Dogs – few things tug at our heart strings more than a good dog story, yet most people don’t know how frequently canines are part of combat. Belgian Malinois are generally the military dog of choice followed by German Shepherds, a close second.
Yet what breed of dog graces “Always Faithful,” the first official war US dog memorial? A Doberman Pinscher. Dobermans served as sentries, messengers, cave explorers, mine detectors and scouts in the Pacific during War World II and many marines owe their lives to these dogs.
An early 2020 trip to AKC’s Museum of the Dog in New York City got me interested in this sculpture – here’s what I learned:
The commission “Always Faithful” by Susan Bahary was unveiled at the Pentagon Hall of Flags in the spring of 1994 before, later that year, it was permanently installed at Semper Fidelis Memorial Park near the War Dog Cemetery on the U.S. Navel Base in Guam. The sculpture features Kurt the Doberman who was the first military working dog killed in action during the 1944 Battle of Guam, when the U.S. recaptured the island of Guam, a U.S. territory, from Japan. The island had been lost to Japan in 1941.
Kurt the Doberman’s Story
According to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, Kurt was badly injured by a Japanese mortar grenade attack. “Kurt’s handler, Private 1st Class Allen Jacobson was also wounded, but would not accept treatment until Kurt was carried the rear. “Kurt died in the arms of 1st Lt William Putney, the veterinarian and commanding officer of the 3rd War Dog Platoon, who tried to save him.”
Twenty-five marine war dogs lost their lives liberating Guam – their names listed on the podium under the seated brass Doberman.
The National War Dog Cemetery
Later, after returning to Guam in the 1980s, Putney helped raise money to properly bury the dogs at a site now called The National War Dog Cemetery. Along with the United Doberman Club, Putney also fundraised to commission “Always Faithful” in memory of Kurt. The Late General Carl Epting Mundy Jr., 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps is responsible for donating the original casting of Bahary’s “Always Faithful” to The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
AKC Museum of the Dog
Nine castings of “Always Faithful” exist including a life-sized version at the AKC Museum of the Dog in New York City near Grand Central Terminal. (The AKC dog museum was moved from St. Louis to NYC in 2019). Other replicas are installed at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, The Alfred M. Gray Marine Corps Research Centre, and at the Centennial Garden at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, Atlanta.
Side note: Artist Susan Bahary also created “Smokey in the Helmet,” another war memorial; this one near Cleveland, Ohio immortalizing the WWII heroic efforts of New Guinea-born Smokey, a four-pound Yorkshire Terrier also known as the first therapy dog on record (affiliate link to book). A casting of “Smokey in the Helmet” is also part of the AKC Museum of the Dog’s permanent collection, along with Smokey’s Australian war medal.