WAR DOG MEMORIALS
BY THE F.A.S.T. CO.
Montgomery, ALTheir contribution to America's role in the war in Vietnam was invaluable, but their physical makeup made them expendable.
Military patrol dogs honored
By Alvin Benn - Montgomery Advertiser
They were veterans who weren't allowed to come home.
It's because they had four legs, not two. Thousands of German shepherd "war dogs" were euthanized, shot or otherwise eliminated after their services no longer were needed by the American military.
"It was an honor to work with those noble animals," Bill Wigginton said Saturday morning, his voice cracking with emotion as he talked about how the dogs helped protect B-52s at Ubon Air Base in Thailand.
Wigginton and other dog handlers took part in the Military Working Dog Tribute at the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base's Gunter annex.
Men in their 50s drifted back to their 20s, when they patrolled perimeters of air bases where giant bombers took off on missions over Vietnam.
With them were their faithful German shepherds -- dogs that became extensions of them as they looked for possible enemy infiltrators trying to destroy the huge bombers.
During the ceremony, a large dog cage was placed next to a memorial with the names of the dogs engraved on it. The door of the cage was open, a large aluminum food bowl was tilted toward the entrance and an American flag rested on top.
The 93 names were listed in alphabetical order -- ranging from Ali to Whitey. Several dogs were named King. One was named Hitler. Enlisted service members donated money to purchase the nameplates.
Wigginton said his dog, Sarge, saved him on more than one occasion when he sensed danger ahead, including cobras that could kill in minutes.
He mentioned their first meeting, when the dog kept his distance.
"It took an hour and 45 minutes for him to let me in the kennel with him," Wigginton said. "It took longer than that for him to let me pet him. I soon learned who the boss was. It wasn't me. It was Sarge."
Wigginton said the American government designated the patrol dogs as excess equipment when the war ended and estimated that up to 4,000 of them remained behind in Thailand and other countries where they helped protect aircraft.
Bill Cummings, who served in Thailand during the same period Wigginton was in that country, said Saturday's dedication was the first of its kind to honor only the patrol dogs. He said other memorials honor handlers as well as their dogs, "but this one is pretty special."
"We're here to honor these dogs for what they meant to our efforts over there," Cummings said. "They were important assets. They never had a day off. They had nerves of steel."
Cummings said German shepherds normally have life spans of 15 years, but those who served during the Vietnam War rarely lived that long. He said few lived 10 years.
Maxwell Air Force Base, Gunter Annex
Military dogs honored for work
BY KATIE BLAIR - Dispatch Staff Writer
They were the heroes that never got welcomed home.
They made valuable contributions to the war in Vietnam, but instead of being honored, thousands of military working dogs were either shot or euthanized at the end of the war after their services were no longer needed.
During a ceremony Saturday morning at the Air Force Enlisted Hall on Gunter, faithful veterans like Pistol, Sarge, Rex and Pete were honored for their duty.
“It was an honor to work with these noble animals,” said Bill Wigginton, as he reflected on his dog, Sarge, and the many other German shepherds that helped protect the B-52s at Ubon Air Base in Thailand.
A large metal dog cage with a flag draped over it was placed next to a memorial with the dogs’ names engraved on it. Next to the cage were an overturned food dish and a leash representing the dogs that were to never return home.
At the end of the war, the dogs that had become trusted companions and an extension of their handlers were left behind. The dogs were considered excess equipment by the American government, said Wigginton.
“This is sacred ground,” said Bill Cummings, who served in Thailand along with Wigginton, “This is the only dog memorial in the United States that honors just the patrol dog and not the handler.”
There are 93 names listed on the memorial that will be displayed in the Enlisted Heritage Hall Plaza. The nameplates were purchased through the donations from enlisted service members.
The ceremony, which was emotional for the former dog handlers, included a demonstration by the 42nd Air Base Wing Security Forces Squadron Canine Unit. Displaying their dogs’ abilities to protect and defend, the present day handlers said that it was a special day for them as well. “This event allowed us to genuflect with the handlers of old and appreciate them for what they and their dogs did,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Barner, 42nd SFS, who was accompanied by his working dog, Lion.
I will lay down my life and expect nothing but love in return.
I protect with my life, and would gladly take a bullet.
I am sent in to find the enemy, weapons, bombs, and drugs.
I am the first sent in and sometimes the last to leave.
I am the nose and ears of my handler.
I would die for my handlers and for you.
I only ask for compassion and a kind word. I will protect and defend!!!
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only memorial in the US that list only the names of our canine heroes of Southeast Asia. I have attached a copy of the program and a contact at Maxwell in the event that you might need additional information.
Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.
635th SPS K9
U-Tapao, Thailand 70-71
K9 Brutus X321