Posts tagged ‘military working dogs’


The Devil Dogs’ Dogs

Dog days aboard Wasp

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Bernadette Plouffe)

Marine Corps military working dogs rest at the feet of their handlers aboard the USS Wasp in the South China Sea on October 1, 2018.

O.K., this is kind of an unusual format for the 4GWAR blog, but since November 10 marks the U.S. Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, we seized on the opportunity to combine the regular Friday Foto for November 9, with a SHAKO feature on a World War I battle that has taken its place with other iconic engagements like Iwo Jima and Tripoli in the history of the Corps.

The nearly month-long Battle of Belleau Wood (June 1-26, 1918) was the first major engagement of American troops on the Western Front in World War I. It also is one of the most significant battles fought by the U.S. Marines, earning them France’s highest military award and the nickname Devil Dogs from the Germans.

Belleau Wood painting

Marines in close combat as depicted in Franc-Earle Schoonover’s Belleau Wood. (National Museum of the Marine Corps collection)

The 4th Marine Brigade, some 9,500 men, was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, one of the U.S. units rushed to France just a few months after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. The Marine Brigade consisted of two regiments — the 5th Marines and the 6th Marines — each with three 800-man rifle battalions and a machine gun company.

On June 1, a major German offensive moved south to the Marne River, where they were held at Chateau Thierry by French troops reinforced by the U.S. Army. One of the leading German assault regiments, the 461st Imperial German Infantry, occupied Belleau Wood, a former hunting preserve about 50 miles northwest of Paris. It was a nearly impenetrable forest of dense underbrush, trees, boulders and ravines.

In early June, the Marine Brigade was dug into a defensive line near Belleau Wood, facing a wheat field. More than 2,000 Germans with 30 machine guns were dug in amid the trees and rocks. There were 100 more Germans with at least six machine guns concentrated in the nearby village of Bouresches.

Retreating French troops advised the Marines to withdraw. “Retreat? Hell we just got here,” snapped a company commander with the 5th Marines, Captain Lloyd Williams, whose remark became part of Marine Corps lore.


Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly. (Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections)

The Marines took and held Bouresches and drove the Germans out of the  woods. But success came at a horrendous cost. Relying on their celebrated marksmanship (Every Marine a Rifleman”) the Marines advanced about 400 yards across the wheat field without concentrated artillery support. Heavy German machine gun and artillery fire cut the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marines to shreds.  The 6th Marines’ 3rd Battalion managed to make it to the edge of the woods before enemy fire stalled the advance. In the confusion of battle, another iconic Marine Corps legend was born when Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly — who had earned the Medal of Honor twice, in Peking in 1900 and Haiti in 1915 — turned to his men and growled “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

By nightfall on the first day of battle, both Marine battalions suffered debilitating casualties. Six officers and 222 enlisted men of the 4th Marine Brigade were killed in action. Another 25 officers and 834 men were wounded. This amounted to more casualties than the Marines had suffered in their entire history up until that day, Norwich University professor David Ulbrich observed in an anniversary piece for War on the Rocks.

As the Marines moved into Belleau Wood itself, the fighting seemed especially grim, with hand-to-hand fighting, fixed bayonets and poison gas attacks, noted Michael Ruane in a Washington Post column last May.  The headline on his piece noted: “The Battle of Belleau Wood was brutal, deadly and forgotten. But it forged a new Marine Corps.”

Exploding shells splintered the trees, raining down a deadly shower of wood splinters and metal shrapnel. The Americans and Germans grappled in hand-to-hand combat with knives, rifle butts, bayonets and entrenching shovels.

Belleau Wood shattered trees 1918

Tree Damage, Belleau Wood, circa 1918. An inscription on the photograph reads “Every tree in Belleau Wood bears the scars of battle.” (From the collection of Adolph B. Miller (COLL/1068), United States Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections.)

After three weeks of heavy combat, the Germans were driven out of Belleau Wood. The Marines reached the northern edge of the woods on June 26, sending out the report; “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.

The victory at Belleau Wood had saved Paris and the French were delirious with joy.  The French government renamed Belleau Wood, the “Bois de la Brigade de Marine” and both the 5th and 6th Marine regiments were awarded the Croix de Guerre.

The Germans, too were impressed with the Marines. An official German report described the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident and remarkable marksmen.” Captured German soldiers and their letters described the Marines as Teufelhunde, or Devil Dogs.”

Marines in gas masks

Marines train with gas masks in France. (Photo: Marine Corps History Division)




November 11, 2018 at 12:47 am 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 9, 2015)

Devil Dogs’ Dog.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Austin A. Lewis)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Austin A. Lewis)

The story goes that after the hard-fought battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, the Germans — shocked by the tenacity and marksmanship of the U.S. Marines — said the Marines fought like “Teufel hunde,” devil dogs. The story may be apocryphal but the Marines had a new nickname: Devil Dogs.

Well here is one of their military working dogs all kitted up with protective goggles, muzzle and safety harness before the start of special patrol insertion and extraction training at the Marines’ Camp Lejeune, North Carolina late last month.

During this kind of exercise the Marines fast rope down from a hovering helicopter. That begs the question: How do you get a dog down from a helicopter that can’t land in hostile territory?

Here’s the answer:

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Austin A. Lewis)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Austin A. Lewis)

This Marine and his canine colleague, both with Marine Raider Regiment, hang from a UH-1Y Huey chopper assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 167, during special patrol insertion/extraction training at Stone Bay, Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 23, 2015. HMLA-167 Marines flew from Marine Corps Air Station New River to assist Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) with the training.

The Raider Regiment and MARSOC are part of U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees all the services’ elite specialty units like Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force combat air controllers and Marine Raiders

To see more photos of this doggy and his Marine Raider companions, click here.

October 9, 2015 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 29, 2014)

Dog Day Afternoon.

U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer

U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer

Lithuanian soldiers provide a security escort for U.S. Army Sgt. Kara Yost, right, and Kajo, her military working dog, during urban assault training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

Yost, a military police dog handler, and Kajo are assigned to the 131st Military Working Dog Detachment, 615th Military Police Company.

To see more photos of the training exercise, click here.

May 30, 2014 at 12:51 am Leave a comment


Every Day Has its Dog

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Meet Edy, a military working dog participating in an explosive training session at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan. Edy, a three-year-old Sable Shepherd, specializes in explosives detection on patrol. He can identify at least 15 scents associated with explosives.

Edy’s handler is Air Force Staff Sgt. Pascual Gutierrez, who is assigned to Combined Team Zabul and is deployed with the 9th Security Forces Squadron, from Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Gutierrez is currently attached to the Army’s 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Afghanistan.

Most of the military’s working dogs get their initial training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, but specialized training — like combat tracking or finding and identifying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — another name for homemade bombs —  comes later.

At a recent speech at a Washington think tank, Ashton Carter, the Defense Department’s acquisition executive, said “it turns out the best detector of home made explosives is the dog.”

The Defense Department is ramping up its acquisition of bomb detection dogs and canines with other skill sets like guarding military facilities or accompanying U.S. troops on patrol,  Carter told a gathering at the Center for a New American Strategy. After years of buying airplanes, ships and armored vehicles, “we’re new to learning how to buy dogs,” he said.

To see a Defense Department photo essay on Edy and other working dogs undergoing training in Afghanistan, click here.

February 25, 2011 at 1:33 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO EXTRA (May 23, 2010)

And Don’t Call Me Snoopy

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jason Brace, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team)

A military working dog wears Doggles (yes, goggles for dogs) to protect his eyes as a Chinook helicopter takes off, kicking up dust and debris, during an air assault operation by U.S. soldiers assigned to Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Vermont National Guard in Parwan province, Afghanistan, May 11, 2010. The soldiers visited a remote village in Parwan Province to conduct a key leader engagement with village elders.

All military working dogs receive their initial training at the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. To view a photo essay about the advanced training of U.S. Air Force military working dogs, click here.

May 23, 2010 at 12:03 am Leave a comment


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