There are few ways that a visitor to Guam can avoid realizing the direct impact of past wars on the island. In addition to the historic military bases that have played a role in every conflict since the Americans arrived in 1898, there are streets named for branches of service, generals, admirals and enlisted heroes as well as countless memorials on military and civilian land. Sites of massacres of local civilians during the brutal World War II Japanese occupation are well known and highlighted during annual, solemn ceremonies.
But there are war stories that live largely in the memories of a vanishing contingent of war fighters who came ashore on Guam in July 1944 under heavy Japanese fire. They were lucky enough to have some companions who would save hundreds of their lives during the retaking of the island.
The animals of the 3rd War Dog Platoon played a major role, given that thousands of armed Japanese remained in the Guam jungles well after the initial invasion was over, exacting a bloody toll on the Americans who hunted them during daily patrols.
The dogs, mostly Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, received lengthy training to do their work. They searched out hidden enemy with their keen sense of smell, detected mines and booby traps, carried messages, ammunition and medical supplies. They also guarded dug-in, sleeping troops, protecting them from sneak attacks.
They also died in combat.
Not being able to tell their own story, the dogs were lucky enough to have their own Boswell to tell the tale. William Putney, both a veterinarian and a Marine Corps line officer was with the war dogs throughout their training to when they hit Asan Beach. Like the Marines under his command, Captain Putney bonded with the dogs and was disheartened when they died.