Always FaithFul – Marine Devil Dogs

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Semper Fi – Marine Devil Dogs

The term “Devil Dog” is a very common nickname for all Marines and “Devil Dog” is historically a well-accepted term of endearment, as a title of honor.

The “dog” in the phrase is usually associated with the bulldog, in line with the original 1918 poster, such as the English bulldog being a common mascot in the Corps.

However, Dobermans play a significant role in the history of Marines.

The Marine Corps had the first large dog unit in the nation’s history to see action against the enemy.   As early as 1935, the Marines were interested in war dogs.

The first Marine War Dog Training School was at Quantico Bay, Cuba on January 18, 1943, under direction of Captain Samuel T. Brick.  There were 14 Doberman Pinchers donated by the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.   Another war dog training facility at Camp LeJeune, NC recruited dogs for the armed services in 1943.

Being a photographer, I find it so fascinating and moving that we have so much history documented in pictures… sometimes in places you would not expect.  Often times, the photographer is not really welcome but then later, almost always, it’s a blessing to have those captured moments in time that we chronicle photographers love to get…. As you know, I fondly refer to them as “slices of life”.

But I too have had my share of people politely and rudely asking me to just go away and not capture that moment…. I try to be respectful and walk away and then I always feel bad when later they ask me for images I don’t have because I honored  their request…And, and…. on many occasions, those same people have come back years later, asking me  “do you have any images of that “special” moment?  … people always want to hold on to a cherished moment in time and the ONLY way to do that is thru images… cause a moment waits for no one.   I try my best to capture as much as I can as often as I can…. It is my passion and when I am most happy.  People sometimes think I’m a nut job and cannot possibly imagine what joy there is in some of the pictures I take/make… I can’t explain it… but I’d be lost without my eyes in the viewfinder.

Back to the Devil Dog story….

The Dobie’s were tattooed on the inside of the right ear.  Their number recorded in a service record book, along with their call name, breed, date of birth and date of enlistment.   Detailed notes were maintained for type of training received, when they qualified for obedience, scout, messenger and/or special work.

The Dobie’s had to be at least 50 pounds and stand 20 inches high at the withers.   Dogs who failed the test for any reason were sent home.

Dobie’s begin training as Privates; they were promoted on the basis of length of service.  After 3 months, Dobie became a Private First Class, 1 year – a Corporal, 2 years a Sergeant, 3 years – a Platoon Sergeant, 4 years – a Gunnery Sergeant and after 5 years a Master Gunnery Sergeant.  The Dobies could eventually out rank their handlers.

In the early days, the Dobie handlers were just out of boot camp and no prior experience-handling dogs was required.   Each Scout dog was assigned to one handler.   Each messenger dog was assigned two handlers.  All dogs went thru intensive obedience for 6 weeks.

The dogs were taught to heel, down, crawl, come, stay – on both voice and hand signals.   During training no Marine was allowed to play with another Marine’s dog.

Following basic training, Marine dogs were divided up for specialized training:

Messenger dogs were taught to carry messages, ammunition or special medical supplies from one handler to another handler, avoiding all other men.   They were subjected to overhead rifle and machine gun fire and explosions of heavy charges of dynamite and TNT to simulate actual battlefield conditions.

Sentry dogs were trained to warn troops of the approach or nearness of any other humans.    Dogs usually alert to the presence of strangers by barking.  Not many sentry dogs were trained by Marines as they were combat troops and not generally used in the rears.

Scout dogs were trained to alert troops of the enemy and not to bark or tell the enemy where the troops were.  The dogs signaled the detection of strangers in different ways but not by barking.  Devil Dogs were trained NOT to bark.

They become know as SDOD  “Silent Death On Duty”

Dobie’s were trained to detect the presence of the enemy and if necessary attack but the Marines did not want to risk the Dobie’s in an attack, they had weapons for that.

During World War II, a total of 7 Marine War dog Platoons were trained at Camp LeJeune, NC.  All of the dog platoons served in the Pacific in war against the Japanese.

The first Marine Dog Platoon consisted of 48 enlisted men working in pairs as handlers for the 21 Dobermans and 3 Shepherds, plus 6 enlisted instructors and Headquarters personnel.    It was under the command of First Lieutenant Clyde A. Henderson, a Cleveland High School Teacher, who had been a Doberman fancier and amateur trainer for a decade before the war.

Because of the Dobie’s keen sense of smell and hearing, they could detect the presence of men several hundred yards away. In one instance, the dogs detected the presence of Japanese troops one half mile away.

The Dobie’s handlers always had help digging their foxholes; the other Marines always wanted the handler and their dogs nearby.

No unit protected by one of the dogs was ever ambushed by the Japanese or was there ever a case of Japanese infiltration.

During the Guam campaign fourteen dogs were killed in action and ten more died from exhaustion, tropical maladies, heat stroke, accidents, and anemia from hookworm. All were buried there on Guam, at what was to become the first War Dog Memorial years later.

The most outstanding incident of the First Marine Dog Platoon’s record on Bougainville came on November 14, with Andy (a Dobie) and his handlers as the principals. Andy was the Doberman who had led the Raiders inland on the first day: he was popularly referred to as “Gentleman Jim” because of his aristocratic demeanor and aloofness with the other dogs.

A Marine force up front ran into stiff Japanese resistance that day of the action. Andy’s two handlers, Privates Robert E. Lansley and John B. Mahoney, volunteered to take their Dobermans and seek out the enemy strong points.

They had complete faith in Andy’s ability to spot whatever was out there. The three moved beyond the lines into the heavy foliage. Andy was about 25 yards out front, when he stopped short; and looked to the left and right, the way he always alerted. The two soldiers crept up along a little trail behind Andy and saw two machine gun nests, one of each side of the trail. The two handlers started shooting, Lansley threw two grenades and when it was all over, eight Japanese were dead. The wiping out of the machine gun nests by Andy and the two handlers permitted that entire sector of the line to move forward.

More than 1,000 dogs had trained as Marine Devil Dogs during World War II. Rolo, one of the first to join the Devil Dogs, was the first Marine dog to be killed in action. 29 war dogs were listed as killed in action, 25 of those deaths occurred on the island of Guam. Today, the U.S. Marine Corp maintains a War Memorial (created by former 1st Lt. William W. Putney, who was the veterinarian for the dogs on Guam; and funded by public donation), on Guam, for those 25 War Dogs that served and died there during WW II.

Many people aren’t aware that Dobermans were used in the war. Their service to us in history only makes the Doberman breed even more special.

Here is a quick War Dog Memorial Video for the Dobie fans out there.  (8 minutes but really amazing)

You can also check out this previous post on the Doberman pinscher soldier for more information and pictures of the lessor known heroes .

Doberman Military Service—doberman-full.html

I came upon a lovely lady that does sculptures and befriended her, chatting for quite some time.   She is widely known for her war dog memorials.   She has many limited editions and commissioned sculptures.  She is on the video for the dedication of the Always Faithful statue at the Guam Memorial.

On Aug 26, 2010, at 2:54 PM, Susan Bahary wrote:

Hi Cass,

It was lovely speaking with you last week. I was at a horse show exhibiting my dog and horse pieces when we spoke. Just want you to know that I finally got to open your e-mail on my computer and see the links you sent. Love your photographs, from the nature shots to the adorable, Dobie’s to the patriotic images!

Best Regards,

Susan Bahary

The Doberman is my breed of choice,  I love them….

They are gentle, smart, low maintenance and the biggest hunks of love you’ll ever find.



I share my life with a Doberman,

A protector and a friend-
Intelligent and daring,

Devoted to the end.

So sleek and quick,

On constant watch,

A dog that earns your praise-

Yet with a heart of purest gold,

And gentle, loving ways.

So noble and reliable,

A winner from the start.

When I saw a Doberman,

I quickly lost my heart.

Poet: Unknown

 I’ve researched Devil Dogs and collected notes, images and information for several years now, and dedicate a blog post annually for respect to Man’s Best Friend.  I’ve tried to credit where I can, often the images are so old and so small with no reference as to where they came from and I wish I knew who the photographer was…. hint:  a reason to put watermarks or branding…it follows the image hopefully for years  and sometimes I would love to know more about these brave men or women photographers that took these action shots and how the image got preserved all these years….. and give credit where credit is due… duh!  How cool that would be to me!  I feel like sometimes,  while there are many heroes  to honor in our world, most often, the “photographer” is by far the least appreciated…. they are preserving the legacy of and for everyone else, but no one preserves the legacy of the person that captures, creates, savors and personalizes the moments to cherish and remember… why is no one curious of them but little ole me?  They are humans making a huge contribution, often big sacrifices, little pay, little recognition and yet they still do their job with amazing enthusiasm…. think about it at least for a nano-second.   Just Saying….imagine what the world would look like without images… without photographers… would you miss us then?   Take a moment to appreciate an artist today!  Make my Day!   🙂  be pawistive!!!!

As always,  the slide show has many more images than in the post…. scroll forward or back with the arrows… or relax and watch history pass on your screen while you are on a telecom…. or sip a nice dark roasted coffee!


From a Former Marine Devil Dog:

On Sep 6, 2011, at 3:48 PM


Semper Fi! Awesome photographs, awesome story and awesome video. I noticed that the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl Munday, Commandant from 1991 to 1995, was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the war dog memorial. I meet General Munday at a Khe Sanh Veterans reunion in 1993, the year before the war dog memorial was dedicated. He was the executive officer of 3/26 at Khe Sanh in 1968. Munday was a fantastic Commandant of the Marine Corps. Oorah!!!



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