QM War Dog Platoon is a Combat Unit
Quartermaster Training Service Journal – 7 July 1944
About 4 Feb 44, T/4 Boude with his scout dog, Dick, went out with a Marine reconnaissance patrol of about fifteen men from Co. K. The mission of the patrol was to locate and reconnoiter a trail through a portion of the island adjacent to Cape Gloucester.
The terrain to be covered consisted of heavy jungle, forest, and swamps. Rain fell throughout the period.
On the third day, T/4 Boude and Dick were working as usual as the point of the patrol. Dick alerted, pointing to the right front. Boude stopped and signaled the patrol leader, who came up and received the report. He and Boude went forward about forty yards and saw a Jap bivouac of five huts.
No Japs were in sight. Boude quartered ( “quartering” is a search method) with Dick to determine which of the huts were occupied. Dick alerted to one hut only.
The patrol surrounded this hut, closed in, and found four Japs. They were killed. There were no Marine casualties.
The patrol proceeded on its mission, the remainder of which was uneventful except that some Jap stragglers were encountered. In each instance the dog alerted in time for the Japs to be surprised and captured or killed.
IN THE SOUTHWEST PACIFIC
This story is taken from a report of a Quartermaster detachment of war dogs and handlers in the Southwest Pacific. According to this report, during one period, the scout dogs and their handlers were on patrols 48 out of 53 days. During this time patrols led by scout dogs were credited with accounting for approximately 200 Japs. A summary of the operations discloses:
1. The scout dogs worked very effectively.
2. There was no single instance of failure.
3. Not once were patrol which were led by scout dogs fired upon first.
4. There were no casualties in any of the patrol led by scout dogs. Patrols without dogs suffered numerous casualties.
5. Patrols wanted the dogs to accompany them.
COMBAT, NOT SUPPLY
Trained and halded by QM’s, this primary mission of this newest of Quartermaster Units–the War Dog Platoon–is combat rather than supply. As presently organized, the platoon is composed of a Lieutenant, commanding the unit; a Technical Sergeant , who is platoon sergeant; an attached Veterinary Sergeant; and three squads of handlers and dogs. Number of the T/O and E is 10-379T.
Each squad contains eight dog handlers who train and handle four scout and four messenger dogs. The squad leader is a Sergeant; the remainder of the handlers are Technicians Fifth Grade. The platoon sergeant is also qualified to train and handle dogs. Personnel and dogs are trained at Quartermaster War Dog Reception and Training Centers.
The platoon is attached to Army, Corps or Division as determined by the theater commander. Its scout and messenger man-dog team are attached to lower units as needed for work with reconnaissance, combat, and security patrols, and as needed for communication purposes. The commanding officer of the war dog unit advises the commanders of using units on the proper use of the handlers and dogs.
TRAINED FOR ACTION
Scout dogs are trained to alert and indicate the direction of strange scents or noises which their super-sensitive noses or ears detect. By quartering the area with the dog (quartering means to range over, to pass from point to point, as a hunting dog goes over a field), the handler is able to determine the exact location of the strange sound or smell which the dog has detected.
Trained to work silently, these dogs are used to accompany patrols and to give warning of the enemy long before human beings are aware of any danger. The handler, with his dog on a leash, usually operates at the point of the patrol, although the exact location will depend upon wind conditions and direction of possible enemy. The handler and his dog may also be used in outposts, especially at night, to prevent infiltration.
MESSAGES UNDER FIRE
Messenger dogs are trained to run between their handlers, finding their way either by following the trail of body scent, or by utilizing animal intuition about which little is really known. At any rate, the dogs get there.
Two men handle each messenger dog so that there is an effective line of communication between any two points at which those two handlers are located. The message is carried in a leather pouch on the dog’s collar.
Such dogs many also be used to lay wire over short distances in positions which are under fire. In emergencies they can be relied upon to carry weights up to 25 pounds.
The dogs’ speed, natural ability to take advantage of concealment and cover, and their sureness make them difficult targets for enemy bullets. The messenger dogs are also used to maintain contact between the point and the main body of patrols, between patrols and CP’s (command posts) and between outposts and CP’s.
GETTING THE MESSAGE THROUGH
The story of how one dog got the message through is found in the report of the Quartermaster Detachment mentioned above:
T/4’s Brown and Sheldon and their messenger dog Sandy were with I Co., First Marines, which was the assault company advancing in a torrential downpour along the narrow beach road toward the Cape Glouster airstrip. Brown was with the regimental scouts.
Japanese pillboxes were discovered on Turzi Point and were holding up the advance. Due to the weather, radio transmitters were out of commission. It required the use of the messenger dog to communicate with Battalion CP in order to bring artillery fire to bear upon the pillboxes.
Sandy was dispatched by Brown to Sheldon, who was at the Battalion CP. It was necessary for the dog to run through a curtain of enemy fire, past friendly tanks firing 75-mm cannon and machine guns, and through the small arms fire of Marine troops.
The terrain which the dogs had to cross consisted of Kunai grass, jungle, swamp, and small streams, then a river which he had to swim. After surmounting these obstacles, Sandy crossed the beach road, continued down the beach and finally reached Sheldon in a foxhole which was surrounded by barbed wire. The dog surmounted it by jumping.
Immediately upon receipt of the message, the dog was dispatched again. His return trip was over the same type of terrain. The distance of the run in a straight line was approximately 300 yards, but due to the numerous obstacles, the run was really about 500 yards. The ground covered by the dog on these trips was entirely new to him, and he had not seen Sheldon since the previous night.
TRAINED FOR OTHER DUTIES
Quartermasters are training other types of war dogs and handlers in addition to those in T/O and E 10-397T. Casualty dogs are trained to search for and report casualties lying in obscure places, casualties that are difficult for collecting parties to locate. In cases of severe shock or hemorrhage, minutes saved in locating such casualties often mean the difference between life and death.
Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers of the approach or presence of strange persons and are utilized for garding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations. Their use has proved them to be valuable in any place where security against intruders must be maintained.
BUT THEY’RE NOT PETS
Experience in the theaters of operations with war dogs have shown them to be valuable equipment. The problem of their maintenance is a small one. They are able to subsist of whatever food is available to their handler, whether it be steaks or the C ration. They sleep wherever their master sleeps.
GI Joe’s universal love for the dog as a pet has caused some difficulty. War dogs are trained to trust and take orders from one man–his handler. The basis of all training and performance is that relationship between the dog and his trained handler. Thus, when other men try to make a pet of him, his performance suffers. Men in units who which war dogs are attached must be impressed with the fact that war dogs are not pets.
From the Archives of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum, Fort Lee, Virginia.