26 Quartermaster War Dog Platoon: Our War Dog Soldiers
by Dr Hargis Westerfield Division Historian

      Starting in July 1944 during the Biak mop-up, Army War Dogs helped us against the still potentially dangerous Japs. Of course, the dogs never bit Japs. Their job was to sense Japs before they saw us and drew a bead on us. Thus we saved our own lives and saved time and tension in finding the Japs. Finally assigned to the 41st on Biak were probably eight enlisted handlers, five scout dogs, and three messenger dogs.

On 8 July 1944, a 41 Recon patrol first hunted the Japs. Patrol's mission was to locate a Jap bivouac area. We knew only its general location in dense brush. The handler led off with honorable Dog and 41 Recon scouts. Then followed patrol leader and main body. Last came probably the messenger dog with handler for a quick escape, and the assistant leader.

When the dog lunged on his leash, the handler held him. The 41 Recon men replaced the dog; they killed six Japs - wounded several more. They drove the Japs from the bivouac.

On 11 July, F 163's 2nd Platoon discovered the usefulness of a war dog. Mission was to find a main trail northwards, find Japs sign, and kill all we could. Through muddy, brushy hills, 2nd Platoon started out with hound and handler leading. After we found the trail, the dog alerted us that numerous Japs had lately occupied the area. When the dog alerted us again, we detached a squad to check out our left flank. This time, the dog had smelled another U.S. patrol on a trail 200 yards away.

This patrol exhibited the usefulness of war dogs. The dog relieved us from some of the tension we always had on nerve-wracking patrols into dark places. With the dog, we moved twice the distance we could have covered without the dog in the same time. We also avoided the danger of firing on our own men.

On 13 July, in another 163 Infantry patrol, the scout dog sensed three Japs beside the trail. They had hidden at some distance apart. Never could we have found them without the dog's help. We had to slay all three.

By 16 July, almost all 26 Quartermaster War Dog Platoon was on Biak. Evidently one scout team and a messenger team remained with 41 Recon. Now 163 had two scout teams and a messenger team and 162 had two scout teams and a messenger team also.

On 18 July, G Company 163 Infantry's 3rd Platoon saw a war dog in action. We were then patrolling in rain forest and scrub north of Ibdi Pocket to catch Japs escaping from that strongly held position that did not fall until four days later.

Doubling off at daybreak under heavy rain, we confidently ran behind a German shepherd down a slippery yellow trail. A waterfall of rain flooded our old green fatigues, battle-worn and faded. Over slippery hard yellow mud, we ran in water up to our ankles. Even in that heavy rain, we trusted in the dog for safety against Japs.

When rain stopped and sun blazed out to dry our shoulders, we still ran on. As we filed into a native garden - today a brush-choked hollow of shallow yellow soil - the dog lunged hard ahead.

Then Scout Piotrowski became a hound with a rifle. With Scout Clark and Sergeant Slaga, tall Piotrowski padded on a track man-high in brush - crouched low with finger on trigger.

At the trail-curve, Piotrowski faced a small Nippo rifleman in a netted helmet. Rifle to his shoulder, the Nip was carefully drawing a bead on Pete. Pete leveled his M -1 waist-high like a tommie and triggered the Nip dead before he could fire. Our great dog had alerted us to warn G 163 on the unexpected Nip and save Piotrowski's life.

On another 163 Infantry patrol on an unreported date, a 35-man patrol with a scout dog searched out a large Jap bivouac area. We patrolled for three miles but saw no Japs. We hunted 1800 yards past a depression on our right and turned back.

On the trail near the depression entry, the dog alerted us. Yet at first in the depression, we saw no Japs. But the dog lunged harder than ever!

The dog's warning came just in time for his handler to alert us. As our scouts lunged ahead of the dog, 12 armed Japs raised rifles against us. We fired as they fired; five died; the rest ran.

We followed the fleeing Japs for about 200 yards with our dog leading. Then he alerted us again. From a little ridge-crest, we counted some 50 disorganized Japs scurrying for the jungle 200 yards away. The dog had done well again.

Another 163 patrol on an unknown date had to check out an area leading to a Jap supply dump. Area was a jungle where rain forest, bamboo and scrub thickets made observation difficult.

Just after we started, our dog's actions indicated Japs in thick woods to our left. A small detachment found no Japs, but eight packs jammed with food and clothing. Farther along, our patrol saw 10-12 feeder trails where the dog did not react. To check on the dog's ability to sense Japs, we checked out each feeder trail without him. We found no Japs on any feeder trail. On the main trail again with the dog, we saw him to sign that Japs were on our left. No Japs were here, but more discarded packs and other gear. The dog had saved us much time and tension in searching for Japs.

Our brother 162 Infantry had a successful "dog patrol." This time, they used their messenger dog besides the scout dog. Probably on 20 July perhaps in C 162, A patrol had to pinpoint and destroy Jap troops who could disrupt our communications. Besides a 31-man rifle platoon, we had a heavy machine gun section and an 81 mm mortar section - the weapons men probably D Company's. Our 81s set up behind us in support.

With our scout dog leading, we advanced over (or through) five ridges maybe 300 feet high. Ridges were covered with coral chunks and heavily forested but for bare crests. For an hour, the dog led us painfully north but quicker and safer against any Jap ambush.

After Ridge No.5, the dog tugged on his leash to indicate Japs. Our first two squads deployed to advance. Of course, we first called for mortar fire ahead. But communication to the rear was disrupted. We loosed our messenger dog to the rear to tell the 81 section to open fire. Our mortars drove out the Japs; our riflemen found no opposition. This patrol was one of the few where the 41st used a messenger dog. Other message media were more available.

On 21 July, 186 Infantry's I & R borrowed a scout dog from 162 Infantry for a two-day patrol. This was probably the patrol after 186's Colonel Newman doubted l & R's patrol that 500 Japs laired in the native gardens north of us.

Probably Chuck Johnson, Holman, and Rock of 186 I&R, among others, accompanied the dog. The native gardens were overgrown with low brush and surrounded by heavy rain forest.

Again, the dog saved time and perhaps lives. About 3-4 miles from 186, the dog sniffed Nips 30-40 yards up the trail. We scouted the dog in other directions; Nips seemed to pop up everywhere. We needed field artillery and riflemen to smash this dangerous Nippo concentration.

But two dog patrols were failures. In a failing 186 Infantry patrol, eight men took a scout and a messenger dog to find Nips close to our lines. Terrain was fairly flat coral with moderate jungle. While rain fell heavily, we patrolled between two ridges.

When we passed three dead Nips, the dog did not warn us before them. At least four times when he alerted us, we detached men off the trail to fight Nips. There were none. Worst of all, the dogs both exposed us to death. They urinated too often. While the dog had to halt, any sniper on right on left ridge would have had a clean shot at one of us. Even when returning to our perimeter, the scout did not warn us of our own outposts. We could have blundered into them and could have been accidentally shot.

A second scout dog failure happened on a patrol of 186 I&R on 24-25 July. With 15 men, the dog went on an overnight search to spot a Jap bivouac, supposedly a few thousand yards northwards.

Rain fell heavily all day on us from the time when we left our holes at 0845. Even on the trail, the dog and handler nosed more slowly than our scouts would have gone without them. After a few hundred yards, we left the trail. Terrain varied from slightly rolling ground to hills. We trekked over rough coral with many crevices to look out for.

 The dog hampered us even more, now that he was off the trail. He tangled his leash in vines. Loaded with carbine and pack, the handler had to halt us until he untangled the dog. The dog would not move in the direction that our patrol wanted him to go. The handler wasted more time to yank him back in the right direction. Despite several dog alerts, only once did we find Jap sign where the dog had pointed. We found no Japs. On return to our lines next day, we put the dog at rear of the column where he could not hold us back.

       But only on these two patrols did a scout dog perform badly. And he may have been the same dog in both performances. For 162 Infantry did lend dogs to 186 Infantry where in the same failure occurred. By the close of the Biak mop-up, most dogs merited excellent reports.

When 2nd Battalion 163 Infantry landed at Korim Bay on 4 August, two scout dogs with a messenger dog landed also. There the dogs worked especially well. During 4-20 August, they indicated Japs for us 10 times. They enabled us to surprise and kill many Japs, and capture two.

On 26 August, a scout dog joined 2nd Battalion 186 Infantry, which had been hunting Japs at Wardo on southwest Biak since our beach-head on 17 August. In a week, the dog made eight patrols and found Japs for us five times. He helped us to kill a number of Japs.

The 41st used messenger dogs on Biak in only two reported instances. We have earlier told the story of probably C-162 on probably 20 August. A messenger dog then was needed to inform our 81 mm mortar men to fire to clear a ridge before our riflemen advanced.

The S-2 (Intelligence Officer) of 163 reported an outstanding use of the messenger dog. In a short-range recon of a small patrol, it was impossible to use a sound-power line, but time was limited. A team of two messenger dogs carried four messages on their two-mile runs. These two dogs made needless the sending of four human runners who would have gone far slower than the dogs.

In these jungle hunts for Japs, the dogs' handlers got practical experience that greatly differed from what they had learned in Stateside training. In the States, they had hunted the dog in open or sparsely wooded countryside. They could trot the dogs back and forth to help them nose the shifting winds or breezes until they had a definite scent of human beings. When confined to jungle trails, often without any wind or breeze at all, the dogs were handicapped. As much as possible, the handlers found it best to start the dogs out from scrubby or open ground.

After the dog lunged for nearby "enemies" in the States, the handler had been taught to pull the dog to the rear of the patrol. On narrow trails bordered by heavy brush, time was lost in dragging the dog back to the rear of the column. Noise might alert the Japs ahead. On Biak, however, the handler learned not to pull back, except to one side of the trail. There the dog would be safe while the patrol moved up to kill.

Handlers also learned that to run a dog on a trail with sharp coral surfaces was to make his feet tender and sore. He would be out of action for several days when so few dogs were available. Like soldiers, the dogs also suffered from the Biak climate, and inferior food. After two months' duty, they lost weight and began to lose their drive. Without their Stateside diet of horsemeat and mixed foods, "C" rations weakened their resistance. Some dogs ran fevers and were invalids for awhile. Handlers learned to rest their dogs one day for every two days' work.

Mainly, however, in the 41st limited experience on Biak - only during the mop-up - we found that the dogs were highly efficient. Almost always, they warned of Japs within 30 yards - and often up to 300 yards. They warned also of nearby Yanks and kept us from firing at one another. They speeded up our patrols, and helped kill or capture many Nips. They also saved a number of our own lives.

CREDIT: Basic documents for this history are "Report on Capabilities and Limitations of War Dogs," an 11-page typescript dated 14 August 1944; and undated 2-page "Historical Report of 26th QM War Dog Platoon in the Biak Operation." Both are single-spaced type-scripts. I could find "Report on Capabilities" only by a special visit to Washington (D.C.) National Records Center, and "Historical Report" only by a visit to Dwight Eisenhower Library of Abilene, Kansas. Two important stories came from Alan Rock's "Three Tales of I&R" (Jungleer, March 1960), and my own "G Company 163 Infantry: Mopping Up on Biak." I ran as first scout in the early part of that patrol of 18 July 1944 where Piotrowski made his kill.