Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII

Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII

by William W. Putney


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As a twenty-three-year-old veterinarian, William W. Putney joined the Marine Corps at the height of World War II. He commanded the Third Dog Platoon during the battle for Guam and later served as chief veterinarian and commanding officer of the War Dog Training School, where he helped train former pets for war in the Pacific. After the war, he fought successfully to have USMC war dogs returned to their civilian owners. Always Faithful is Putney’s celebration of the four-legged soldiers that he both commanded and followed. It is a tale of immense courage as well as of incredible sacrifice.
For anyone who has ever read Old Yeller or the books of Jack London, here is a real-life story that rivals any fiction. At once a wistful tribute and a stirring adventure, Always Faithful will enthrall readers with one of the great animal stories of all time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574887198
Publisher: Potomac Books
Publication date: 10/31/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 355,082
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

The late C. William W. Putney, D.V.M., USMC (Ret.), received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his actions with the war dogs during the invasion of Guam. During his long veterinary career, he served as the president of California’s Veterinary Medical Association and as the Los Angeles commissioner of the Department of Animal Regulation.

Read an Excerpt


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 returned to civilian life. Household pets once, the dogs became household pets again. In many cases, in fact, because the original, civilian owners were unable or unwilling to take the dogs back, the dogs went home with the handlers that they had served so well during the war.

* * *

More than fifty years have passed since the Battle of Guam. The dogs, of course, are long gone, and to the annual reunions fewer and fewer veterans of the war dog platoons return. Although it was a small chapter in the history of that worldwide conflagration, the story of the war dog platoons is significant. 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.

For their contribution to the war effort, the dogs paid a dear price, but the good they did was still far out of proportion to the sacrifice they made. They and their handlers led over 550 patrols on Guam alone, and encountered enemy soldiers on over half of them, but were never once ambushed. They saved hundreds of lives, including my own.

This book is dedicated to the memory of those loving, courageous and faithful dogs of the 2nd and 3rd War Dog Platoons. They embodied the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis.

Rest in peace, dear ones.



Copyright © 2001 by William W. Putney

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
Chapter 2: Training
Chapter 3: Camp Pendleton, California
Chapter 4: The Dog Men
Chapter 5: The Last Days at Camp Pendleton
Chapter 6: Life Aboard Ship
Chapter 7: Guadalcanal
Chapter 8: Landing
Chapter 9: The Worst Day
Chapter 10: Banzai
Chapter 11: Mopping Up
Chapter 12: Going Home

What People are Saying About This

Leon Uris

A heartrending story of courage and loyalty that should be celebrated.
— (Leon Uris, author of Battle Cry and Exodus)

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Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
No offense to Capt. Putney - he has a great story to tell, he just doesn't know how to tell it. Harris Done's documentary film, War Dogs of the Pacific, tells the same story and breaks your heart. Putney seems more concerned about recording the details. From his actions, it's obvious he cares very deeply about the dogs and the men who worked with them in World War II but he has a difficult time expressing his emotions in the printed word. Still, it's an interesting part of history and carried a timely message when it was published - Congress had just passed legislation requiring that dogs used in war be detrained and returned to civilian life whenever possible. Putney and his men proved this to be possible yet dogs used in subsequent wars were destroyed without anyone even attempting to detrain them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent history of of war dogs and the hundreds of lives saved. Well worth reading. Bring a tissue, emotions run true as we learn the true stories of survival of both man and his best friend. Excellent for anyone wanting to know more about how war dogs came about and the job they did, quite often unacknowledged, in war history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful part of WWII history!!
AVoraciousReadr More than 1 year ago
Excellent! *Book source ~ A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. Original review was published in Sgt. Grit’s Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 2004 Retired Captain William Putney, of the United States Marine Corps, recounts his story of the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon used in World War II in his memoir Always Faithful. In June 1943, Putney enlisted in the Marine Corps. Fresh out of college with a degree in veterinary medicine, he was hoping to serve his country with honor and courage. It came as a disappointment when his orders sent him to be a line officer in the War Dog Platoon. However, he was soon engrossed in the training of the dogs and handlers for combat in the Pacific.  Putney’s writing flows easily carrying the reader along on his journey as he describes the almost seven months of training, the trip to Guadalcanal, and the tension filled, dangerous liberation of the island of Guam. After the war was over he was horrified to learn that the war dogs were being euthanized. No attempt was being made to retrain them for safe return to the civilian owners who donated them. He spearheaded the effort to establish a detraining program of the courageous dogs serving our country with courage and distinction. His efforts paid off when the Marine Corps established the war dog detraining program. The program was a huge success and out of 559 Marine Corps dogs, only 19 had to be euthanized (15 due to health reasons and only four were considered too incorrigible for civilian life). Putney paints the reader a clear picture of what the training, the dogs and their handlers, and war was like. It is at times humorous and horrifying without bogging us down in military slang incomprehensible to the non-military reader. This memoir is a wonderful story for the history buff, military buff, and dog lover.
Derek DeFontes More than 1 year ago
I really wanted tonread this but it wont download correctly...
DuctorCE More than 1 year ago
My family has always had dogs. I love dogs and I was not sure if I could read much of this book. I dreaded one heart-breaking story after another about bad things happening to defenseless dogs. I had no need to worry. William Putney is no doubt an excellent veterinarian and a caring individual, but as a writer, he should stay being a veterinarian. However, this book is not a literary work, its purpose is to campaign for dogs generally and army dogs in particular - and that is how it reads. I found the book rather boring. There can be no doubt that animals serve their masters well, and doing what comes naturally to them saved lives during the war. Animals are also excellent company in extremis. Dr Putney campaigns long and hard for the dogs to be recognised for their service, and remembered for their sacrifice. That is where the good doctor and I part company. There are 75 million dogs in America. They mostly have doting owners. Indeed, 42% of them share their beds with them, and lavish $40 billion a year on their pets. And why not? Dogs display unconditional love to their owners. If you shut your wife and dog in the trunk of your car for a couple of hours, see which one is pleased to see you when you let them out. Here is the reason why not. They are, ipso facto animals. They are sensitive only to affection, fear, food and sex. They have no imagination. Dr Putney wanted the government to spend thousands of dollars de-training the dogs and sent back to their original owners. Clearly, the owners did not want them or they would not have given them away. They should have been humanely destroyed. They should not; as happened in Vietnam, be left behind, that was cruel. However, it was only cruel to humans who knew of it because they put human values on animals. The dogs were happy scavenging - that is what dogs do naturally. If any of the owners of the 75 million dogs in the US kept still long enough, their pets would probably eat them! Regretfully I must confess there are many books that are more deserving of one's time than this one. A small volume, but spend the money on your dog instead. 414 words.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My only complaint is that this book was not LONGER and that Captain William Putney was not so modest. He fails to tell You in detail about he and his dog handlers saving wounded Americans in a field hospital from a merciless Japanese attack. To men like Capatin Putney and his war dog teams they were just doing their jobs. Another book called War Dogs praises the heroics of Putney and his Dogs and handlers. The accounts in this book are amazing, fun and sometimes heartbreaking. Many owe their lives to these dogs and men like Putney and his dog handlers. BUY THIS BOOK YOU WONT PUT IT DOWN. Im a dog handler and it got to me. There is a DVD called WAR Dogs of the Pacific You can find sometimes it interviews Putney and some of his men. BUY IT TOO
elphillips More than 1 year ago
I was looking for a Christmas gift for my dad, and I thought, "what does the guy like?" Well, he's always watching WWII stuff on The History Channel (or reading books about it), and he loves dogs. So I decided to put the two together. If you've got a dad/husband/guy-friend who's always sitting on the couch surrounded by his (way-too-many) faithful dogs while watching stuff about WWII, then this might be the book to get him.

My dad was half-way through by the day after Christmas, so I guess that means he liked it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book because I am very interested in the history of dogs. At times, the book was bland and it felt like I was reading the same paragraphs over and over again. Most of the time, I was entranced in the intricate stories told and puzzled with the dilemmas that Putney and his men faced. Because I do not enjoy war novels but I wanted to learn more about World War II, Always Faithful was perfect for me. The graphic details of the surgeries and various injuries of the dogs made my queasy at times, but it was worth it when I heard of the successes and the love of the dogs. I did not realize that dogs were so widely used during wars. Thanks to this book, I now know much more about World War II and dogs. The stories told in the memoir kept me interested and I could not stop reading during important parts. I felt sorrow for the men when their dogs experienced pain and I felt joy for the marines when their dogs experienced success. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in either the military or dogs. It was written with a lot of details and gives an image of the daily life of marines. At first, I thought that being in a war dog platoon would have been easier than being a regular marine. I was wrong. The immense training of the dogs and marines was extremely intense.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would have liked to have read more about the dogs in combat, and less about the author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very rarely is a book written that portrays the everlasting bond between man and animal like this one. The things they did was astonishing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story of bravery,loyalty and humor during a terrible time in our history. I laughed and cried and I just couldn't put it down until I was finished. Dogs truly are man's best friend. I reccommend this book to anyone who is interested in WW2 and/or dogs.