Military medal awarded War dog decades after death

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It has been 75 years since MFD Wolf 69H6 served in World War II, but the four-legged hero’s honor, courage, and loyalty in a time of conflict has not been forgotten.  

In July, the United States War Dogs Association presented Cheryle Simpson, of Williams, with Wolf’s medal of commendation for his service in Guam. 

Wolf, a Belgian Malinois-Shepherd mix, owned by Simpson’s father, William R. Mack Jr., was recruited Oct. 29, 1944. He performed sentry duty in the U.S. Army in Germany before being transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps in Guam, shortly after American troops recaptured the island from the Japanese, where he served until June 21, 1945. 

“I know that my father would be so thrilled by this,” Simpson said, after receiving the medal. “I’m so happy that Wolf was finally honored. When it happened, I called my brother and he too was so excited.” 

Simpson worked for 19 years to see that Wolf received the recognition he deserved, as a way to honor both the dog and her father.

Mack, Jr., a member of the Seneca Tribe, was just a teenager when he started training Wolf in 1943 at the behest of his father, a constable stationed at Beale Air Force Base during World War II. At the time, civilian pets that could used to alert soldiers to danger, enemy presence, and explosives, as well as carry messages into battle and flush out enemy soldiers were in high demand. 

Before his death on May 16, 1991, Mack Jr., who operated an ambulance service in Williams in the mid-20th century, gave his daughter Wolf’s enlistment and discharge papers, along with a certificate from the U.S. War Department, Office of the Quartermaster General, expressing appreciation to Mack for his patriotic action by donating his dog for use in connection with the armed forces. 

Among Mack’s possessions was a faded 1945 newspaper photo and article about Wolf, who gave his life to the cause of freedom. 

Although Wolf survived the war and was honorably discharged, his psychological trauma was severe despite efforts to desensitize him. While the military had called Mack to tell him of his dog’s return to San Francisco, Wolf was destroyed before the two were reunited. 

“When they were taking him off the ship, he went crazy at the sound of the city, like a car backfire. He just couldn’t take it and they put him down right then. It was sad because my dad really did think he was getting Wolf back.” 

Not long before her father’s death, Simpson started her journey to have Wolf’s sacrifice recognized, and the service medal due him awarded. 

“It’s really been my dream for a long time,” she said.  

About 350 service dogs (24 killed in action) were stationed on Guam, and were under the medical care of Capt. William R. Putney, U.S. Marine Corps, commanding officer of the 3rd Dog Platoon and chief veterinarian of all war dogs on the island. 

Putney, author of “Forever Faithful: A memoir of the Marine Dogs of World War II,” pioneered the training techniques that converted pets into scouts, messengers and sentries. 

In his book, Putney spoke of how the war dogs were so well trained that they could locate land mines that had been buried for months deep underground; their “hearing so precise they could detect enemy trip wires by listening to them sing in the breeze.”

Simpson, who was in contact with Putney prior to his death in 2003, said the doctor remembered treating Wolf for injuries sustained during the war but was unable to provide more specific information about him, how he was hurt, or what became of his handler. 

“Capt. Putney remembered Wolf because of his size,” Simpson said. “Wolf was really big; you couldn’t miss him.”  

Although the majority of World War II canine veterans were deemed unsafe and destroyed following their service, Putney, after the war, fought for war dogs’ right to go home to the civilians who were promised their return. He won, and headed an overwhelmingly successful program to deprogram service dogs so they could return to their families. 

But the practice of reunification was short-lived. When the Korea and Vietnam wars were fought, military dogs were, once again – as a matter of policy – killed after their use. 

Still leading the charge against the practice, Putney lived to see President Bill Clinton, in the final days of his administration, sign a bill that allows to this day the right of military K9 handlers to bring home the dogs with which they work or to find them suitable homes in the U.S. or abroad. 

As for Wolf, his memory will live on in generations of the Mack family; his medal, his photograph, and his ultimate sacrifice standing testament to the human lives he saved. 

“When the medal came, I cried,” Simpson said. “My dad would have been very, very happy. I know that he would have been very proud.”