Marine War Dogs of WW II

Forever Faithful.

It’s a emotional part in the history aswell for men as Dobermann, learning about the breed deserves that this chapter can not be neglected. If it’s out of respect, interest, read about their temperament and abilities, study or just to read about loyalty and the bond we share through all ages with our Canines makes it worth  to sit, read and try to think about how men and Canine must have deal with the hardness of War and from the moment that they turned back into the civilian world.

Marine DevilDogs, this term migrated to the Dobermann during WW II. This because of the fact of the fighting tenacity of the American Marines in the 2nd Division in 1918 during WW I, the German regard them as “devil dogs”.  Last year I have watched the video about The War Dogs of the Pacif, it was very impressive and heartwarming to watch and hear the men shared their personal stories about what some call their Brothers.

wounded dobermann
 Young veterinarian Dr. William W. Putney was the chief of the War Dog Sick-Bay on Guam.

A broader insight came when I readed two books about the War Dogs also in relation to the Dobermann breed, a breed what is still been loved by many. The article, chapter 14, Jim Engel wrote about The Dogs of War did raise a question with me. I have shared this with him and he recommended to read the following books : War Dogs, a history of loyality and heroism by Micheal G. Lemish and Always Faithful, a memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII by Captain William W. Putney. To read these books could help me with my thought about some written lines ( these I will share later ) and my thought with it. The lack of working dog culture, knowledge about breeding and trying to promote the Dobermann as vicious dog could have had a impact and influence at the whole situation before, during and after the War.

War Dog Background

You will probably never look and feel the same after reading and see the photo’s in the book from Always Faithful. To read the stories behind the photo’s has make me even more dertimend and eager to study and try to preserve this special breed. To quote a line from William W. Putney, it was in relation to the first rehabilitation program : Now they needed us and I was eager to return the favor. Resonate these words and place it in these days context, They Need Us and maybe more then ever but are we capable enough  ?


Peppy with his handler, Benton Goldblatt. A bullet fired by a Japanese sniper that pierced Peppy’s ear and lodged in his skull had been succesfully removed.

Above photo was shared in the book with some other photo’s just later reading though the chapter Coming Home I find out what had happened to Peppy. It’s hard not to be emotional to see this photo and see the loving and affactionate bond between those two souls. Makes me sad and ask myself why on earth need we WAR…….? To find this out I ordered the book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passion of War by author Barbara Ehrenreich. But to continue with the story, I share some lines from the book, there was a debate what had to do with the remaining dogs on duty. Some of the dogs from overseas that had been sent back to the War Dog Training School had already been euthanized without ever having been given the chance to be rehabilitated. Peppy, for example, had been destroyed after Benton Goldblatt was wounded and evacuated, though I had no doubt that a dog as intelligent as Peppy could have been quickly detrained and returned home. At Benny Goldblatt’s urging, I asked why this had happened and was told that ‘there was not time’ for any solution. William W Putney was not satisfied with this answer, and shared that he was determined that this would not happen again. End. He kept his promise. Reading this and look at above photo what do you feel and think……….

Who was this brave in heart man called William W Putney, he was assigned to the Marine Corps, War Dog Training School in 1943, following his graduation from Auburn University’s Veterinary School. As the commanding officer of the 3rd War Dog Platoon. part of the Marine’s third division. In 27 August 1945 he was the founder of the War Dog Detraining School. What follows was an exact copy of the memorandum establishing the ward dog detraining program, one of the most important documents in the long history of dogs in the United States military. In 1994, Putney established the War Dog Cemetery on the U.S. Navel Base on Guam. The reason was as he decribed in his book : In 1989, I returned to Guam and found the Marine War Dog Cemetery that we had begun 1944 in total disrepair. He was shocked to find the little grave markers with their imprints of Dobermann’s head overturned and scattered about and the area covered with waist-high grass, weeds and jungle vines. It was painful to see the final resting place of these gallant animals so desecrated. These dogs have given the live for us. I can only imagine how he must felt to see what had happened, our species can be so disrespectful.

A real caretaker

The interest in using dogs by the U.S. Marine Corps began in 1935 when central American gurerilla soldiers used dogs s sentries to alert the soldiers. Additionally, the German utilized canine troops in WWI. This lead to the use of dogs in combat during WWII as scouts, couriers, and infantry dogs, where the dogs were ideally suited to the dense tropical vegetation of the Pacif Islands.

Camp LeJuene, North Carolina was the home of the War Dog Training School, where dogs began their training with the rank of private; war dog actuelly could out-rank their handlers.  Seven War Dogs Platoons were trained at Camp LeJuene. The breed of choice  for the combat was ( mainly ) he Doberman Pinscher. The breed were trained for police dogs in 19th Century Germany. During WWII approximatelly 75 % ( most males for a reason the Marines prefer them above females ) were Doberman Pinscher and 25 % German Sheperds. Through a non-profit organization, Gogs for Defense, the public could loan their family dogs to the Marine Corps. The article from J. Engels decribes very well how this lead to a aggressive way of promoting the breed.  Most of those civilian enthusiast, with no real  militairy dog knowledge or experience, generally misunderstood the actuel attributes necessary in war service, and selected  for overtly  aggresive dogs, both in breeding  before the war and in recruiting candidates. This could be also have contributed to the fact that the  decision not to accept the Dobermann Pinscher as replacements in the future. The Dobermann Pinscher Club of America also supplied many of the war dogs, this was a substantial amount.

Camp Le Jeune
In the War Dog Traing School both men and Dobermann would be trained for combat.

Each dog went through a rigorous course of obedience for a period of 6 weeks. After basic training, because it was, the dogs were divided into groups for spezialized training : scout, Messenger or infantery. The dogs use signals to alert the soldiers of Japanese presence as they were trained not to bark. The dogs could detect human scent up to one half mile away. In August 1945, the War Dog Platoons were disbanded. Many of the dogs were retrained for civilian life and sent back to their families, while several remained with their handlers. There were 1,047 dogs entlisted during the war, with 465 serving in combat. Twenty-five dogs died during service in the Pacific during the War. After the retraining and health checks the dogs were well enough to reenter civilian life safely, certificates were signed what was reguied for them to be discharge. By the fall 1946 all of the dogs had been sent home. In the final analysis, of the 559 dogs in the Marine Corps at the end of the war, 540 were discharged to civilian life. Of the 19 that had to be destroyed, 15 were euthanized due to health reasons, and only 4 were so incorrigible in their behavior that they had to be destroyed: 0.73 percent. Of those four, three were Dobermann and one was a German Sheperd, almost the exact percentage of each breed a represented in the Marine Corps in WWII. William W Putney had mention that he never sign an unnecessary death certificate and he never did.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, many canine behaviorists said that all militairy dogs had been destroyed because it was not possible to detrain dogs after militairy service to the extent that they would be safe or return to civilian life. The reader of this book knows differently. We brought our dogs home with us from the battlefields. Our dogs were not destroyed: How reliable was the detraining ? There was never a single case reported where one of our dogs attacked a human after returning to civilian life. Yet for years the militairy persisted in a policy that was both stupid and inhumane.

Through of the effort of William W. Putney a life-size bronze of a Dobermann was unveiled on the U. S. Navel Base on Guam during the 50-th anniversary of the liberation of that Island.



The report, a basic overview of operations and future reccomendations !

The following shared lines has my interest because behavior is a close to my heart subject. In relation to the Dobermann it has for me the first prior, it’s the reason why I’m focccused if I read behavior traits, temperament in relation to our breed. Regardless if this was in the process of wording, during the both Wars, or after these periods and all what is written about it in between. The Dobermann’s natural spirit what include his temperament and nervous system is for me mostly inherited and has less to do with nurture. In the 6 years I’m learning about the breed temperament and nervous system problems are like a thread through the breed. To refer at I mention earlier in my blog I will try to explain what triggerd me and gave me food for thought and with this a question I shared with Jim Engel. 

From the book War Dogs, a history of loyalty and heriosm. The commonding officers of both platoons, Taylor and Putney, furnished a report to the commander of the Marine Corps providing a basic overview of operations and future recommendations. In concern of the Dobermann Taylor emphatically stated :

Although a few of the Dobermann performed in an exellent manner, it is considered that this breed is, in general, unsuited for combat duty due to its highly temperamental and nervous characteristics. They also failed to stand up as well as the others types under field conditions. On the whole, the Dobermann proved to be more exicitable and nervous than the other breeds under combat conditions, and required much time and effort on the part of his handler at all times in order to keep him properly calmed down and under control. Although admirably suited for certain types of security work, dogs of this breed are not desired as replacements for the 2d and 3d War Dog Platoons. Further Taylor highlighted the attributes of the German Sheperd. Taylor’s report, accepted on face value, meant the beginning of the end for the Dobermann as a militairy working dog.

Above words from Taylor still resonate in my mind and although it’s now 2018 I recognize and think to understand them. After many generations and decades further they didn’t get rid of many unstable and nervous lines/traits. Through own experience I can truly say that many can not cope with  all day life issues and show a to reactive, unstable, fearful and nervous behavior what is very undesirable. Besides my own experience it seems a red thread through the breed’s life, from the beginning until now. It seems rather rare then common to find a stable and trustworty Dobermann. Speaking about the beginning the creator of the Dobermann Pinscher ( Dobermann’s Hunde ) was Herr Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann (1834-1891) his meaning was not to create a sweet and nice pet dog. He choose what he was thought were sharp, watchful, intelligent dogs with a brave heart from nature. Looks had no value, function was the purpose. The dogs known for their vermin killer traits and harsh strenght of character. This foundation, although many other influence from the Greyhound and the Manchester Terrier ( 2 x ) were introduce after, could be still in a very less amount represented in their blood. What not means that this is only negative it comes to selection and knowing how to read their language and the details of their temperament if it wise to breed with certain types who are to aggressive. 

What could be the main reason and why I read so less about the fact that this was also probably so common for and during the wars. Is there a real proper study about this subject or has it only to do with poor breeding management or needs it all a deeper insight in the breed, it’s creation, needs and understanding what suits the Dobermann. One thing I dare to say that if you have unstable dogs and you will breed with them over and over again because for example they are so ‘popular’  this trait in lines will inherited and pop up in the offsprings and their offsprings, it’s a huge challenge to fix this , if it ever will be possible.

My impression is also that from beginning and through the founder effect, first War (bottleneck) not to forget the promotion to use the Dobermann in the second War had a huge impact on temperament and their nervous system because of the lack of breeding knowledge and what was desirable in the war. But I also not exclude the fact that this breed was maybe not suitable as describe by Taylor for all jobs. A Dobermann is not a German Sheperd and a German Sheperd is not a Dobermann, it has a reason and both you can not compare. The Dobermann was meant to be a presonal protector, it was the only breed with a purpose for this job. I personal think they are a one man dogs and function best in this setting, if proper bred.

Book Always Faithful

If I understand it correct the report in relation to the Dobermann was the view/conclusion from Taylor. I can not find something that also Putney had this as a truly believe because of his words in his book Always Faitful share for me almost the opposite or my interpreation of it. What makes it for me as a student of the breed even more interested to understand what both officers experienced and shared. Some lines from Putney: The 295 rejected dogs  demostrate improper recruiting. Thirthy one percent of all dogs arriving at the War Dog Training School were found unfit for duty, the vast majority because they were emotianally unstable. Dobermann Pinschers-although they are fine dogs and did some of our greatest work on the field-were rejected for this reason in a lager percentage than other breeds. Perhaps because of they were a breed small in numbers, the demands of the Marine Corps was too great to be satisfied, and subpar dogs were taken to the school for our review. Their owners also often suffered a misguided impression that we needed mean attack dogs. Dogs that are naturally mean usually have psychological problems; they are not dependable under stress of combat. In my years of practice since the war, I have found that Dobermann are naturally as emotionally stable as other breeds. They are sharp, fast and very tractable, train easily and retrain their training perhaps better than most breeds. They are wonderful dogs. Oh yes they are and fully agree ! But the words emotionally stable I can not match with some words of Taylor. Probably, but this is just a guess, meant Putney that breeding with awareness and eye for temperament they are naturally stable.  Would have love to talk with those two officers to get a more accurate insight in what they thought was the main problem in relation to behavior.

So after reading Jim Engel’s article and specially the report from Taylor this was my first thought and shared it;  It is so unfair to select in general a breed what is mentally not capable of doing what you would prefer in a war and what must suits a war dog. It must be so stressful because many had a poor nervous system. The words from Taylor are still accurate these days and I wonder if the breed is truly understand by the community and not only because of the name Dobermann and it’s so called persona. After reading the two books I would have hoped to get one clear answer but there is none. It is a combination of matters as describe in the article I shared and through some lines from the books. But even these days temperament is a important issue still in the breed Dobermann besides all other complex health matters, what needs certainly our attention !

Combat Dog
In life the firmest friend, The first to welcome, foremost to defend, Whose honest heart is still his master’s own Who labor’s, fights, lives, breathes for him alone.- Noel gordon, Lord Byron.

The story of Rocky from the book Always Faithful.

Among the large number of our dogs and handlers that distinguished themselves in combat, Pfc. Marvin Corff and Rocky stand out. Rocky had been one of the dogs to alert to the banzai attack of July 25, 1944, and the pair went on more than fifty patrols during the mop-up that followed, staying out over two weeks again and again. On one of these patrols, Corff had singlehandedly killed four Japanese after Rocky’s alert ans was awared a Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry……fighting spirit and cool courage”.  When I was preparing this manuscript, I wrote to Corff in the process of checking my recollections against those of mu comrades. Corff wrote back, primarily about Rocky. Rocky, he said “was not an affectionate dog. I could horse around with him and pet him but he didn’t like to be touched very much”. After Corff and I discussed how we should assert himself over Rocky, the dog’s behavior changed for the better, but during combat Rocky would revert:

When the star shells lit up the sky, I could see his eyes turn green and glaze over. He went for me,getting in a few bites before I got my arms around him and put a muzzle on him. In a few minutes, he calmed down. we were assigned to many different units and went on many patrols. Rocky did a good job. On many missions, he alerted me to enemy movement, once saving our patrol from ambush. Rocky would seem to get that green glaze in his eyes and go after anyone who was close, which usually was me. The worst bite I ever got when I wasn’t expecting it and endedup with a festering wound in my belly and flat on my back at some forward outpost. These attacks by Rocky were of a short period and then he would act normal, as if nothing had happened……….I feel that outside of the numerous bite wounds that I suffered, I was lucky in the war. When I moved to Chicago after my discharge, I found that Rocky’s owner had reclaimed him. I went to see him a few times. He was glad to see me and would obey my commands, but I felt it best not to go back to see him anymore because my visits were making it difficult for him to adjust to his new civilian life.

Why, I asked Corff, had he not told me about Rocky’s behavior ? Because, he said, he could not take the chance that I would take Rocky away.

Rocky 1


My sources I have shared in this blog and will end with some links. Through this blog it can make you eager to read and learn more about this chapter form our beloved breed Dobermann.















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