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Always Faithful
Cover of Always Faithful
Always Faithful
A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII
Borrow Borrow Borrow

Twenty-three-year-old Bill Putney enlisted in the Marines in 1943 in search of military glory. Instead, Putney, a licensed veterinarian, was relegated to the Dog Corps.

Putney became the Commanding Officer of the 3rd War Dog Platoon, and later the chief veterinarian and C.O. of the War Dog Training School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. At Lejeune Putney helped train America's dogs for war in the Pacific. He later led them into combat in the invasion of Guam in 1944, the first liberation of American soil in World War II.

Always Faithful is the story of the dogs that fought in Guam and across the islands of the Pacific, a celebration of the four-legged soldiers that Putney both commanded and followed. It is a tale of immense courage, but also of incredible sacrifice.

On Guam, as on islands such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Japanese were infamously tenacious, refusing to surrender as long as there was a hole left to crawl into. Rooting out the enemy was an awful, painstaking job. To this task, Putney's dogs were well suited. Used for scouting, attack, carrying messages, detecting mines, and also as guards, the war dogs were so well trained that they could locate nonmetallic mines that had been buried for months deep underground; their hearing was so precise they could detect enemy trip wires by listening to them "sing" in the breeze.

Their record in action was perfect. More than 550 patrols on the island of Guam were led by dogs; not one patrol was ambushed. But for this success, the dogs, always out in front, paid a terrible price. Although Putney worked feverishly as veterinarian and C.O. to keep the dogs alive, many were lost.

After the war, Putney returned home only to discover that the dogs he had served with were being put to sleep. These dogs were ex-household pets, recruited from civilians with the promise that they would someday be returned. Outraged, Putney fought for the dogs' right to go home. He won, and headed the overwhelmingly successful program to "detrain" the dogs so they could return to their families. Alas, quickly learned, the lesson was quickly forgotten. The dogs of Korea and Vietnam did not come home. Then, in the final days of his administration, President Clinton signed into law a bill that allows military handlers to bring home the dogs with which they work. Once again, Putney was at the front of the charge.

For anyone who has ever read Old Yeller, or the books of Jack London, here is a real-life story, never before told, that beats any fiction. At once wistful tribute and stirring adventure, Always Faithful describes what may be the greatest man-dog effort of all time. It will both astound and move you.

Twenty-three-year-old Bill Putney enlisted in the Marines in 1943 in search of military glory. Instead, Putney, a licensed veterinarian, was relegated to the Dog Corps.

Putney became the Commanding Officer of the 3rd War Dog Platoon, and later the chief veterinarian and C.O. of the War Dog Training School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. At Lejeune Putney helped train America's dogs for war in the Pacific. He later led them into combat in the invasion of Guam in 1944, the first liberation of American soil in World War II.

Always Faithful is the story of the dogs that fought in Guam and across the islands of the Pacific, a celebration of the four-legged soldiers that Putney both commanded and followed. It is a tale of immense courage, but also of incredible sacrifice.

On Guam, as on islands such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Japanese were infamously tenacious, refusing to surrender as long as there was a hole left to crawl into. Rooting out the enemy was an awful, painstaking job. To this task, Putney's dogs were well suited. Used for scouting, attack, carrying messages, detecting mines, and also as guards, the war dogs were so well trained that they could locate nonmetallic mines that had been buried for months deep underground; their hearing was so precise they could detect enemy trip wires by listening to them "sing" in the breeze.

Their record in action was perfect. More than 550 patrols on the island of Guam were led by dogs; not one patrol was ambushed. But for this success, the dogs, always out in front, paid a terrible price. Although Putney worked feverishly as veterinarian and C.O. to keep the dogs alive, many were lost.

After the war, Putney returned home only to discover that the dogs he had served with were being put to sleep. These dogs were ex-household pets, recruited from civilians with the promise that they would someday be returned. Outraged, Putney fought for the dogs' right to go home. He won, and headed the overwhelmingly successful program to "detrain" the dogs so they could return to their families. Alas, quickly learned, the lesson was quickly forgotten. The dogs of Korea and Vietnam did not come home. Then, in the final days of his administration, President Clinton signed into law a bill that allows military handlers to bring home the dogs with which they work. Once again, Putney was at the front of the charge.

For anyone who has ever read Old Yeller, or the books of Jack London, here is a real-life story, never before told, that beats any fiction. At once wistful tribute and stirring adventure, Always Faithful describes what may be the greatest man-dog effort of all time. It will both astound and move you.

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    Prologue

    Less than twenty-four hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded Guam, an American possession. The small Pacific island, virtually defenseless, held out for only four days. For the next two and a half years, the brave people of Guam endured a horrible occupation: they were starved, beaten, and herded into concentration camps. Many of Guam's people were summarily shot for crimes they did not commit. Some were beheaded. No other American civilians suffered so much under so brutal a conqueror.

    On July 21, 1944, the Americans struck back. The battle for Guam lasted only a few weeks, until August 10, 1944, when the island was declared secured. In those weeks, American Marine, Army, and Navy casualties exceeded 7,000. An estimated 18,500 Japanese were killed, and another 8,000 Japanese remained hidden in the jungle refusing to surrender.

    Among our dead were 25 dogs, specially trained by the U.S. Marines to search out the enemy hiding in the bush, detect mines and booby traps, alert troops in foxholes at night to approaching Japanese, and to carry messages, ammunition and medical supplies. They were buried in a small section of the Marine Cemetery, in a rice paddy on the landing beach at Asan that became known as the War Dog Cemetery.

    I was the commanding officer of the 3rd War Dog Platoon during the battle for Guam. Lieutenant William T. Taylor and I led 110 men and 72 dogs through training, first at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; then at Camp Pendleton, California; later on Guadalcanal and then into battle on Guam.

    Most of the young Marines were assigned to the war dog program only by a twist of fate. Some had never owned a dog in their lives, and some were even afraid of them. But trained as dog handlers, they were expected to scout far forward of our lines, in treacherous jungle terrain, searching for Japanese soldiers hidden in caves or impenetrable thickets. Under these circumstances, the rifles we carried were often useless; a handler's most reliable weapons were his dog's highly developed senses of smell and hearing, which could alert him far in advance of an enemy ambush or attack, or the presence of a deadly mine, so he could warn in turn the Marines who followed behind at a safer distance. It was one of the most dangerous jobs in World War II, and more dogs were employed by the 2nd and 3rd Platoons on Guam than in all of the other battles in the Pacific.

    During the course of the war, 15 of the handlers in the 2nd and 3rd Platoons were killed: 3 at Guam, 4 on Saipan and 8 on Iwo Jima. These men were among the bravest and best-trained Marines of World War II, and were awarded the medals to prove it. During the course of some of the war's most vicious battles -- Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa -- they were awarded five Silver Stars and seven Bronze Stars for heroism in action, and more than forty Purple Hearts for wounds received in battle.

    In these battles, as in their training, the men learned to depend on their dogs and to trust their dogs' instincts with their lives. Yet when I returned home from overseas, I found that rather than spend the time and expense to detrain the dogs, our military had begun to destroy them. Our dogs, primarily Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, had been recruited from the civilian population with the promise that they be returned, intact, when the war ended. Now, however, higher-ups argued that these dogs suffered from the "junkyard dog" syndrome: they were killers. Higher-ups were wrong. I lobbied for the right to detrain these dogs and won. Our program of deindoctrination was overwhelmingly successful: out of the 549 dogs that returned from the war, only 4 could not be detrained and...

About the Author-
  • William W. Putney, D.V.M., U.S.M.C. (Ret.), received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his actions with the war dogs in the invasion of Guam. During his long subsequent veterinary career, he served as the president of California's Veterinary Medical Associ-ation and, for twelve years, as the Los Angeles commissioner of the Department of Animal Regulation. He lives in Woodland Hills,...
Table of Contents-
  • Contents

    Prologue

    Chapter One * CAMP LEJEUNE, NORTH CAROLINA

    Chapter Two * TRAINING

    Chapter Three * CAMP PENDLETON, CALIFORNIA

    Chapter Four * THE DOG MEN

    Chapter Five * THE LAST DAYS AT CAMP PENDLETON

    Chapter Six * LIFE ABOARD SHIP

    Chapter Seven * GUADALCANAL

    Chapter Eight * LANDING

    Chapter Nine * THE WORST DAY

    Chapter Ten * BANZAI

    Chapter Eleven * MOPPING UP

    Chapter Twelve * GOING HOME

    EPILOGUE

    Acknowledgments

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2001
    A retired Marine Corps captain and veterinarian, Putney writes a moving and heartrending account of his days as commander of the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon, in which some 72 dogs and their handlers were his responsibility. The dogs and handlers trained in scouting, mine detection, and other patrol duties and went into combat together. Here we read about Peppy, Big Boy, and Lady and a host of other courageous dogs who lived and died during some of the worst fighting of the war. Putney takes the reader through basic training and the battles of Guadalcanal and the retaking of the island of Guam in 1944. He continues the story of how those dogs that survived the war were retrained and returned to civilian life. For veterans and dog owners, the stories of heroism and death may be dreadful, but they are a reminder of the sacrifices needed to obtain victory in World War II. A unique animal and war story, this memoir is a tribute to all who cherish the loyalty and bonds that dogs give their owners. Recommended for all public libraries. David Alperstein, Queens Borough P.L., Jamaica, NY

    Copyright 2001 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Leon Urisauthor of Battle Cry and ExodusA heart-rending story of courage and loyalty that should be celebrated.
  • Bash Dibraauthor of DogSpeak Always Faithful is a testament to the extraordinary relationship between man and dog, and the extent of a dog's devotion to its owner. The heroism of these war dogs is a perfect example of that devotion, earned by a kind and loving master, and I would recommend the book to anyone who loves, and admires, dogs.
  • Stanley Corenauthor of The Intelligence of Dogs Always Faithful gives an engrossing picture of the heroic men and dogs involved in the battle to recapture the island of Guam during WW II. You feel as if you were there watching the dogs being trained and going into combat. After the war was over, you find yourself cheering for the men who later fought military bureaucracy and misunderstanding to get these valiant dogs back to the families who volunteered them for service. It's a fascinating story.
  • Carl T. C. GutierrezGovernor of GuamA great testament to all of the World War II heroes that fought a long, tedious battle here on Guam. The sacrifice that our servicemen and service dogs endured during World War II will always be remembered in the... is an excellent tribute to America's finest.
  • Elizabeth Marshall Thomasauthor of The Hidden Life of Dogs I can scarcely remember ever being so taken with a book as I was with Always Faithful, not only because of the very stirring accounts of these superior dogs, but because of Captain Putney himself. The civilian population has never been particularly appreciative of war dogs, preferring to exterminate them rather than pay to bring them home. They were, after all, just dogs. It is highly fitting that Captain Putney should remember them here, and remind us of their service.
  • General Louis H. Wilson26th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in GuamAlways Faithful is an interesting and accurate account of the World War II war dogs and the brave and unique ability of their handlers. I was a Company Commander on Guam and can attest personally to their value. I encourage all Marines and others who wish to learn of the value and ability of the war dogs to read and enjoy the book.
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A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII
William W. Putney
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