March 1966 Issue
The subject of sentry dogs in the CBI, brought up by John J. Gussak in the December issue of Ex-CBI Roundup, is discussed here by Joe Balak of Lake Zurich, Ill., former first sergeant of CBI War Dog Detachment, and Carl M. Hutsell of Kansas City, Mo., who was a staff sergeant in the outfit.
CBI War Dog Detachment in Combat
On landing in Calcutta our first assignment was Kanchrapara, north of Calcutta. The CBI War Dog Detachment was made up of 125 men and one officer, two non-commissioned officers, one veterinary officer and one veterinary NCO. We brought over 104 dogs; lost one in transit somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. All dogs were of German Shepherd blood or breeding. These dogs were primarily trained for perimeter sentry duty, with the exception of several which could be used successfully for scout work in the trails. The units were broken up into roughly five groups upon arrival in India. Fifteen of us were ordered into Burma to the Merrill's Marauders at Myitkyina. We joined the Marauders at about 1,000 feet out of Myitkyina, just off the strip. This was the first actual combat dog detachment used in World War II. After securing Myitkyina for the second time, the Marauders were finally relieved and the Mars Task Force was activated. Sgt. Lyle Collner of Minnesota was assigned to the 124th Cavalry with 16 men and dogs, and S/Sgt. Carl Hutsell with 16 men and dogs to the 475th Infantry, walking from Myitkyina to the Burma Road in China, with two engagements at Tonkwa and Hosi Valley. The balance of the units were assigned areas in Assam such as air strips, ordnance, quartermaster and some radar sentry duty. These are the units John Gussak inquired about in his letter. Percentagewise the CBI War Dog Detachment didn't have to take a back seat to any unit with the exception of Merrill's Marauders, based on the number of Purple Hearts per unit. We were a unit under orders from Washington, D. C., only; with no T. O. & E. All we could do was beg, borrow or steal. As to the value of dogs in combat, I can best answer by a remark one of the battle-hardened Marauders made while he was guiding us from the strip to the perimeter. "What the hell are you going to do with the dogs down here?" A few weeks later everybody wanted a dog tied to his leg to sleep with at night. It was a proven fact that the patrols with dogs had a smaller percentage of casualties. Bear in mind that these dogs were all trained by the individual, and practically every dog had to be retrained for front line duty in Burma. These dogs came from homes, apartments, ranches, all over the country and were all ages. These notes are written from memory- we wish to apologize to anyone for errors and omissions. If any member- especially Sgt. Lyle Collner of Minnesota- can come up with the history of the mission from Myitkyina to Lashio, please do so. It was a good one.