. "They were U.S. Marines that gave their lives in the line of duty."
The dogs' service was preceded by a 14-week "boot camp," after which they were sent into service - guarding foxholes, leading platoons into battle and standing watch at night.
"They saved hundreds of lives on the island of Guam," said Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter, director of the Pentagon's World War II commemoration committee.
Of 350 dogs that were used in the battle for Guam from July 21 to Aug. 10, 1944, 25 that died in action were buried at an informal cemetery there. Since then, the "War Dog Cemetery" has been moved to the U.S. Naval Base.
"Many Marines lived to fight again because of these brave dogs and their actions," Putney said.
Dogs are still formally part of the military. Two hundred graduate every year from a training center in San Antonio, Texas, with a "rank" of private first class. After five years, a loyal dog can be "promoted" to master sergeant general.
"Often times, the dog outranks its handler," said Sgt. Maj. of the Marines Harold Overstreet.