BERKELEY, CA - On a rocky island off the coast of Guam, a Marine line officer named William Putney was leading his men on a mission to flush out enemy soldiers. Cappy, one of his faithful scouts, went ahead. "Cappy suddenly alerted that there were enemy ahead," Mr. Putney recalls. "A shot rang out and it hit Cappy and he jumped up in the air about three or four feet and fell dead." Forewarned, the Marines were able to take the rocks, killing five Japanese soldiers and taking one prisoner.
A half-century has passed since that September day in 1944 when a Doberman named Cappy saved Mr. Putney's life, but the former Marine veterinarian has never forgotten. Tomorrow, Mr. Putney and other survivors of the 2nd and 3rd war dog platoons will honor their canine comrades with a granite memorial at Naval Station Guam, part of ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the island's liberation.
"People ask, 'What's all this hullabaloo about a bunch of dogs that died 50 years ago?' "says Mr. Putney, the driving force behind the memorial. "The reason is, these dogs lived in foxholes with their men. Their handlers killed 301 enemy soldiers with the loss of only one of my men on patrols. So the fact that these dogs were killed instead of us and kept us from ever being ambushed or surprised at night makes them heroes in my mind."
The first casualty came July 23, when a Doberman named Kurt was wounded by a Japanese grenade. He was the first to be buried in what would become the war dog cemetery. More followed. In all, 24 war dogs were buried on Guam, Mr. Putney says.
After the war, Mr. Putney moved to the Los Angeles area and started a veterinary practice. But he never forgot the war dogs. In 1989 he returned to Guam to visit their graves and was dismayed to find the cemetery overgrown and neglected. Mr. Putney found a new home for the cemetery at the naval station and worked with the United Doberman Club on the memorial. He donated a granite monument that will be inscribed with the names of the dogs and the fate of each. It will be topped by a life-size bronze statue of a sitting Doberman, titled "Always Faithful," sculpted by Susan Bahary Wilner.
"When I heard about it I was in tears," she says. "Here are dogs that have saved ... American lives. They're finally getting their due."
On Guam, dog and handler made a formidable scouting team, Mr. Putney says. That
made the end of a partnership all the more poignant. The day Cappy was shot, his
handler, Pfc. Stanley Terrell, ran to the dog's side to cradle the bloody corpse.
"Some photographer came up," Mr. Putney says. "Terrell looked at me, tears running
down his face..."I said, 'Go take your pictures somewhere else.'"