Veterans Day: 75 years later, WWII Marine Corps war dog handler still remembers his dogs
By Homer Finley
Seventy-five years ago, on November 1, 1943, the 1st Marine War Dog Platoon stormed the beach at Bougainville, Solomon Islands. Twenty-four dogs landed with the Marines and the 2nd Marine Raider Regiment (Provisional) – three were German Shepherd messenger dogs, the other twenty-one were Doberman Pinscher silent scout and sentry dogs. Two of the messenger dogs, Thor and Jack, were handled by Pvt. Homer J. Finley, Jr. This is Homer’s story, now age 93, as told to Robin Hutton.
I went into the Marine Corps in 1942 and signed up for a four-year hitch. I was 17-years-old when I went in, and stationed in Jacksonville, Florida – a long way from Elmira, New York.
I loved dogs my whole life, so when I heard that the Marines were looking for volunteers for a job involving dogs, I volunteered and moved to Front Royal, Virginia. because that’s where all the dogs were coming in – and it was also closer to home.
You wouldn’t believe all the different dogs we worked with – a lot of them were pure bred and all sizes and shapes. The first thing we had to do was have the veterinarians check them over, and then we took care of their feeding, watering, cleaning up – everything.
Front Royal Inspection. (National Archives)
Initially we started training them with the basic commands – down, sit, stay, come – and it was real exciting.
In training – Front Royal, VA. (National Archives)
When we thought our dogs were well trained in the basics, they had us tell our dogs to “sit” and “stay” and we marched away from them.
“Stay!” (National Archives)
Eventually I was shipped back to Jacksonville, Florida with three well-trained watch dogs who attacked on command. At night we’d take the dogs out on certain guard posts.
One day I was called into Marine Headquarters… Read More from Fox News.
Homer Finley [pictured] and Jack were part of the “H Hour + 2 Hours” wave of U.S. Marines to storm the Bougainville beach from a Higgins boat under hostile fire. Jack performed messenger duties in the island war zone – delivering an urgent request for reinforcements though he had been wounded by machine gun fire. Homer Finley now lives in Longmont, CO. Their story appears in full in “War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II” by Robin Hutton.
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