Jonathan Wahl was the Master of Ceremonies for the War Dog Memorial Pedestal Dedication. He served as the original platoon clerk with the 47th Scout Dog Platoon, in Vietnam from May 1968 to May 1969.
Colonel Vona, Colonel Hartsell, Colonel Nett, Sergeant First Class Mendez, Honored Guests, my fellow Veterans, families, and friends:
Welcome to Fort Benning and thank you for joining us on this very special occasion. And thanks to the United States Army at Fort Benning for all their support.
We come together today on Sacrifice Field to conduct this War Dog Pedestal dedication ceremony honoring those men and dogs who served in combat to save lives, defend our nation, and preserve our freedom. We pay tribute to their service by dedicating the first five in a series of permanent memorial pedestals. These pedestals will eventually completely encircle the magnificent War Dog Memorial behind me which was dedicated in October of 2000.
America's war dogs were trained to save lives by alerting on snipers, booby traps, mines, tunnels, and weapons caches. They warned troops about ambushes. They tracked the enemy. They guarded our troops and bases. War Dog teams prevented over 10,000 casualties in Vietnam alone and also bravely served our country during World War II and in Korea. They remained steadfast under sometimes impossible conditions. They did the job they were trained to do.
Our dogs were alert. They were responsive. They were brave. They asked only for some food, some water, some praise, a pat, a hug, a scratch behind the ear. In return, they gave so much; loyalty, obedience, unconditional love...and they gave their lives.
In the words of an unknown writer:
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. "In Vietnam most of our handlers returned home yet most of our canine soldiers were declared "surplus armaments" and were either euthanised or left to unknown fates. Thanks to the efforts of SFC Jesse Mendez and private donations from veterans and others, we mark today as a time when we say to all those who have served, human and K-9, You were there for us, we appreciate your sacrifices, and we will never forget you.
Let us begin.
US Army and Vietnam Veteran SFC Jesse Mendez (Ret.) was the designer and lead trainer of the Army Scout Dog Training program at Fort Benning during the 1960's. SFC Mendez' vision and energy are helping to make these and future Pedestals a reality.
Good afternoon Ladies, Gentlemen, and Mothers.
I would like to first of all say that tomorrow is Mother's Day and I hope that each and every one of you will give their mother a big hug and big kiss and tell her you love her.
On October the 8th of the year 2000 was when they dedicated this memorial. Basically, what you would see here would be only this sculpture behind me, a dog and a handler. It was very beautifully sculptured. The sculptor did a very fine job on it. Later that evening I came out here and I gazed on the magnificent beauty of this sculpture that was presented here and that was dedicated that day. The following day, 2, 3, 4 days I came out here and I gazed at it and I said something needs to be done. We need to tell the complete story of all of the units, dogs, men that served in combat areas overseas in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and even today.
I consulted quite a number of folks, quite a number of people and I received much assistance. If I can just take one moment of your time I would like to give thanks to many of the folks, many of the people that helped us, or that helped me with advice and assistance. First of all the Commanding General here at Fort Benning that accepted this memorial. I would also like to thank Colonel Fisk Hadden who is with the Chamber of Commerce downtown. I consulted with him many times. Colonel Ben Williams, Jr. with the National Infantry Foundation, which gave me much assistance. Colonel Jacob Riley who was a Commander of the 197th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Detachment Scout Dog and I was directly under his command. Colonel Arthur H. Baird, Jr. who was the Commander of the Dog Training Detachment. Colonel Robert Nett who I asked for assistance with the Pedestal of the Medal of Honor.
There have been many donations from various handlers, supporters, and one of the greatest supporters that we have is the German Shepherd Dog Club of Atlanta. Dixie Whitman, with her own personal donations, I certainly want to thank her and many others.
On the 8th of April I was privileged and honored to be included at the signing of a Proclamation by the Governor of Georgia which he designated today as Working Dog Memorial Day. Also on the 10th of May I was privileged and honored to be with the Mayor of Columbus Bobby Peters when he designated for Columbus Working Military Dog Day. And I also want to thank Commanding General Eaton for designating today on post Military Working Day.
With your help and the help of other supporters and the help of your friends and the help of their friends, we all working together can complete this memorial in front of you here, honoring all of those men, all of the dogs that served so well in many combat areas.
One thing I would like to bring to your attention is that we are hoping to place 2 pedestals on this site that will honor all of the KIA dog handlers from World War II, from Korea, and from Vietnam - not only the handlers but also the dogs. I need your help because there are many dog handlers coming out of the woodwork now. They have been silent for many years but they're starting to come out. I need help especially from the World War II Scout Dog Platoons. I need to know their KIA of their handlers and the KIA of their dogs so that we can place their names on these pedestals. Once they are cast in bronze then it will be just a little too late to add any more names to that.
With that I want to thank you very much. Thank you all.
Stan Stockdale's first command as a young Second Lt. was with the US Army Scout Dogs. He was active in the formation of two new Scout Dog platoons and trained with his men and dogs at the Scout Dog School at Fort Benning. As the first Commander of the 47th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog) Stockdale led his platoon as it deployed to Vietnam in May of 1968 in support of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in I Corps.
It is intriguing to be back at Ft. Benning after such a long time. As I think back this base was central to much of my Army experience, going through Officer Candidate School, Jump School, Ranger School, and the Scout Dog Training School right here. Those experiences seem like they took a long time, of course, years (or months) simply seem longer when you're young. Now, as many of us here realize, the years are flying by.
I deeply appreciate the opportunity to say a few words to honor the military men and their dogs who have courageously served this country. I am going to use some of the experiences of the 47th Infantry Platoon Scout Dog as examples, but similar experiences exist for each of the dog units that have served and their various teams - whether scout, tracker or sentry.
Think for a moment what these teams did. They were on the front line. Sentry dogs guarded the perimeter of airfields and other compounds. They were the first line of live defense. Tracker dogs were used to follow the trail of an enemy that had gotten away. Again they were the first in line and the first to make contact. And scout dogs were used to walk point through the jungles and mountains of Vietnam. Not just any time, but when there was a potential serious threat to the infantry unit. When you were in the field it was better not to be first and not to be last. All of these handlers and their dogs were asked to be first, over and over again.
34 years ago this month 28 young men and 28 dogs boarded two C-141's right here at the Ft. Benning airfield and left for Viet Nam. You can imagine the thoughts and concerns that crossed various minds as we spent the long hours flying first to Anchorage, then Osaka, and finally Saigon. The dogs made it better from the start - each of us had an animal to care for and each of us had an animal totally dedicated to ourselves. Handlers will tell you that their dogs made them more than what they were.
After a month in various base camps the platoon moved up country to join the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne, located near the old imperial city of Hue. Our first mission was on the 14th of July and in the first six months the scout dog teams from the 47th participated in 778 missions, spent 821 days in the field, and were involved with 32 enemy killed in action, 2 enemy wounded in action and 64 prisoners of war.
The dogs were magnificent - whether the Shepherds that were used as sentries and scout dogs, or the Labradors that were used as trackers. Scout dogs were trained to detect enemy presence, whether men, trip wires, mines, punji pits, or caches of supplies. Let me use trip wires as an example of a scout dog's capability. There were a number of ways a dog could detect a trip wire. Depending on how the wind was blowing they could smell it (if it was recently rigged) or they could hear it vibrating. Finally, they were also trained to stop and move back if they felt a trip wire. It was up to the handler to read the way their dog indicated that they had found something. This was called alerting, and the dogs did it in various ways. They might raise their nose in the air, they might chuff, or the hackles on the back of their neck might rise. All of this was done silently. One dog, after being in the field for a while, made the connection that when he alerted on something it was then followed by something bad. His new alert was to get himself behind his handler.
These teams were effective. So much so, that the Viet Cong put a special bounty on scout dogs and handlers. They also did other things: like raising the trip wires so the dogs might walk under them.
This was dangerous duty and these men here today did it again and again. Out of the original 24 dog handlers of the 47th Scout Dog Platoon 7 men were wounded and Private First Class Marvin Pearce was killed in action. During that first year 14 dogs died, either being killed in action or from other causes.
Many people have expressed concern as they have learned of the fate of these dogs as the Army eventually scrambled to leave Viet Nam. Some were given to the South Vietnamese army, many were euthanized, and a very few came home. I don't want you to feel sorry for these dogs. They had the opportunity to do something special and they knew it. They spent day after day and hour upon hour with their masters, exactly where they wanted to be. These were working dogs and they were happy dogs.
And because of them, and the endless efforts of Jesse Mendez and others, the Military branches now have formal adoption programs for dogs that are being retired from service.
Handlers had a special experience and received a special gift from their dogs. Many people here today have dogs as pets and know the deep feelings that exist. Imagine the bonds that were developed between these men and their dogs during their year of shared conflict. Remember what these men did, going first through a hostile jungle, not even able to carry their rifle because they were working with their dog. Their lives and the lives of the group behind them were absolutely dependent on the dog's ability to provide early warning by alerting on a noise, movement or scent and their own ability to quickly read their dog and the terrain to determine where the threat might be. Even after so many years, it is difficult for handlers to express what their dog meant to them.
As you meet people who served in the Infantry in Vietnam you hear story after story of what these teams did. And you also hear of the unfortunate times when they now wish a dog team had been with them. Uniquely, scout dogs were one of the few infantry activities designed to save lives and they did. It is conservatively estimated that these handlers and their dogs saved more than 10,000 lives in Vietnam. Given that 50,000 lives were lost when it was said and done, these teams had an amazing impact and we are here today to honor them.
I would ask that all handlers stand. Let me say "Welcome Home"and "Thank you for a job well done."
Medal of Honor Address
Colonel Robert Nett is a Medal of Honor recipient for his courageous actions during World War II in the Philippine Islands on December 14, 1944, He graciously agreed to share his personal wartime experiences with War Dogs and to provide the background of the Nation's highest Military Award.
Colonel Vona, Colonel Hartsell, Distinguished Visitors, Sgt. Mendez, Mr. Chairman, and all War Dog lovers:
Today we honor the great dog handlers and their dogs that have saved men and their lives throughout some of our great military history. I'd like to just say that I probably would not be here today if it had not been for some outstanding Scout Dogs and their terrific handlers that took care of their well-trained dogs and also guided them in the most treacherous conditions.
Particularly during Word War II in the Pacific, as a young Lt. Company Commander of a rifle company I had a Marine Scout Dog handler report to me just before the landings on Guam. Our mission as a Batallion was to protect the right flank of the 1st Marine Division Brigade at the landings called Agat on the island of Guam. Our landings went rapidly and somewhat smoothly but we got into the foothills of a couple of the big mountain ranges where we found the Scout Dog was tremendous help. As we moved forward under some of the most rugged jungle terrain the dog handler first stopped and then the hair behind the neck and on top of the head would stand up straight. This would be an indication to us that our automatic weapons had to move forward. The Scout Dog handler would crouch the dog down, get the dog down flat on the ground and either we would have an engagement in a matter of seconds or we'd find that it was a particular area that the enemy had just recently left. So this went on throughout the entire Guam campaign and this handler and his great dog were attached for the duration. It was repeated day after day the way this dog in my honest opinion saved many lives.
As time moved on I found myself in Vietnam. It was here that we found new problems confronting us with the dogs. The dog handlers and the dogs were trained by American handlers and they were perfect. However, when we put the dogs in the helicopters they became sick after flying a little bit. Some were for quite a distance. So what happened was we designed the plan that we would keep the Scout Dogs and the handlers aboard the transport helicopters for 1 week visiting all our outposts, delivering all supplies so that they could gradually get acclimated. After 4 or 5 weeks surprisingly the Scout Dogs were right on target and let me tell you they did a tremendous job. As the dogs became acclimated to flying they again in the moutains and jungle terrain of Vietnam we found Scout Dogs to be priceless.
My special commendation to all people that have made everything possible for this day in honoring these great handlers and also the Scout Dogs. I am grateful as a Company Commander and as an advisor in Vietnam for all the security and the forewarnings the great dogs have given me and my subordinates.
In 1861 President Abraham Lincoln authorized the award of the Medal of Honor for the Navy enlisted personnel only. The Army was quite put out so in 1862 President Lincoln further signed into law the authority for the Army enlisted personnel to be awarded the Medal of Honor. A few years later this was changed with also authorizing the award to officers of both the Army and the Navy. Since its inception there have been 3,439 Medals of Honor awarded of which 19 were awarded to individuals twice. Approximately 16.7% were posthumously awarded. I'm sure that many of these great Scout Dogs involved in all of the previous conflicts fall within the parameters and walls of the authority for the Medal of Honor as well as the great soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen that were their handlers. As of today there are 145 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
I am thankful and honored to be here today to participate in this great ceremony.
47th Main Page | Reunion Page | Reunion Album
Platoon photographs may not be republished without written permission