Devil Dogs, indeed
Iwo Jima Operation, 1945.
(Quoted from the original photo caption released on 27 February 1945): “Two Marines – ‘Dutch’, a Doberman Pinscher Marine War Dog stands guard as his partner, Pfc. Reg P. Hester, 7th War Dog Platoon, 25th Regiment, Fifth Marine Division, grabs a little sleep in a volcanic ash foxhole on Iwo Jima. Teams like this eliminated many Jap snipers who played dead inside of blasted pillboxes.”
Note pack and M1 Carbine on the foxhole lip. The original photograph came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison’s World War II history project working files. It was provided to Morison by E.J. Long.
The Marines’ love affair with Dobes started when Marine War Dog Training School was stood up 18 January 1943, under the direction of Captain Samuel T. Brick. Some 14 Doberman Pinschers were donated by the Baltimore, Maryland and Canton, Ohio members of the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (though the first war dog sworn in was a Boxer named Fritz).
The War Dog Training Center was quickly established at Camp Knox, site of a former CCC camp aboard Camp Lejeune, eventually setting up 7 War Dog Platoons, each of some 24 military working dogs (later doubled) and about twice that many handlers, instructors and headquarters personnel to include at least one veterinarian.
All went to the Pacific.
The Dobes had to be at least 50 pounds and stand twenty inches high at the withers. Dogs who failed the tests for one reason or another were sent home.
Dobes began their training as Privates. They were promoted on the basis of their length of service. After three months the Dobe became a Private First Class, one year a Corporal, two years a Sergeant, three years a Platoon Sergeant, four years a Gunner Sergeant, and after five years a Master Gunner Sergeant. The Dobes could eventually outrank their handlers.
While towards the end of the war German Shepherds replaced Dobes as the preferred breed, some 892 Marine war dogs processed during the conflict, with a slim majority going overseas being Pinschers. Most were donated directly by dog owners and kennel clubs, while 132 came from the Army Quartermaster Corps.
In Guam, one particularly heavy engagement for the Marine K9s, of the 60 that landed there some 14 dogs were killed in action and 11 others died from exhaustion, tropical illness, heat stroke, accidents, and anemia from hookworm. All were buried in Guam in what is now the first war dog memorial.
The memorial was created by former 1st Lt. William W. Putney, who was the veterinarian for the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon on Guam. A life-size bronze statue, “Always Faithful” was created by artist, Susan Bahary, in 1994.
It is topped with a Dobe.
At the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, are 11 small boxes containing the individual Dog Record Books of each canine who enrolled in the Marine Corps from December 15, 1942, to August 15, 1945.