09 December 2013

1st Marine War Dog Platoon and 2nd Marine Raider Regiment on Bougainville

Image size: 1600 x 1430 pixel. 509 KB
Date: Monday, 10 January 1944
Place: Cape Torokina, Bougainville, Solomons
Photographer: Unknown

The 1st Marine War Dog Platoon served with the 2nd Raider Battalion, 2nd Marine Raider Regiment on Bougainville. The platoon consisted of 48 enlisted men working in pairs as handlers for the 21 Dobermans and three Shepherds, plus six enlisted instructors and headquarters personnel. It was under the command of First Lieutenant Clyde A. Henderson, a Cleveland high school teacher, who had been an amateur Doberman trainer for a decade before the war. According to Lt. Henderson, "We felt lost when we came out here, everyone looked on us as a curiosity and wondered what we were supposed to do. We weren't too sure ourselves." Lieutenant Colonel Alan Shapley's 2nd Raiders was billeted near 1st War Dog on Guadalcanal before the invasion. One day, the Colonel saw a dog exhibition and asked that the platoon be attached to his Raiders. After weeks of training, and overcoming the skepticism of the Marines, combat handling of the dogs was developed. The dogs were trained not to bark.The 1st Marine Dog Platoon landed on Bougainville November 1, 1943. The First Marine Dog Platoon was sent ashore just one hour after the first Marines hit the beach, under heavy mortar and rifle fire and were dispatched to various companies according to prearranged plans. On D+2, the Japanese began firing at the dogs. Caesar, who carried the first war dog message of the war, was hit twice, once close to the heart. Privates First Class John Kleeman and Rufus Mayo were Caesar's handlers and he saved their lives by alerting them to a Japanese attack. On D+7, Jack, a German Shepherd messenger, and one of his handlers were hit. Despite receiving severe back wounds, Jack reached his other handler with a message asking for medics. With the phone lines cut, Jack was the only means of communications the advance party had that day. Four dogs were injured on Bougainville. Six dogs were recognized for heroism.In an interview with Captain Wilcie O'Bannon long after the war, Captain John Monks, Jr., gained an insight into one of the least known aspects of Marine tactics. It was an added asset that the official Marine history called "invaluable": war dogs. O'Bannon, the first patrol leader to have them, related: "One dog was a German Shepherd female, the other was a Doberman male, and they had three men with them. The third man handled the dogs all the time in the platoon area prior to our going on patrol--petting the dogs, talking to them, and being nice to them. The other two handlers--one would go to the head of the column and one would go to the rear with the female messenger dog . . . If the dog in front received enemy fire and got away, he could either come back to me or circle to the back of the column. If I needed to send a messenge I would write it, give it to the handler, and he would pin it on the dog's collar. He would clap his hands and say, 'Report', and the dog would be off like a gunshot to go to the third man in the rear who had handled him before the patrol." The war dogs proved very versatile. They ran telephone wire, detected ambushes, smelled out enemy patrols, and even a few machine gun nests. The dog got GI chow, slept on nice mats and straw, and in mud-filled foxholes. First Lieutenant Clyde Hnderson with one of the dog platoons recalled how the speed and intelligence of dogs was crucial in light of the abominable communications in the jungle, where sometimes communications equipment was not much better than yelling.


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