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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 this summer.

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.

War dog statue

Dr. 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.”

Wellington’s 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 and Silver Star recipient, provided the health care for dogs on Guam, who collectively received 40 Purple Hearts.

Art 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 in Nashville.

The 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 Faithful.”

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

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