December 4, 1966  War Dogs of Vietnam

A Military Working Dog (MWD) is anything but a “disposable” asset.  It is a highly trained, specialized soldier who complements and adds to the abilities of his human partner, as that two legged soldier complements those of the dog.

There are times when two highly trained individuals are able to function at a level higher than the sum of their parts.  Professional athletes like NFL linemen and NHL forwards are two examples.  Another is often the partnership formed between law enforcement officers.

On the battlefield, few assets are more powerful than a well equipped and highly trained soldier. Unless we’re pairing that soldier with a Military Working Dog.

A Military Working Dog (MWD) is anything but a “disposable” asset.  It is a highly trained, specialized soldier who complements and adds to the abilities of his human partner, as that two legged soldier complements those of the dog.

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“Nemo”, born in October 1962, entered the United States Air Force as a sentry dog in 1964, at the age of 1½ years.  After an 8-week training course at Lackland AFB Sentry Dog Training School in San Antonio, Texas, the 85-pound German Shepard was assigned to Airman Leonard Bryant Jr., and sent to Fairchild Air Base in Washington for duty with Strategic Air Command.

The pair was transferred to the Republic of South Vietnam with a group of other dog teams, and assigned to the 377th Security Police Squadron, stationed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.  Six months later, Bryant rotated back to the States, and Nemo was paired with 22-year-old Airman 2nd Class Robert Thorneburg.

Early on the morning of December 4, 60 Vietcong guerrillas emerged from the jungle, setting off a near-simultaneous alarm from several sentry dogs on perimeter patrol.

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Three dogs, Rebel, Cubby and Toby, were killed with their handlers in a hail of bullets.  Several other handlers were wounded, including one who was able to maintain contact with the enemy, notifying Central Security Control of their location and direction of travel.

Thanks to the early warning, a machine gun team was ready and waiting when 13 infiltrators approached the main aircraft parking ramp.  None of them lived to tell the story.  Security forces quickly deployed around the perimeter, driving some infiltrators off and others into hiding.  Daylight patrols reported that all VC infiltrators were gone, either killed or captured, but they had made a big mistake.  They should have brought the dogs with them.

nemo-house

That night, Thorneburg and Nemo were out on patrol near an old Vietnamese graveyard, about ¼ mile from the air base’ runways.  Nemo alerted on something.  Before Thorneburg could radio for backup, that something started shooting.  Thorneburg released the dog and charged in shooting, killing one Vietcong before being shot in the shoulder.  Nemo was badly wounded, shot in the face, the bullet entering below his eye and exiting his mouth.  Ignoring the injury, Nemo attacked the four enemy soldiers hiding in the brush, giving his partner time to call for reinforcements.

Reichenbach, Major, 2Four additional Vietcong were discovered hiding underground, as quick reaction teams scoured the area.  They found Nemo and Thornburg, both seriously wounded, together on the ground.  Both would survive, though Thorneburg was shot a second time, while returning to base.

I’m sure that individual dog handlers were as good to their dogs as they knew how to be, during the Vietnam era.  That’s a guess, but having an MWD handler in the family, I think it’s a good one.  The Department of Defense bureaucracy was another matter.

Roughly 4,000 dogs served in Vietnam, leading patrols through the dense jungle terrain.  Overall, these animals are credited with saving close to 10,000 lives.

When Marine Corps handler Steve Reichenbach arrived in country in 1966, he was paired with a cream colored Great Dane-German Shepherd mix.  “Major”, whose previous handler had been killed only weeks before, was an excellent match for Reichenbach, both being “mellow, relaxed, even-keeled types” who bonded, almost immediately.

Reichenbach, Major
Marine dog handler Steve Reichenbach with his dog, Major, on a patrol north of Danang in late 1966. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF STEPHEN K. REICHENBACH, with a tip of the hat to National Geographic

At 90 pounds, Major’s size alone seemed to intimidate the enemy, often leading VC to trip off ambushes, too early.

A land mine exploded on the Marine’s last day in country, killing four and wounding six.  Though badly wounded, Reichenbach would survive the war.  Major was unhurt, but he wasn’t so lucky.  The last the pair saw of one another, was in the medevac chopper.  Major still had Reichenbach’s blood on his fur, when he was paired with his next handler.  The marine never saw his “battle buddy” after that, but later heard the dog had succumbed to some tropical disease.

Nemo on the PlaneThe vast majority of MWDs who served in Vietnam, were left behind as “surplus equipment”.  Left to succumb to tropical disease, to be euthanized by the South Vietnamese Army, or worse.  Nemo was one of the few lucky ones.  He came home.

MWD Nemo was officially recognized for having saved the life of his handler, and preventing further destruction of life and property.   He was given the best of veterinary care and, on June 23, 1967, USAF Headquarters directed that he be returned to the United States.  The first sentry dog officially retired from active service.

The C124 Globemaster touched down at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, on July 22, 1967.  Nemo lived out the seven years remaining to him in a permanent retirement kennel at the DoD Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base.

 

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October 3, 1944 The Littlest War Dog

The decks around them were shaking from anti-aircraft and machine gun fire, when Smoky guided Wynne to duck at the moment an incoming shell struck, killing 8 men standing next to them. She was his “angel from a foxhole.”

The first dog may have approached some campfire, long before recorded history.  It may have been hurt or it maybe it was looking for a morsel.  Dogs have been by our side ever since.

Over history, the unique attributes of Canis Familiaris have often served in times of war.  Ancient Egyptian artwork depicts dogs at work in multiple capacities.  The ancient Greeks used dogs against Persian invaders at the Battle of Marathon.

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Sergeant Stubby

The European allies and Imperial Germany had about 20,000 dogs working a variety of jobs in WWI. Though the United States didn’t have an official “War Dog” program in those days, a Staffordshire Terrier mix called “Sgt. Stubby” was smuggled “over there” with an AEF unit training out of New Haven, Connecticut. Stubby is credited with saving an unknown number of lives, his keen sense of hearing giving his companions early warning of incoming artillery rounds. Once, he even caught a German spy who had been creeping around, mapping allied trenches. It must have been a bad day at the office for that particular Bosch, when he was discovered with a 50lb terrier hanging from his behind.

The US War Dogs program was developed between the World Wars, and dogs have served in every conflict since. My son in law Nate served in Afghanistan with a five-year old German Shepherd named Zino, a Tactical Explosives Detection Dog (TEDD), trained to detect as many as 64 explosive compounds.

The littlest War Dog first appeared in the jungles of New Guinea, when an American soldier spotted a “golden head” poking out of an abandoned foxhole.  It was a 4lb, 7″ tall Yorkshire Terrier.  At the time, nobody had any idea how she had gotten there. The soldier brought her back to camp and sold her for $6.44 to Corporal William Wynne, who named her “Smoky”.  For the next two years, Smoky lived a soldier’s life.

They first thought she might have belonged to the Japanese, but they brought her to a POW camp and quickly learned that she understood neither Japanese nor English commands.

The little dog flew 12 air/sea rescue and photo reconnaissance missions, secured in Wynne’s backpack. She survived 150 air raids and a typhoon, often giving him early warning of incoming fire. Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life one time, on an LST transport ship. The decks around them were shaking from anti-aircraft and machine gun fire, when Smoky guided Wynne to duck at the moment an incoming shell struck, killing 8 men standing next to them. She was his “angel from a foxhole.”

Smoky-CulvertOnce, the small dog was able to perform a task in minutes that otherwise would have taken an airstrip out of service for three days, and exposed an entire construction battalion to enemy fire. The air field at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, was crucial to the Allied war effort, and the signal corps needed to run a telegraph wire across the field. A 70′ long, 8” pipe crossed underneath the air strip, half filled with dirt.

Wynne recalled the story: “I tied a string to Smoky’s collar and ran to the other end of the culvert . . . (Smoky) made a few steps in and then ran back. `Come, Smoky,’ I said sharply, and she started through again. When she was about 10 feet in, the string caught up and she looked over her shoulder as much as to say `what’s holding us up there?’ The string loosened from the snag and she came on again. By now the dust was rising from the shuffle of her paws as she crawled through the dirt and mold and I could no longer see her. I called and pleaded, not knowing for certain whether she was coming or not. At last, about 20 feet away, I saw two little amber eyes and heard a faint whimpering sound . . . at 15 feet away, she broke into a run. We were so happy at Smoky’s success that we patted and praised her for a full five minutes”.

Smoky-Therapy DogSmoky toured all over the world after the war, appearing in over 42 television programs and entertaining thousands at veteran’s hospitals. In June 1945, Smoky toured the 120th General Hospital in Manila, visiting with wounded GIs from the Battle of Luzon.  She’s considered to be the first therapy dog, and credited with expanding interest in what had hitherto been an obscure breed.

Smoky died in her sleep in February 1957, at about 14, and was buried in a .30 caliber ammunition box. A bronze life-size sculpture of Smoky sitting in a GI helmet was installed over her final resting place almost fifty years later, where it sits atop a two-ton blue granite base.

Smoky-MemorialBill Wynne was 90 years old in 2012, when he was “flabbergasted” to be approached by Australian authorities. They explained that an Australian army nurse had purchased the dog from a Queen Street pet store, becoming separated in the jungles of New Guinea. 68 years later, the Australians had come to award his dog a medal.

 

As a personal aside, Nate and Zino were separated after their tour in Afghanistan.  They were reunited in 2014, when the dog came to live with Nate and our daughter Carolyn in their home in Savannah.  Last fall, Sheryl and I went with a friend to Houston, to celebrate our anniversary at the “Redneck Country Club”.  2,000 miles from home and completely by chance, who do we meet but the trainer who taught Zino to be a TEDD in the first place.  Small world.

October 2, 1918 1st Division Rags

Rags survived our nation’s deadliest battle with the loss of an eye, but Donovan wasn’t so lucky. He was severely gassed and the two were brought to the rear. If anyone asked about expending medical care on a dog, they were told that it was “orders from headquarters”.

Private James Donovan was AWOL.  He had overstayed his leave in the French town of Montremere, and the ‘Great War’, awaited.

When the two MPs found him, Donovan knew he had to think fast. He reached down and grabbed a stray dog, explaining to the two policemen that he was part of a search party, sent out to find the Division Mascot.

RagsIt was a small dog, possibly a Cairn Terrier mix. He looked like a pile of rags, and that’s what they called him.  The dog had gotten Donovan out of a jam, now he would become the division mascot for real. Rags was now part of the US 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One.

Instead of “shaking hands”, Donovan taught him a sort of doggie “salute”.  Rags would appear at the flag pole for Retreat for years after the war, lifting his paw and holding it by his head.  Every time the flag was lowered and the bugle played, there was that small terrier, saluting with the assembled troops.

Donovan’s job was hazardous. He was on the front lines, stringing communications wire between advancing infantry and supporting field artillery. Runners were used to carry messages until the wire was laid, but they were frequently wounded, killed or they couldn’t get through the shell holes and barbed wire.

The dog learned to imitate the men around him, who would drop to the ground and hug it tightly during artillery barrages. He would hug the ground with his paws spread out, soon the doughboys noticed him doing it before any of them knew they were under fire. Rags’ acute and sensitive hearing became an early warning system, telling them that shells were incoming well before anyone heard them.

Rags-3
A great book, if you want to learn more.

Donovan trained Rags to carry messages attached to his collar.  On October 2, 1918, Rags carried a message from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the 7th Field Artillery.  The small dog’s successful mission resulted in an artillery barrage, leading to the capture of the Very-Epinonville Road.

An important objective had been taken, with minimal loss of life to the American side.

Rags was small and fast, and often ran messages across open battlefield. The terrier’s greatest trial came a week later, during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. The small dog ran through falling bombs and poison gas to deliver his message. Mildly gassed and partially blinded, shell splinters damaged his right paw, eye and ear. Rags survived and, as far as I know, got his message where it needed to be.

Rags survived our nation’s deadliest battle with the loss of an eye, but Donovan wasn’t so lucky. He was severely gassed and the two were brought to the rear. If anyone asked about expending medical care on a dog, they were told that it was “orders from headquarters”.

Rags recovered quickly, but Donovan did not.  Donovan was transferred to the United States, and brought to the Fort Sheridan base hospital near Chicago, where medical staff specialized in gas cases.  It was here that the dog was given a collar and tag, identifying him as 1st Division Rags.  Donovan died of his injuries, in early 1919.  Rags moved into the base fire house becoming “post dog”, until being adopted by Major Raymond W. Hardenbergh, his wife and two daughters, in 1920.Rags Grave

The 1st Division marched down Broadway in 1928, part of the division’s 10th anniversary WW1 reunion, a small terrier-mix in the vanguard.

Rags lived out the last of his years in Maryland.  A long life it was, too, the dog lived until 1934, remaining the 1st Infantry Division for all his 20 years.

On March 22, 1934, the 16-paragraph obituary in the New York Times began: “Rags, Dog Veteran of War, Is Dead at 20; Terrier That Lost Eye in Service is Honored.”

September 19, 1862 Douglas, the Confederate Camel

In the 1850s, then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis persuaded President Franklin Pierce that the military super weapons of the future, were camels. Able to carry greater loads over longer distances than any pack animal, Davis saw camels as the high tech weapon of the age.

If you happen to visit www.visitvicksburg.com, you will learn that the Cedar Hill Cemetery, established by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, contains the graves of some 5,000 Confederate Soldiers who died in the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Each one stands in memory of a soldier killed in the line of duty.  Even the one with the camel on it.

Camel_from_Harpers_WeeklyThe story begins with Jefferson Davis, in the 1840s. Now we remember him as the President of the Confederate States of America.  Then, he was a United States Senator from Mississippi, with a pet project of introducing camels into the United States.

Re-introducing them might be more like it.  Today, the distribution of these animals is almost the inverse of their area of origin.  According to the fossil record, the earliest camelids first appeared on the North American continent, these even-toed ungulates ancestor to the Alpaca, Llama, Guanaco and Vicuña of today.

Jefferson Davis’ experiment was to be the first large-scale re-introduction of these animals on the North American continent, in geologic history.

Davis envisioned the day when every southern planter would have a stable full of camels.  In the kind of pork barrel tit-for-tat spending deal beloved of Congressmen to this day, the Senator slid $30,000 into a highway appropriations bill, to get the support of a colleague from Illinois.

Camel CorpsThe measure failed, but in the 1850s, then-Secretary of War Davis persuaded President Franklin Pierce that camels were the military super weapons of the future. Able to carry greater loads over longer distances than any other pack animal, Davis saw camels as the high tech weapon of the age. Hundreds of horses and mules were dying in the hot, dry conditions of Southwestern Cavalry outposts, when the government purchased 75 camels from Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. Several camel handlers came along in the bargain, one of them a Syrian named Haji Ali, who successfully implemented a camel breeding program.  Haji Ali became quite the celebrity within the West Texas outpost.  The soldiers called him “Hi Jolly”.

When the Civil War broke out, Camp Verde, Texas had about 60 camels. The King of Siam, (now Thailand), saw the military advantage to the Confederacy, and wrote to President Abraham Lincoln. “Here”, he wrote, “we use elephants”.  The King went on to propose bringing elephants into the Northwest, to help the Union war effort. This “animal arms race” appears to have gotten no further than the King’s letter to the President, but the imagination runs wild at the idea of War Elephants at Gettysburg….

Hi Jolly Cemetery

The horse lobby did a lot to kill the camel project, and the animal’s unpleasant personality traits didn’t help. A camel will not passively accept a riding crop or a whip. They are vengeful, and can spit stinking wads of phlegm with great accuracy over considerable distances. If they’re close enough, they will rake the skin off your face with their front teeth.  Camels have been known to trample people to death.

Douglas, the Confederate Camel, 1
Douglas, the Confederate Camel

Cut loose, one of those Texas camels somehow made its way to Mississippi, where he was taken into service with the 43rd Infantry Regiment, who named him “Douglas”.

Douglas wouldn’t permit himself to be tethered, but he always stuck around so he was allowed to graze on his own. Southern soldiers became accustomed to the sight of “Old Douglas”.  The 43rd Mississippi became known as the “Camel Regiment,” but the horses never did get used to their new companion.   On this day in 1862, Major General Sterling Price was preparing to face two Union armies at Iuka, when the sight of Old Douglas spooked the regimental horses. One horse’s panic turned into a stampede, injuring several of them and possibly killing one or two.

The 43rd Infantry was ordered to Vicksburg during General Ulysses S. Grant’s siege of the city, when Douglas was shot and killed by a Union sharpshooter. Enraged by the murder of their prized camel, the 5th Missouri’s commander Lieutenant Colonel Robert S. Bevier enlisted six of his best snipers, who stalked the killer until one of them had his revenge. Bevier later said of Douglas’ killer, “I refused to hear his name, and was rejoiced to learn that he had been severely wounded.”

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So it is that there is a camel at the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  He is not forgotten. Douglas and other camels of the era are remembered by the Texas Camel Corps, a cross between a zoo and a living history exhibit.

The organizations website begins with: “Texas Camel Corps was established to educate the public about the historic use of camels in America in the 19th century”.  I might have to check those boys out.

 

 

Tip of the hat to www.texascamelcorps.com for the sunset image, above.

August 31, 1959 Sergeant Reckless

Life Magazine published a collector’s edition in 1997, listing 100 heroes from American history.  Alongside the names of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Sally Ride and Abraham Lincoln, was that of a small Mongolian horse.  Sergeant Reckless.

About RecklessA Recoilless Rifle is a type of lightweight tube artillery.  Think of a portable cannon.  Kind of a bazooka, really, only the Recoilless fires modified shells rather than rockets.   The back blast of these shells compensates for the mule’s kick to be expected from such a weapon, making the rifle “recoilless”.

While that reduces projectile range, reduced gas pressures permit a thinner-walled barrel, resulting in a weapon light enough to be served by a 2 to 3-man crew, and shoulder fired by a single infantryman.

The “RCLR” weapon system has provided the punch of artillery to mobile troop formations since the early days of WWII, including Airborne, Special Forces and Mountain units.

The problem arises when combat operations consume ammunition faster than the supply chain can replace it.  Mountainous terrain makes the situation worse.  Even today in the more mountainous regions of Afghanistan, there are times when the best solution for the problem, is horsepower.

Ah Chim-hai was a chestnut mare of mixed Mongolian and Thoroughbred lineage, a race horse at the track in Seoul, South Korea.  Her name translated as “Flame of the Morning”.

Lieutenant Eric Pedersen of the recoilless rifle platoon, anti-tank company, needed a pack animal to carry the weapon’s 24-lb shells up Korean mountain passes.  In October 1952, Pederson received permission to buy a horse for his platoon.  Pederson and stable boy Kim Huk-moon agreed on a price of $250.  Kim cried on watching his “Flame” leave the stable, but the boy’s sister had stepped on a land mine, and needed a prosthetic leg.

The Marines called her “Reckless” – a nod to the weapon system she was meant to serve, and to the fighting spirit of the 5th Marines.

Recoilless Rifle, Korea
Recoilless Rifle team on a Korean Ridge

Pederson wrote to his wife in California to send a pack saddle, while Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Latham and Private First Class Monroe Coleman provided for her care and training.

Navy Hospitalman First Class George “Doc” Mitchell provided most of Reckless’ medical care, Latham taught her battlefield skills:  how to step over communication wires, when to lie down under fire, how to avoid becoming entangled in barbed wire.  She learned to run for cover, at the cry “Incoming!”

The platoon built her a bunker and fenced off a pasture, but soon Reckless was allowedSergeant Reckless ejoys a beer to roam freely throughout the camp.  She’d enter tents at will, sometimes spending the night if it was cold.

She’d eat anything:   bacon, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, shredded wheat.  Just about anything else that a Marine wasn’t watching closely enough, as well.  Reckless even ate her horse blanket once, and she loved a beer.  Mitchell had to warn his fellow Marines against giving her more than two Cokes a day, which she’d drink out of a helmet.  Once, she ate $30 worth of winning poker chips.  Reckless was a Marine.

Sergeant Reckless, 2She “went straight up” the first time she heard an RCLR go off, despite being loaded down with six shells.  All four feet left the ground and she came down trembling with fear, but Coleman was able to soothe her.  The second time she snorted.  By the fourth she didn’t bother to look up. She was happily munching on a discarded helmet liner.

Recoilless rifle tactics call for fire teams to fire four or five rounds, and then relocate before the enemy can return fire.  Reckless usually learned the route after one or two trips, often traveling alone to deliver supplies on the way up, and evacuate wounded on the way down.

Sergeant RecklessIn February 1953, Captain Dick Kurth and his Fox Company were fighting for a hill called “Detroit”.  Reckless made 24 trips by herself, carrying a total 3,500lbs of ammunition over 20 miles.  She made 51 solo trips that March, during the battle for Outpost Vegas.  Reckless carried 9,000lbs of ammunition in a single day, over 35 miles of open rice paddies and steep hills.  At times, artillery exploded around her at the rate of 500 rounds per minute.  She was wounded twice during the battle.  That night, she was too exhausted to do anything but hang her head while they rubbed her down.

Sergeant Reckless, arrivingReckless was the first horse in Marine Corps history to participate in an amphibious landing.  She was wounded twice, and later awarded two Purple Hearts and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.  Her name appears on Presidential Unit citations from the United States and the Republic of Korea.

On August 31, 1959, Reckless was promoted to Staff Sergeant in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton.  1,900 of her 5th Marine comrades attended, as did two of her sons, “Fearless” and “Dauntless”.  A third, “Chesty”, was unavailable to attend.

General Randolph McCall Pate, a veteran of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Korea, served as the 21st Commandant of the Marine Corps, from 1956-1959.  General Pate once wrote “In my career I have seen many animals that have been adopted by Marines, but never in all my experience have I seen one which won the hearts of so many as did. . .Reckless.”

Life Magazine published a collector’s edition in 1997, listing 100 heroes from American history.  Alongside the names of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Sally Ride and Abraham Lincoln, was that of a small Mongolian horse.  Sergeant Reckless.

Sergeant Reckless statue

August 22, 565 Loch Ness Monster

An entire study called “Cryptozoology” (literally, the study of hidden animals) has sprung up around Nessie and other beasts whose existence is never quite proven, and never completely debunked. There is Big Foot, who seems to have made it to stardom with his own series of beef jerky commercials. You have the Chupacabra, the Yeti, Ogopogo and Vermont’s own Lake Champlain monster, “Champ”.

As the story goes, an Irish priest named Columba was traveling the Scottish Highlands, teaching Christianity to the Picts. He was walking along the shores of Loch Ness one day, when he came upon some local villagers burying one of their number. The poor unfortunate had swum out to retrieve a boat that was loose from its moorings, when he was bitten by a water creature of some sort. The priest sent one of his followers swimming across the loch to get the boat. The monster rose from the depths once again and was just about to eat the man, when Columba commanded it away.

There’s no telling how it actually happened, because the story was written down 100 years later. The events described took place on August 22nd, 565, meaning that people have been talking about the Loch Ness monster for close to 1,500 years, at a minimum.

Heron-Allen ImageLoch Ness is formed by a 60 mile, active tectonic fault, where the hills are still rising at a rate of 1mm per year. It’s made up of 3 lochs; Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, with Loch Ness being by far the largest. There is more water in Loch Ness than all the other lakes in England, Scotland and Wales, combined. It is 22½ miles long and varies from a mile to 1½ miles wide, with a depth of 754′ and a bottom “as flat as a bowling green”.

Loch Ness never freezes. There is a thermocline at 100′, below which the water remains a uniform 44° Fahrenheit. As the surface water cools in winter, it’s replaced by warmer water rising up from below, causing the loch to steam on cold days. The heat energy generated has been compared to burning 2 million tons of coal. With the steam rising off the water and the occasional seismic tremor, it must be a very eerie place at times.

The first photographic “evidence” of the Loch Ness monster was taken on the 12th of November 1933, by Hugh Gray. Some said the picture showed an otter, while others believed it was “some kind of giant marine worm”. The UK Daily Mail sent a team to look for evidence, headed by the famous big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell. There was great media excitement when Wetherell discovered enormous footprints along the shore in December. Researchers from the Natural History Museum examined the tracks, which they determined to have come from a dried hippo’s foot; probably one of the umbrella stands popular at the time. That was the end of that.

Nessie, Robert Wilson
Surgeon’s Photo

A British surgeon, Colonel Robert Wilson, took what might be the most famous picture of “Nessie” the following year. He didn’t want his name associated with it, so it became “The Surgeon’s Photo”, showing what appears to be a head and neck rising above the waters of the loch.

In one of history’s more interesting death bed confessions, Christian Spurling claimed in 1994 at the age of 93, that the surgeon’s photo had been a hoax.  According to Spurling, his step-father Marmaduke Wetherell, was smarting over his hippo-foot humiliation.  Spurling remembers Wetherell saying “We’ll give them their monster”, and asking his stepson to build a credible model of a marine creature.  And so he did, the photo was taken, and Dr. Wilson became the respectable front man for the hoax.

CryptoAn entire study called “Cryptozoology” (literally, the study of hidden animals) has sprung up around Nessie and other beasts whose existence is never quite proven, and never completely debunked. There is Big Foot, who seems to have made it to stardom with his own series of beef jerky commercials. You have the Chupacabra, the Yeti, Ogopogo, Vermont’s own Lake Champlain monster, “Champ”, and more.

Hundreds of images have been taken over the years, purporting to demonstrate that these critters really exist. Some have been transparent hoaxes, for others there is less certainty. In the end, people will believe what they want to believe. The existence of these mythical creatures may never be proven, short of one of them washing up on shore somewhere. Even then, there will be those who argue otherwise.

July 31, 1920 Corporal Jackie

Albert took a bullet in the shoulder at the Battle of Agagia on February 26, 1916, while the monkey, beside himself with agitation, licked the wound and did everything he could to comfort the stricken man.  It was this incident more than any other that marked Jackie’s transformation from pet and mascot, to a comrade to the men of the regiment.

In 1915, Albert Marr lived with his family and his Chacma baboon, Jackie, on Cheshire Farm, on the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa.  The Great War had begun a year earlier, when Marr was sworn into the 3rd (Transvaal) Regiment of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, in August of that year.  He was now Private Albert Marr, #4927.

Albert Marr, JackiePrivate Marr asked for and received permission to bring Jackie along with him.  It wasn’t long before the monkey became the official Regimental Mascot.

Jackie drew rations like any other soldier, eating at the mess table, using his knife and fork and washing it all down with his own drinking basin.

He drilled and marched with his company in a special uniform and cap, complete with buttons, regimental badges, and a hole for his tail.

Jackie entertained the men during quiet periods, lighting their pipes and cigarettes and saluting officers as they passed on their rounds.  He learned to stand at ease when ordered, placing his feet apart and hands behind his back, regimental style.

These two inseparable buddies, Albert Marr and Jackie, first saw combat during the Senussi Campaign in North Africa. Albert took a bullet in the shoulder at the Battle of Agagia on February 26, 1916, while the monkey, beside himself with agitation, licked the wound and did everything he could to comfort the stricken man.  It was this incident more than any other that marked Jackie’s transformation from pet and mascot, to a comrade to the men of the regiment.jackie

Jackie would accompany Albert at night when he was on guard duty.  Marr soon learned to trust Jackie’s keen eyesight and acute hearing.  The monkey was almost always first to know about enemy movements or impending attack.  He would give early warning with a series of sharp barks, or by pulling on Marr’s tunic.

The pair went through the nightmare of Delville Wood together, early in the Somme campaign, when the First South African Infantry held their position despite 80% casualties.  The pair experienced the nightmare of mud that was Passchendaele, and the desperate fighting at Kemmel Hill.  The two were at Belleau Wood, a primarily American operation, where Marine Captain Lloyd Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, was informed that he was surrounded by Germans.  “Retreat?” Williams retorted, “hell, we just got here.”Jackie

Throughout all of it, Albert Marr and Jackie had come through WWI mostly unscathed.  That all changed in April, 1918.

The South African Brigade was being heavily shelled as it withdrew through the West Flanders region of Belgium. Jackie was frantically trying to build a wall of stones around himself, a shelter from flying shrapnel, while shells were bursting all around. A jagged piece of shrapnel wounded Jackie in the arm and another all but amputated the animal’s leg.  He refused to be carried off by the stretcher-bearers, trying instead to finish his wall, hobbling around on what had once been his leg.

Lt. Colonel R. N. Woodsend of the Royal Medical Corps described the scene:  “It was a pathetic sight; the little fellow, carried by his keeper, lay moaning in pain, the man crying his eyes out in sympathy, ‘You must do something for him, he saved my life in Egypt. He nursed me through dysentery’. The baboon was badly wounded, the left leg hanging with shreds of muscle, another jagged wound in the right arm.  We decided to give the patient chloroform and dress his wounds…It was a simple matter to amputate the leg with scissors and I cleaned the wounds and dressed them as well as I could.  He came around as quickly as he went under. The problem then was what to do with him. This was soon settled by his keeper: ‘He is on army strength’. So, duly labelled, number, name, ATS injection, nature of injuries, etc. he was taken to the road and sent by a passing ambulance to the Casualty Clearing Station”.Jackie Portrait

As the war drew to a close, Jackie was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and given a medal for bravery. Possibly the only monkey in history, ever to be so honored.

On his arm he wore a gold wound stripe, and three blue service chevrons, one for each of his three years’ front line service.

After the pair arrived home, Jackie became the center of attention at a parade officially welcoming the 1st South African Regiment home.

On July 31, 1920, Jackie received the Pretoria Citizen’s Service Medal, at the Peace Parade in Church Square, Pretoria.

Jackie died as the result of a fire, which destroyed the Marr family farmhouse in May 1921.  Albert Marr passed away in 1973, at the age of 84.  Marr had missed his battle buddy Jackie, for all the days in-between.