“Colonel,” the official mascot, contemplates the entrance sign to the war dog training camp at Camp Knox.

As the traditional home of women Marines and also the home of the only training camp for black Marines, Camp Lejeune stands alone among the bases and stations that have written many of the chapters in the Corps’ proud history. There is yet another unique distinction that can be credited to Camp Lejeune, it was also the only training camp for the Corps’ war dogs during WW II. As a result of lessons learned during the ongoing Guadalcanal campaign in 1942 and the Corps’ small-war experience in the jungles of Central America and the Caribbean prior to the war, the value of employing war dogs to enhance the combat potential of Marine units became evident. [1] The Major General Commandant, Thomas Holcomb, directed that a war dog training camp be established at Camp Lejeune.  As organized at Camp Knox, a small facility within Camp Lejeune, as the Marine Corps War Dog Training Company in January of 1943, this camp- formerly occupied by a Civilian Conservation Corps company, and which was shared with the black 52nd Defense Battalion-became the sole source of the Corps’ war dogs until disbanded in August 1946.

A total of 1048 dogs were processed there, of which 703 successfully completed the arduous 14-week training, and 496 subsequently served in the Pacific, the preponderance being Doberman Pinschers and Shepherds. [2] Serving primarily as scout and messenger dogs, their fearless devotion and outstanding support provided to Marines in combat, principally in alerting to the presence or approach of enemy troops, endeared them to their supported Marines and resulted in many lives being saved. In doing so, the seven War Dog Platoons-each platoon consisting of 36 dogs and 66 Marines [3], and each intended to support an infantry regiment-that served in the battles of Guam, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, lost 29 dogs killed-in-action (25 on Guam alone), and garnered 5 Silver Stars, 7 Bronze Stars and more than 40 Purple Hearts. [4]

At the war’s end, 559 dogs remained on active duty. They were returned to Camp Knox for demobilization, the majority successfully completing a program of detraining and rehabilitation and returned to civilian life.


  1. USMC, “War Dogs in the Marine Corps in World War ll.”
  2. Putney. Always Faithful. pp. 210-211.
  3. Frank and Shaw. Victory and Occupation. p. 714.
  4. Putney. op. cit. p. x.


Gertrude S. Carroway. Camp Lejeune Leathernecks: U.S. Marine Corps Training Center, Camp Lejeune, NC. Owen G. Dunn Co. 1946.

PFC Derry D’Oench. “War Dogs Trained Here, Have Outstanding Combat Record.” Globe. 13Feb46.

Benis M. Frank and Henry Shaw. Victory and Occupation, History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in WW II, Vol V. Historical Br, G-3 Div, HQMC. 1968.

LtCol L.J. Kimball, USMC (Ret), Consulting Historian. Semper Fidelis: A Brief History of Onslow County, NC, and Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune. U.S. Marine Corps, 2002.

Capt William W. Putney, USMC (Ret). Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine War Dogs of WW II. The Free press, 2001.

USMC History and Museums Div. “War Dogs in the Marine Corps in WW II,” Frequently Requested. 2-26-03.

Retrieved 8Feb05.

(A timely bit of trivia: National K-9 Veterans Day, 13 March, is a day set aside to honor and commemorate the service and sacrifices of American military and working dogs throughout history.)

Posted on: April 1, 2020
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