Always Faithful — A Memoir Of The Marine Dogs Of World War II, By William W. Putney

(Brassey’s, 2003; 256 pp., $14.95 — ISBN 157488719X).

In this narrative of Marine war dogs, the author has reconstructed his experiences with them during World War II; their training and use in the recapture of Guam in 1944. The dogs were trained “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.”

As a young veterinarian and artillery ROTC graduate, the author accepted a commission in the Marine Corps 09 February 1943. After three months of infantry training he received orders to the War Dog Training School, at Camp Lejeune. His assignment was “to train two platoons in infantry tactics and eventually to command one overseas.” One hundred and ten Marines and 72 dogs of the 2nd and 3rd War Dog Platoons went through training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, then Camp Pendleton, California; later on Guadalcanal and then into battle on Guam.

The author commanded the Third Dog Platoon during the battle for the recapture of Guam from 21 July to 10 August 1944. Total American casualties exceeded 7,000 and an estimated 18,500 Japanese were killed. Among the dead were 25 Marine war dogs. The Marine war dogs and their handlers conducted over 550 patrols in the jungles of Guam in which forty percent of the patrols caused “the capture or killing of hundreds of enemy soldiers, over 300 by the dog handlers themselves,” and were never once ambushed.

The dogs proved so valuable on Guam that every Marine division was assigned a war dog platoon “and they paved the way for the many dogs that have followed them in the armed services, most famously in Vietnam.”

The author dedicated this book to the memory of the 2nd and 3rd War Dog Platoons, “They embodied the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis.”