Brief Unit History

World War II | Vietnam | Reunions

World War II

The 47th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon was activated on 11 June 1945 at Robinson Quartermaster Depot, Remount, Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The platoon complement at time of activation was one officer, 20 enlisted men, and 27 scout dogs. Property allowed by T/O & E 7-167 w/ch 1,1 14 December 1944, was not available upon activation date, but was made available by the end of the training period at Fort Robinson.

Since the platoon had been functioning as a provisional training platoon before activation, by 11 June 1945 all dogs and dog handlers had undergone four weeks of basic training with dogs. At time of activation the platoon was undergoing basic scout dog training in the open training areas. This scout dog training continued until 15 July 1945, at which time the platoon departed the Main Post Fort Robinson and moved into the bivouac area at wood reserve camp for extended field training. The platoon remained on bivouac in the field until 11 August 1945; it was then returned to the Main Post of Fort Robinson awaiting transfer to a new post. The platoon Graduation Ceremonies were held on 18 August 1945. Having completed their technical training period, 15 enlisted men were promoted: 14 were promoted to Technician 5th Grade, and the then acting platoon sergeant was promoted to Technical Sergeant.

The platoon remained at Fort Robinson until 22 August 1945, it was then transferred to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Arriving at Fort Leonard Wood the platoon, at this time a unit of the 4th Army, was attached to the 121st Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division. The platoon continued on a training program of scout dog training in areas adjacent to the post. The dogs were kenneled in multiple type kennels on the post proper. On 15 October 1945 the platoon was transferred to the 13th Regiment which was also a unit of the 8th Division. The platoon continued a training program for dogs while attached to this unit.

During this period of time with the 13th Infantry, the platoon travelled by motor convoy to St. Louis Missouri to take part with the 8th Division in a Victory Day Parade on 22 October 1945.

The platoon remained with the 13th Infantry until 2 November 1945; at which time it was transferred to the 2nd Army, and attached to the 17th Replacement (Repo) Depot, Special Troops, 2nd Army. The platoon was attached to this unit until its inactivation date: 21 November 1945.

From activation on 11 June 1945 until date of inactivation 21 November 1945 there was present for duty one Officer: Martin W. Gary, 0-540862, 1st Lt. Infantry.

See also:

  1. Elmer Fisk 1998 letter recalling WWII unit history.
  2. Lowell Rosnau 1999 letter recalling WWII unit history.

Vietnam

1968: Activation and Deployment

The platoon was redesignated 31 October 1967 as the 47th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog) and alloted to the Regular Army. The platoon was activated on 2 January 1968 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Personnel were assigned to the 47th at Fort Benning, Georgia in late January and early February of 1968. The handlers and dogs were trained at the USAIC DOG TRAINING facility along with their brother platoon, the 59th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog). The Training Instructors for this new class of dog handlers were Sgt. Passmore, Sgt Harbin, and Sgt Kosub. On May 3, 1968, after 12 weeks of training, the 47th Scout Dog Platoon graduated as part of Class #3 from the United States Army Infantry Scout Dog Training School, 197th Infantry Brigade, Fort Benning Georgia. Herman "Rusty" Allen (with his Scout Dog Sig K036) was chosen as the Class Honor Graduate.

On May 27, 1968 the 47th IPSD deployed to the Republic of Vietnam as a new T. O. & E. Unit under the leadership of 2Lt. Stanley Stockdale and career Platoon Sergeant Linn Sprowl. The Platoon consisted of a Platoon Commander, Platoon Sergeant, Platoon Clerk, Veterinary Technician and 24 Handlers and their Scout Dogs. The platoon departed from Lawson Field at Fort Benning and arrived in country at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. The platoon was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division operating in I Corps.

After a month of in country processing at Bien Hoa, on June 30, 1968 the platoon began moving up country to establish its permanent base camp at LZ Sally, located about 30 miles NW of the Imperial Capital of Hue. Sally was described as follows: "Strategically located near the junction of the Song Bo River and Highway I, LZ Sally has a small airfield. The base camp had been previously used by the French, the U.S. Marines, the 1st Air Cavalry and is now the home of the "Ready To Go" 2nd Brigade Task Force of the 101st Airborne Division". Shortly after their arrival at LZ Sally the 47th adopted their unit motto, "Paw Power!".

On July 17, 1968 the platoon became fully operational and the platoon began pulling field assignments. The Platoon supported ground infantry missions of the 101st Division. Scout dogs and their handlers walked point on patrol and utilized silent alerts to detect mines, booby traps, snipers and other enemy personnel.

The months of July and August 1968 were difficult ones. Within 6 weeks five handlers had been wounded in a variety of combat missions (Otis Johnson, Frank Bagatta, Jonathan Harraden, James Youtz, and Gary Mengel). Handler Marvin R. Pearce became the first platoon member to be killed as the result of a shrapnel wound to the back of the skull. The platoon also learned of the death of their former classmate Russell Erickson who went to the 59th IPSD and was KIA on July 24, 1968. Youtz' Scout Dog Willie 6M11 was killed in action.

On September 5, newly promoted First Sergeant Linn Sprowl was reassigned to a line unit of the 101st Division and bid farewell to the unit. September saw the unit weather Typhoon Bess, Ernest Jonson wounded, and Thomas Muir's dog Bullet succumb to heat stroke.

During the last quarter of 1968, the platoon needed to reassign some personnel to other units so that the entire unit did not DEROS (date eligible for return from overseas - the date a person's tour in Vietnam was estimated to end) at the same time. In November four dog teams were transferred to the 45th IPSD and replacement handlers began coming in to the unit. Bill Cunningham, a new replacement, was wounded on November 7th in a mortar attack at LZ Sharon. Roberto Miller took command of the 47th IPSD on November 23, 1968 and Lt. Stanley Stockdale was reassigned to the Dog Training Detachment, USARV. Wesley Hermann was severely wounded in an ambush on November 24th. Wesley's dog Buck 61X2 and a soldier from New York who was trying to save Wesley's life were killed .

As the year 1968 ended, the platoon totaled 778 missions through December 31.

See also: 1968 Diary Page

1969

Under the command of Lt Roberto Miller and SSG E6 James Selix the platoon continued pulling field missions in support of Operation Nevada Eagle and other operations. In March Larry Proper and Richard Hong were put in for a Bronze Star with "V" Device and Gordon Brackett was put in for a Silver Star for their actions in the field.

On April 13, 1969 Gary Gene Detrick and his dog Princess 1M20 were Killed In Action in Thua Thien Province from an explosive device. George Bowers, who was on an adjacent hillside supporting another unit, witnessed the explosion. The unit is put in for the Valorous Unit Citation by the 1/502 Infantry Airborne and Lt Miller put the unit in for the Meritorious Unit Award.

By May 23, 1969 all of the original platoon members had left country and returned to the States. The Platoon was now manned by replacement handlers. The dogs that survived their first year continued their service with a new handler or were reassigned to another Scout Dog Platoon as needed. Some of these replacement personnel were school trained and some were OJT handlers (on the job) who transferred in from infantry units.

May, June and July appeared to be slow months for the unit as far as pulling field assignments. Issues seem to have surfaced as to how Scout Dog Units should be inspected. Straight Infantry Unit Inspections were conducted which did not take into account the unique characteristics of Dog Platoons.

In July 1969 Lt. James Bradshaw took over as Commander of the unit replacing Lt. Roberto Miller. Lt Miller was assigned to the Dog Training Detachment, USARV. It was customary in Vietnam for Commanders of Scout Dog Platoons to rotate every 6 months to allow new officers to obtain command experience. Lt Bradshaw emphasized training and all dog teams become rappel qualified. Unit personnel displayed increased interest and enthusiasm.

In August, September, October and December 1969 missions were picking up and dog teams were seeing more action again. Commitments were down in November. On November 3, 1969 President Nixon asked the nation to support his plans to "Vietnamize" the war, that is encourage Vietnam to pursue the war on its own and withdraw U.S. troops.

See also: 1969 Diary Page

1970

As January 1970 ended, while the platoon continued to provide outstanding support to the brigade, the unit was only able to field 12 Scout Dog Teams due to a shortage of trained personnel.

In February the 47th Scout Dog Platoon relocated its home base to Camp Hocmuth, Phu Bai (South of Hue) when LZ Sally was turned over to the ARVN Troops under "Vietnamization" of the war. The new platoon site is located in the old Cobra Pilots quarters.

In March 1970 Scout Dog handlers Charles Franks and Lane Jacobson were recommended for the Bronze Star with "V" Device for their actions in the field.

Second Lt. Thomas Thorpe took command of the 47th Scout Dog Platoon in April 1970. As the 41st Scout Dog Platoon stood down on April 7th, Thomas Thorpe and some of his personnel (Bill Sawyer, Werner Kashkarov, Gus Fontanilla and Sgt Slattery) transferred in to reinforce the 47th Scout Dog Platoon which was in need of more personnel. Lt. Thomas Thorpe was supported by Sergeant's Daniel Barnett, James Hood and Jon Wilde.

From March through August 1970 the platoon is pulled many missions and sustained casualties to both men and dogs. As the war dragged on without the apparent will power in Washington for a complete military victory drug use was having a greater impact on the unit as was common with many units in Vietnam at the time. As one platoon member described: "The unit is divided into three kinds of guys: "The Heads", "The Juicers" and "The Religious Freaks". "

It was into this environment that 2Lt. John R.D. Van Clief assumed command of the 47th Scout Dog Platoon in September 1970. On September 9, 1970 Tim Edwin Newell was Killed in Action from small arms fire sustained in Thua Thien Province. Newell's dog Blackie #38A3 ran off and was heard barking and howling that night but was never recovered.

Under Lt Van Clief, Sergeant First Class Rafael Angel Diaz joined the unit as the Sergeant in charge of day to day operations. Sergeant Diaz had gotten on the bad side of some platoon members due to his style and efforts to enforce drug policies. On November 30, 1970 Sergeant Rafael Angel Diaz was murdered while he slept from the blast of a Claymore Mine that was placed on a sandbag wall next to his bunk. It is believed that the crime was committed by a platoon member but due to insufficient evidence no charges were ever brought and the case remains open and unsolved to this day.

As the year ended, American troop strength had dropped to 280,000. During the year an estimated 60,000 soldiers had experimented with drugs, according to the U.S. command. There were also over 200 incidents of "fragging" in which unpopular officers were attacked with fragmentation grenades by men under their command. It is reported that many units were now plagued by racial unrest, reflecting the disharmony back home.

See also: 1970 Diary Page

1971

In spite of the tragedy of the Diaz murder the unit continued to pull its missions and take casualties in men and dogs. William Stringer took over as Platoon Sergeant after Diaz.

In February the Army Commendation Medal "For exceptionally Meritorious Achievement" was awarded to Richard T. Murray, John Pinezaddleby, Jon C. Wilde, Paul Michael Miller and Kenneth Nywenning.

In June 1971 The New York Times began publication of the Pentagon Papers. Soldiers departed in record numbers.

In late June or early July 1971 the platoon received orders to commence preparation to stand down. The dogs were prepared for shipment and sent down south to Bien Hoa to an uncertain fate.

On July 21, 1971 the 47th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog) officially stood down, ending the platoon's service in Vietnam.

See also: 1971 Diary Page

Operational Note: The Rotation

To better understand how a Scout Dog Platoon operated and to better assess the risks and events of our service, it is good to know that all Scout Dog Platoons operated on a system that we called the Rotation. Dog Teams were listed on a big board in some order determined by the Commander. As calls came in for teams, the teams at the top of the board would go out first. When a team returned from a mission they would drop to the bottom of the list and get time to rest up until they worked their way back up to the top of the list again at which time they would be next to pull a mission. The rotation was affected by many factors such as a handler or dog being sick, whether conditions, number of teams operational, the extent to which field commanders desired to call for dog teams etc. Missions were expected to be from 3 to 5 days in length but would vary depending on circumstances. Despite the obvious risks, it was felt that Scout Dog Handlers were fortunate to be able to spend so much time at their base camp were living conditions were much better. It is estimated that in a year tour a Scout Dog Handler would be in the bush from 90 to 120 days. A straight-leg Infantryman might spend 300 days in the bush. Dog Handlers for the most part were grateful to be a dog handler. Dog handlers as a group were very appreciative of and respectful of the Infantryman who had to lay it on the line every day. We were blessed with our heroic K-9 friends (our protectors).

Vietnam Summary

In 1971 ten Scout Dog Platoons and 5 Combat Tracker Units stood down leaving only two Scout Dog Platoons and two Combat Tracker Units remaining in Vietnam. These last units stood down in 1972 leaving only Sentry Dogs left in Vietnam to guard air fields and installations..

All in all, approximately 168 men and over 100 dogs served with the platoon during the Vietnam era. The platoon had 5 Commanding Officers, 7 Platoon Sergeants, 7 Platoon Clerks and 5 Veterinary Technicians. The rest were Scout Dog Handlers or shared in a dual capacity. After the platoon stood down Sergeant James M. Selix was killed in country on October 30, 1971 in some other capacity but the exact nature of the incident is not known. His marker reads "Hostile Ground Casualty - Misadventure." Including Rafael Diaz, five Platoon members were killed in Vietnam. The number of men in the unit who were wounded is not known. Very few of the dogs ever made it back to the states, as they were worked until they eventually succumbed to a combat death, disease, mishap, turned over to the ARVN troops or euthanized. For our faithful and heroic dogs, it was a one way trip.

Reunion Activity

There was almost no contact among former platoon members until June of 1996 when members began to contact one another. A concerted effort was made to locate all of the original members and by September of 1997 all but one had been contacted or accounted for.

A reunion of 7 members was held in San Antonio, Texas in November of 1996 and a reunion of 18 members was held in St. Louis, Missouri in June of 1997. In November of 1998, a reunion of 13 members (plus 2 from the 59th IPSD) was held in San Diego, California as part of the biannual meeting of the Vietnam Dog Handler Association (see below for a link to the VDHA). In October of 2000, former members again reunited in Washington, DC at the 2000 VDHA meeting and toured the Vietnam War Memorial. A joint reunion with the 59th IPSD was held in May of 2002 at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia when former members returned to "where it all began" and also dedicated 5 memorial pedestals at the War Dog Memorial at Sacrifice Field. In May of 2004, 9 members gathered in Beaumont, TX. Seven members got together in Salt Lake City, UT from June 13-15, 2008.

See also: 47th IPSD Reunion Page and 47th IPSD Reunion Videos

Additional Information

vdha

Many of the unit members are also members of the Vietnam Dog Handler Association. This group is open to anyone who served with a dog unit in the military.

For a more complete unit history see the 47th IPSD Platoon Diary.

For a Study on the History of War Dog Training and Utilization During and After World War II (Department of the Army, Office of the Quartermaster General) click here.

For information concerning US Army Medical Support for Vietnam War Dogs click here.

For a Vietnam War history and background click here.

For another excellent Vietnam War history overview visit Battlefield: Vietnam presented by PBS.

To read online actual accounts of the men and dogs of the 47th read Toni Gardner's book titled "WALKING WHERE THE DOG WALKS , An Interspecies Odyssey in Vietnam, 1968-69" by clicking here,

Brief Unit History contributed by Rusty Allen, Bert Hubble, and Jonathan Wahl

World War II | Vietnam | Reunions


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