RE: WAR DOGS
by the F.A.S.T. Co.
In Loving Memory of
Memorial Day, 1954
of his wartime dog put man on the move
D. Bryant Staff Writer - June 3, 2002
- At the edge of a winding two-lane road, a small grave lies under trees
providing shade against rising summer heat.
Killen thought it was a fitting place for his old war comrade. "Old Jeep
was a good dog," Killen said. "Probably saved my life a time or two," Killen
was in the U.S. Marines 3rd Division during World War II and served as
a scout dog handler in the Infantry. "Since I was a country boy and
grew up with dogs, I had a good chance to be accepted," he said.
going to the Pacific, Killen served as a dog trainer at Camp Lejeune, N.C.,
where the dogs underwent extensive training to transform household pets
into animals able to survive combat. As a Private First Class, Jeep outranked
his handler who was a buck Private. When the war ended, Killen got permission
to bring the Doberman home to Florence after the dog was decommissioned
and retrained to be a pet. Killen later moved to Tennessee and left his
dog with a relative in Florence. Jeep died on Memorial Day 1954 and was
buried in his owner's back yard on Royal Avenue, Killen returned in 1972.
It's been 48 years since his death, but he has never forgotten about Jeep.
In recent weeks, those memories have intensified and created a desire to
reconnect to the past. It started after a friend showed him old pictures
during his time in the Pacific. They showed the famous war correspondent
Ernie Pyle with Jeep and Killen. Only Killen's fingers are shown in the
blurry picture, but he remembered the moment. "It just brought back memories
to me," Killen said. "I guess I go tenderhearted about it." Last
week, Killen's nostalgia reached a peak. The new residents at the old Royal
Avenue house were surprised with a visit from the veteran. Killen wanted
to dig up the old dog and bury it near his home. He showed them the 1954
Florence Times newspaper article telling Jeep's story as proof. They agreed.
"I came back the next day with my pick and shovel and dug him up," Killen
said. After five decades, everyone except Killen had forgotten the unmarked
backyard grave. He remembered the exact spot - between the house and a
tree. Now, Jeep has a new burial place. This time with a marker and nice
cool shady spot just right for Jeep's resting place. Dogs have been used
in American military combat since the First World War and are credited
with saving thousands of human lives. The dogs were used as messengers,
mine detectors, scouts and guard dogs. At night, they stood guard for surprise
attacks. And in the daytime, it was the dogs that often first sensed the
enemy's presence. "You could tell by his reactions that someone was there,"
Killen said. There are several memorials honoring the soldiers and their
K-9 helpers including the Doberman War Dog Memorial in Guam, where the
dogs were used extensively. "We put the dogs out in front of the troops,"
said William Putney author of "Always Faithful," a book chronicling the
use of War Dogs in the Marines. "Having the dogs increased the distance
between the troops and the people in the jungle." Putney was a veterinarian
who was assigned to the Marine Corps' War Dog Training School in 1943,
after his graduation from Auburn University. He was the commanding officer
of the 3rd War Dog Platoon, in the Marine's 3rd division in the Pacific.
"The dogs caught them before they could get to us," said Putney, who is
retired and living California. "The dog would alert us to the ambushes."
In 1994, Putney established the War Dog Cemetery on the U.S. Navel Base
on Guam. Killen's earlier dog is buried there. A sniper got him just a
foot or two from his owner's head. After the war, Jeep made a good transition
to peacetime and made a gentle pet for Killen's family. The three-foot
Doberman has remained somewhere in Killen's mind for years since the war's
end. Killen just completed the second volume of his book, "Possum Creek
Tales." In it, he documents life in Possum Creek, a community
between Killen and Lexington, where the biggest industry was a molasses
mill and its biggest employee was the horse that turned the grinder. In
the latest book "The Possum Creek Flash," the author describes life away
from Possum Creek after joining the Marines and being sent to fight for
survival in the jungles of the Pacific. There's a picture of Jeep in the
book. Jeep's memory will be passed on to all who read the story of Killen's
life. After facing the horrors of war and returning home for a normal life,
together Jeep's story and Killen's life are inseparable.
D. Bryant can be reached at 740-5745 firstname.lastname@example.org
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