“Kaiser,” an 85lb. German Shepherd, served with Delta Co. 1st Marines, 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam in 1966. On one occasion he was leading a patrol on a search and destroy mission. Kaiser and his handler LCpl Alfredo Salazar were moving slowly through heavy brush. When they emerged from the brush into an open area they immediately came under intense fire from a Viet Cong machine gun and were being pelted with grenades as well.
Kaiser was hit immediately.
The Marines returned fire silencing the enemy fairly quickly. Salazar had knelt beside Kaiser and fired at the enemy from there. He says that Kaiser, “tried to lick my hand, but then he died.”
Kaiser was the first Marine Scout Dog to be killed in action. The men took his body back to their company area where they buried him under a shade tree near their tents. Kaiser’s name would be given a great honor when that base was later named “Camp Kaiser.”
Another Vietnam veteran canine hero was named “Nemo.”
Nemo served as a K-9 with the 377th Security Police at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base in 1966. His partner/handler was Airman 2nd class, Bob Thorneburg. They were assigned to duty near and old graveyard about a quarter mile from the airstrip.
As they approached the cemetery, Nemo alerted to something. Before Thorneburg could radio back to the base for help they started taking fire from within the cemetery. Thorneburg released Nemo and the two of them charged toward the ambush, with Thorneburg firing his weapon at full automatic.
Nemo was hit by a bullet that entered his right eye and exited out his mouth. Thorneburg was able to kill one VC before being hit himself. He took a round in the shoulder that knocked him down.
But Nemo wasn’t done.
He attacked another VC soldier furiously which gave Thorneburg enough time to radio for help. A quick response team was there soon along with some more dogs that sniffed out four more VC who were subsequently killed.
Nemo crawled back to his master and laid down over Thorneburg and wouldn’t let anybody touch his master. They were finally separated and both were taken back to the base, though they would come under fire again and Thorneburg would be wounded a second time.
Thorneburg and Nemo survived their wounds. Thorneburg would be evacuated to a hospital in Japan. The Veterinarian at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Lt. Raymond T. Hutson, would save Nemo’s life and would, over time, perform several skin grafts to repair the damage to Nemo’s face.
Nemo would eventually go home to America where he was retired to the Department of Defense Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He would live out his days in a special kennel with his name and rank on it. He died just before Christmas in 1972.
Click below to see who made the top of our list of famous Military Working Dogs!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.
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