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Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII

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As a twenty-three-year-old veterinarian, William W. Putney joined the Marine Corps at the height of World War II. He commanded the Third Dog Platoon during the battle for Guam and later served as chief veterinarian and commanding officer of the War Dog Training School, where he helped train former pets for war in the Pacific. After the war, he fought successfully to have USMC war dogs returned to their civilian owners. Always Faithful is Putney’s celebration of the four-legged soldiers that he both commanded and followed. It is a tale of immense courage as well as of incredible sacrifice.


For anyone who has ever read Old Yeller or the books of Jack London, here is a real-life story that rivals any fiction. At once a wistful tribute and a stirring adventure, Always Faithful will enthrall readers with one of the great animal stories of all time.

256 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2001

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William W. Putney

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5 stars
136 (48%)
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86 (30%)
3 stars
48 (17%)
2 stars
8 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews
Profile Image for Eva-Marie.
1,672 reviews128 followers
December 4, 2010
I'd love to meet this guy and shake his hand. I'm not a cryer... no real reason, I just don't "do" crying from books or movies.... usually. I teared up numerous times while reading this.
Putney managed to make me feel like I knew each dog he wrote about. His love for this animals shone like a beacon and that goes right to the heart of any animal lover.
I wish I could say that I'd recommend this to anyone but I wouldn't. Almost, but not quite. I think a love of the military or interest in WWII or war in general would be needed. My interest in that war is fairly specific and my areas of interest aren't even mentioned here so I also can't say that it's definite.
Putney writes a lot of manuevers, Guam, the bases he and his soldiers were stationed, etc. Basically, things that probably wouldn't interest the average reading looking for a "dog book". But if you can like the "non-dog" parts, or even somehow get through them, to those "dog" sections - you won't be sorry.
The pictures, I don't know what to even say about them. Stunning, they were all simply stunning. Putney and some of his men went through so much to give these dogs adequate care during their time in service and what he did for their memory is just out of this world. So many people would have walked away. Instead, much like when we went to war, he walked right into the storm. Not once, not twice, but over and over again and for these dogs no less.
Putney is obviously an honest person. There are a few small tidbits in the story that get that across to the reader quickly, things that maybe you or I would have conveniently left out.
The reader gets to know his soldiers as well as the dogs and I was grateful for that. These will little more than children. And as we all know, so many never came home. When I stop to think about all of the lives saved because of this brave animals it really is earth-shattering. Without these animals whole groups of lives would have been lost. The fact alone that these animals could learn all that they did and do all that they did is nothing short of amazing. I am a true dog lover and would be the first to say how smart these animals are. My Labs knows words they were never even "taught" - words they just picked up throughout their lives. Actions they just picked up. But the things I found that they learned really stopped me in my tracks and made me think.
It hurt my heart deeply to know that this country, who had so easily used these beautiful animals for their own good, destroyed (and this IS the correct word for it - they were destroyed) these heroic dogs on their return. Why? Because they assumed they could not be completely detrained and live a civilian life. When Putney learned of this he didn't just talk, he acted. And he turned the entire thing around and began detraining the very dogs that "couldn't" be detrained. Only 4 dogs out of 559 couldn't be detrained. Less than 1%. So many beautiful heros lost their lives, after saving their humans lives, all because of stupid people. There had been, at the time this was written, no cases of a retired miliatary dog from the war dogs detrained by Putney biting a person or otherwise being a nuisance.
It's hard to read in a lot of places. The love these men had for their dogs, for their best friends comes through in everything you read. One handler saw his dog fall down, dead before he hit the ground from a Japanese bullet and, while still under fire, tried to go get his best friend. Putney held him back until it was safe to get him. I just can't imagine it.
This is so worth reading, so, so worth reading if you're at all interested. William W. Putney is an amazing man.
Profile Image for JD.
691 reviews289 followers
March 29, 2016
This is one of my favorite books. I finished this book in 3 days while on a busy holiday and couldn't wait to pick it up every time. I am a dog lover and love reading World War 2 stories, so I was very excited when I got this book. It is a great and easy read and very informative about a small part of history that saved many human lives. The story is also full of heartbreak, but has a very good ending about law changes in the USA about the war dogs. If I am ever near Guam I would make a point of it to visit the war graves of these brave dogs and Marines and I wish they make a movie about this book.
Profile Image for A Voracious Reader (a.k.a. Carol).
1,953 reviews1 follower
November 11, 2014
*Book source ~ A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Original review was published in Sgt. Grit’s Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 2004

Retired Captain William Putney, of the United States Marine Corps, recounts his story of the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon used in World War II in his memoir Always Faithful. In June 1943, Putney enlisted in the Marine Corps. Fresh out of college with a degree in veterinary medicine, he was hoping to serve his country with honor and courage. It came as a disappointment when his orders sent him to be a line officer in the War Dog Platoon. However, he was soon engrossed in the training of the dogs and handlers for combat in the Pacific.

Putney’s writing flows easily carrying the reader along on his journey as he describes the almost seven months of training, the trip to Guadalcanal, and the tension filled, dangerous liberation of the island of Guam. After the war was over he was horrified to learn that the war dogs were being euthanized. No attempt was being made to retrain them for safe return to the civilian owners who donated them. He spearheaded the effort to establish a detraining program of the courageous dogs serving our country with courage and distinction. His efforts paid off when the Marine Corps established the war dog detraining program. The program was a huge success and out of 559 Marine Corps dogs, only 19 had to be euthanized (15 due to health reasons and only four were considered too incorrigible for civilian life). Putney paints the reader a clear picture of what the training, the dogs and their handlers, and war was like. It is at times humorous and horrifying without bogging us down in military slang incomprehensible to the non-military reader. This memoir is a wonderful story for the history buff, military buff, and dog lover.
May 23, 2017
Captain Putney's memoir is heartfelt, and the war dogs he remembers are magnificent, but the book suffers a little from not having been written by a professional writer.
Profile Image for Eric.
32 reviews
April 18, 2022
Mr. Putney does an excellent job in telling the story of his time during World War 2 training and helping war dogs. I have become familiar in recent years with the importance of military working dogs and this book furthered my knowledge of the subject. The book was an easy read for me as well. Putney strives to give all of the dogs he served with the respect they deserved, and he succeeds in his mission. I implore you all to give this book a read. Most of my knowledge about WWII is focused on the European half of the conflict. So, to brush up my knowledge about the Pacific side of the conflict was an educational experience. May the author, his comrades and all of their war dogs rest in peace.
Profile Image for Sheila Boyd.
3 reviews
May 23, 2017
These magnificent animals and the men that handled them are heroes. We owe a great debt of gratitude for our freedom we have today. Memorial weekend is coming up, take a moment and reflect on the sacrifices that were made. God Bless the USA
Profile Image for Denise.
122 reviews
December 28, 2017
I found the subject interesting but the writing bogged down for me with too many maneuvers and military division names and minutia of military service. I think the premise is excellent and the dog info interesting and especially the call to decommission these dogs after service instead of destroy them. Worth the read overall.
Profile Image for SFrick.
360 reviews
October 22, 2017
Excellent read. The author Mr. Putney does one heck of job telling his story(non-fiction). Just wish there were an appendix of references to refer to.
Profile Image for Perian Hanlon.
150 reviews2 followers
May 25, 2018
Loved learning about how the dogs were trained m; I would reread those chapters again. The war recounting was less interesting to me.
Profile Image for John.
27 reviews
July 5, 2019
Pretty good, the descriptions of the battle scenes were great and exciting. Would make a good movie someday.
459 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2020
Excellent book. Minor quibbles: it’s fun sight, not site, and Dobe markings are rust, not tan.
Profile Image for Christie.
100 reviews23 followers
April 2, 2013
This is such an extraordinary account of the role that Marine Dogs played in WWII. More than that, this a heartwarming and, at times, a heartbreaking journey that explains how the bond between a soldier and his dog was forged from training through deployment and then battle. Dr. Putney's role in the training and care of these dogs was crucial in the success of the Marine War Dogs Corps. Throughout history dogs have served gallantly in battle and during the deadly battles that took place in Guam during World War II, the Marine Dogs played such a crucial part in achieving victory for the Allies. Their role in scouting, carrying messages, detecting mines, guarding camps and attacking the enemy was invaluable to the troops. More than 550 patrols on the island of Guam were led by these dogs and not one patrol was ambushed. Unfortunately, that success record came at a cost of canine lives and those tales are the ones that are so heartbreaking.

At the end of the war, Dr. Putney led the crusade to have the surviving service dogs returned home to the families who had selflessly offered their pets to the military to help win the war. His efforts were rewarded and he led the program of "detraining" the canine veterans and reuniting them with their owners. There are great photos in the book including the memorial at the War Dog Cemetery at the U.S. Naval Base at Orote Point, Guam dedicated in 1994 by Dr. Putney to the 25 Marine War Dogs who gave their lives liberating Guam.
248 reviews2 followers
March 5, 2013
I read this after seeing it referenced in Sergeant Rex. It's the story of the Marine Working Dogs unit developed in WW2 to keep the Marines from being surprised by Japanese ambushes and attacks. The author enlisted in the Marine Corps before the war and was assigned to the Dog Corps to develop the first scout dogs used by the Marines. With the help of a Hollywood trainer and their ingenuity they developed the training practices that led to the Marines using the dogs in the invasion of Guam. The book has many stories of the heroics of the dogs and their handlers. It also discusses the problems the dog corps had in gaining respect from senior officers. The book is interesting to read but you don't get to know the dogs as well as in the book Sergeant Rex. But the stories and exploits are still interesting to read. One story stood out. A colonel didn't have faith in the capabilities of the dog corps and ignored the warnings of the handlers that his route was filled with mines. He told them that the route had been cleared by mine detectors. His jeep hits a mine and throws him several feet. After that he had all the routes cleared by dog teams. The dog teams always did a better job in detecting the mines then the mechanical mine detectors. It's another aspect of the second world war that is reported much, but the Marine dogs provided a valuable service and saved a lot of lives. It's a short book and worth a read.
Profile Image for Tasha .
1,025 reviews37 followers
December 19, 2011
The writing itself was a 3 star read, so that's what I chose to rate it. A good read but not spectacular. However, the story itself and the author's love, bravery and tenacity towards these brave dog heroes is a 5 star rating in my book. A great story and one that I think many may not be aware of today. MANY dogs were shipped overseas and naturally played the role of protector, warrior, hero and friend to our brave soldiers, literally saving many lives. Not all returned but because of William Putney, and others like him, many were given a second chance upon returning to the states. Putney believed these dogs should and could be debriefed and returned to civilian life, you will too after reading this book. Putney gives us great food for thought (and hopefully action too) about today's brave dog warriors/heroes who are not given a second chance after their service to our country.

Update : 12/2011
I bumped up the rating to 4 stars. The book has stayed with me since i've read it and I've read similar books since and it continues to have an impact on me.
Profile Image for Chris.
895 reviews6 followers
September 21, 2009
No offense to Capt. Putney - he has a great story to tell, he just doesn't know how to tell it. Harris Done's documentary film, War Dogs of the Pacific, tells the same story and breaks your heart. Putney seems more concerned about recording the details. From his actions, it's obvious he cares very deeply about the dogs and the men who worked with them in World War II but he has a difficult time expressing his emotions in the printed word. Still, it's an interesting part of history and carried a timely message when it was published - Congress had just passed legislation requiring that dogs used in war be detrained and returned to civilian life whenever possible. Putney and his men proved this to be possible yet dogs used in subsequent wars were destroyed without anyone even attempting to detrain them.
Profile Image for Granny.
171 reviews1 follower
August 22, 2011
I really enjoyed this book because it combined two of my favorite subjects: dogs and WWII. It was so interesting to go through all the months of hard training the dogs were put through with combat simulation, and the wonderful care that Putney, a veterinarian/Marine, gave to the dogs. The dogs weren't always treated with the greatest respect by the higher command levels, as they were considered to be property, not living creatures with needs. And, finally to get shipped into the Pacific with their handlers to face the enemy. This was a testament to those brave dogs. So many courageous dogs gave their lives to save our soldiers. Brings to mind that Bible quote, John 15:13: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Men and dogs both gave their lives for each other, and for all of us. I hope their reward in Heaven is magnificent.
Profile Image for Michael Alexander.
456 reviews7 followers
April 19, 2012
All in all an enjoyable book although the content is the draw here, as opposed to the actual prose. It would also be a good idea to have a fairly good working knowledge of WWII history, as the author hits on many places and events but doesn't go into explicit detail explaining them.
The animals the book focuses on are truly some amazing creatures. The danger they faced was incredible, as it was usually the dog and his or her handler leading patrols. Even the environment was dangerous, Dobermans and German Shephards aren't really built for the tropical jungle. Nearly every dog deployed was dealing with hookworm and heartworm infections while doing their duty. The dogs and their handlers saved many lives, by alerting their fellow soldiers to ambushes, mines, and hidden enemy snipers. Many of the dogs lost their lives doing this, and their sacrifice should be remembered.
Profile Image for Ashley.
82 reviews
September 8, 2016
This book is an account of the first war dogs ever trained and then used in World War II, written by the veterinarian that began the program and fought along side the dogs in Guam. Details of how the dogs were trained, their deployment, and then performance in war ranged from interesting to heart wrenching. These dogs were true soldiers. Worth a read and goes pretty quickly coming in just over 200 pages.
Profile Image for Cormacjosh.
114 reviews2 followers
May 14, 2014
Read from April 10th to April 26th, 2014, this book was on loan from a nice gentleman at work whose Uncle wrote it. It was a fascinating story and a quick read. I knew nothing about the USMC War Dog program other than it existed, and I found the detail of the story interesting and quite absorbing. This is a highly recommended read for those who enjoy stories of the 2nd World War, or stories that involve animals as the central part of the narrative.
18 reviews
August 9, 2015
It was interesting to ready about Captain Putney's experience in WWII as the CO of a war dog platoon. I'm glad that he shared his story and the story of some of the dogs under his command. There were several things he kept repeating but not going any further into detail about that detracted from the book. One of the reasons for this might have been lack of records to research details. I'm glad that he was able to help save some of the dogs that were enlisted.
Profile Image for Paper Clippers.
548 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2015
As a twenty-three-year-old veterinarian, William W. Putney joined the Marine Corps at the height of World War II. He commanded the Third Dog Platoon during the battle for Guam and later served as chief veterinarian and commanding officer of the War Dog Training School, where he helped train former pets for war in the Pacific. After the war, he fought successfully to have USMC war dogs returned to their civilian owners.
The above is the summary provided by Goodreads.
55 reviews
May 14, 2011
The untold story of Marine war dogs and their handlers in the Pacific during WW II. A good read for those who want to understand what military dogs undergo. The dogs and their handlers become like married couples.
February 6, 2016
Great book

This book is a must for everyone, but truly a must for dog lovers. The author speaks in detail the bravery of these dogs and the stories of the many lives they saved. A truly great read.
Profile Image for Kassidi.
47 reviews
November 8, 2016
This memoir really is emotional. I never knew how much dogs really did in the military, and it is a shame that they aren't recognized enough. Although this book is depressing to any animal lover, it also has its proud moments. I absolutely loved this memoir, and recommend it to everyone!
164 reviews1 follower
October 12, 2008
I love animals and loved this book. It was really amazing to learn about the part that average american pets (dogs) played in World War II. This was a real tear jerker.

Profile Image for Shayla.
Author 1 book21 followers
March 21, 2011
This book told the amazing true story of men and their dogs and the close bonds they formed. From the long-lost mascot Bobby to the couragous messanger dog Missy, this book had many tales to tell.
Profile Image for Fredrick Danysh.
6,844 reviews158 followers
October 13, 2015
A delightful and factual book about the dogs used by the U.S. Marines in the Pacific during World War II. It also tells what happened to many of them after their combat days were over.
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