Vietnam War Dogs

Wayne’s most recent commission will serve as part of the Vietnam War Memorial located in Veteran’s Grove, Bedford, P.A.

The statue depicts Robert Hartsock with his scout dog, Duke. Hartsock served as a Staff Sergeant in the 44th Infantry Platoon Scout Dog (ISPD), 3rd Brigade, 25th  Infantry Division. He was killed in action on the 23rd February, 1969 and his trusted dog lost its life on the same day.

Between 1964 and 1973 an estimated 4,000 dogs and 10,000 handlers were deployed to Vietnam. Veterinarians and Vet Techs were also deployed to help with various health and injuries of the war dogs.

The implementation of the war dogs and handlers was successful in protecting American lives and assets plus reduced the enemy’s opportunity for surprise attacks. As a result of this success the enemy placed a bounty on the heads of the war dog teams and hunted them diligently.

The K9 teams were utilized for ground operations with the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The dogs were selected and trained specifically for jobs suiting the particular breed. The K9 teams performed the following types of jobs:

Scout Dogs

German Shepherds performed as scout dogs along with their handler by leading combat patrols providing silent warning of dangers. This team acted as pointman, the most dangerous and vulnerable position providing tactical information through enemy territory. The dogs were trained to alert enemy movement, land mines, booby traps, base camps and underground tunnels. The U.S. Army had the highest number of infantry scout dog teams throughout South Vietnam and therefore suffered the highest number of casualties of both dogs and handlers, of the war.

Tracking Dogs

Labrador retrievers were the only dog trained for tracking. Their primary role was to track the enemy’s scent or blood trails to allow larger American forces to reengage. They proved very effective and were relied on heavily.

Sentry/ Patrol Dogs

German shepherds were the only breed used for this job. The dog and handler would defend aircraft, airfields, supply depots, ammunition dumps, defensive perimeters, and many other strategic military facilities. The Sentry dog teams provided the first line of defense in guarding American base camps day and night.

Mine/Tunnel Dogs

The German shepherd dog and handler were generally deployed with the infantry and combat engineer units. They were trained to sniff out mines and booby traps buried in roads, hidden on bridges or in buildings, and sniff out the location of tunnels. After the dog located the tunnel, a soldier, called a “Tunnel Rat” would enter the tunnel to investigate.

Water Patrol Dogs

The Navy successfully used dogs on the patrol boats slowly operating throughout the American patrolled waterways of South Vietnam. The dog would alert on the breath scent of enemy underwater divers breathing through reeds or snorkels or other underwater apparatus. The water dogs proved to be quite successful in saving lives and equipment, reducing the enemy’s capacity to conduct underwater sabotage operations.

Hartsock and Duke will be memorialized in the new statue which will also serve to honor all of the American Vietnam War K9 teams.

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