By Dave O'Malley
When I was a child, when dogs were free-range, when days were forever and being inside was prison, I knew a German Shepherd dog named Sheba. Sheba was massive, collarless, dirty with oil from sleeping under a dump truck at night and frightening to strangers, but she was profoundly and warmly gentle with our group of neighbourhood children. At night she guarded wrecked truck carcasses and parts heaps in the back lot of Corkery's Cartage and by day she was free to wander... like we were. She was protective, omnipresent, playful and she gave us confidence to roam onto neighbouring turf where gangs of "Frenchies" were always looking for a fight. Calling our rivals this name was somewhat odd since most of our gang were in fact French - Laperriere, Therien, Laframboise, Bourassa, and Brisson - O'Malley and Gillan being the only English (Irish actually) names in the bunch. But these gangs were Farm Frenchies - different in a way I can't explain.
Sheba was our talisman, our juju, our good luck charm. We couldn't start a game without involving her or walk home without calling her to our side. She would crawl into our underground forts and we even constructed an “elevator” to give her access to our tree house. Dogs and young boys have a bond of understanding that is never spoken about, never analyzed, never strained, only enjoyed. To this day, I think of Sheba and how proud I was to be shadowed by her as I rode my bike down the dirt roads of a timeless Elmvale Acres. I have no memory of what happened to her, just images of her somewhere in the sunlight on those long, loose and happy days spent in her company. How she met her end is thankfully not in my head, but I know now that her assignment was to protect us, the Smyth Road Boys.
Every dog has its own cosmic assignment. Some snarling and unhappy German shepherds are to be chained to an engine block in a Pennsylvania junk yard, some bloated spaniels comfort lonely octogenarian spinsters while dining on marshmallows and cashews, some Pekingese change for the better the lives of shut-ins with requited affection while some pit-bulls are slated to bring menace and a degree of unearned security to mullet-headed reprobate dope dealers. Every dog has an assignment, every dog has his day.
While canines have roamed the planet for eons and shared the company and shelter of man over millennia, one powerful latter-day assignment is but a century old - the squadron or hangar dog - perhaps the highest calling any dog can have for he or she will provide anchorage and embrace for those in peril in the air.
We now know that the appearance of the first squadron or aviation dog dates to the crack of dawn of flight, to Kill Devil Hills North Carolina where the Wright brothers were still experimenting and preparing their machine for their now seminal flight. The dog is there, but his name is not recorded - just a nameless black dog accompanying a man and a boy. It is interesting to note that, in this photograph taken prior to that flight, this dog had accompanied four men from the Kill Devil Hill Lifesaving Station who were helping the Wrights move the aircraft. So, quite possibly, the first dog to frequent the halls and fields of flight had life-saving DNA - how very, very appropriate.
1903 Wright Flyer on the launching track at Big Kill Devil Hill, prior to the December 14th trial. Four men from the Kill Devil Hill Lifesaving Station helped move it from the shed to the hill, accompanied by two small boys and of course a dog - perhaps the very first squadron/hangar/aviation dog in recorded history. Inset: another Library of Congress collection photo showing Orville Wright's St. Bernard Scipio on the front porch of his Hawthorn Hill home in Dayton, Ohio. Scipio was not born until 15 years after the Wright's first flight, but he was a hangar hound regardless. Photos from the Library of Congress
The Wright brothers flight was only eleven years before the half-decade-long misery and meat grinder that was the First World War. By that time, the Squadron Dog was already part of the culture of aviation and in particular, military aviation. Many a group photo or image of pilots relaxing included a four-legged aviator standing mutely with his or her pilots and ground crews.
Over the years of storyline research for our website on the web and in books, I constantly ran across these images of smiling pilots and their dogs. In almost every image, the pilots appeared to be relaxed, confident, positive and even laughing. It got me to thinking about the role of these hangar hounds, these unit pooches, these squadron dogs. What is their universal appeal for the aviator? You never see dogs hanging around race car drivers or lawyers or locomotive engineers, so why the abundance of pooch 'n pilot imagery throughout the history of aviation?
The connection, I believe, is found in three of the most important factors impacting a combat pilot's life - youth, fear and loneliness - a potent mix that finds a semblance of balance and normalcy in a four legged animal with no animosity.
Firstly, fighter pilots and bomber crews are, if anything, young. Boys really, just a couple of years past high school, first dates, harvest time and field sports. And boys love dogs, and dogs, as they do, return that love in a never-ending do-loop of unconditional affection. Growing up, they see dogs as companions in adventure, non- judgmental listeners and surrogates for youthful love. It's just natural.
Secondly, combat airmen were facing repeated peaks of ungodly stress, horrific personal losses, endless deprivation and, in what has to be an understatement, an uncertain future. These strains and bombardments on their psyches caused extreme degradation in their confidence and overall mental state. The squadron dog provided momentary release from these responsibilities, and in the same way that today, dogs are used to help comfort, ground and bring relief to patients with Alzheimer's, dementia and depression, air crew will found solace in a dog and a link to a real world without the stresses they face.
Thirdly, and most importantly, most combat ground and air crew, despite the bravado and squadron camaraderie, were profoundly lonely. They longed for mail from home, their mothers and girl friends, a home-cooked meal, high school buddies, and some semblance of the way it was before they found themselves in their predicament. While stories abound of pub-fueled exploits with NAAFI girls and London "birds", the great majority of these young men spent their months and years of hardship without the simple blessing of affection. Mothers were not there to stroke their hair. Fathers were not there to lay a hand upon their shoulders. Sweethearts were not there to fold them in their arms. It is a known phenomenon that one sure way to feel the warmth of affection is to give affection. Enter the scrawny, floppy, slobbering, squadron puppy whose affection meter (sometimes called a tail) is always pinned at "Happy To See You".
The squadron dog had an important role in squadron life, and some dogs were given official status as "Squadron Mascot" such as the spaniel Straddle of 422 Squadron or the Vietnam F-105 Thunderchief drivers' legendary Roscoe, of the 34th Tactical Fighter squadron. But the vast majority of these welcome creatures were simply the stray puppy or the starving cur that haunted the chow line or the flightline. I have always wondered what happened to these dogs as the unit got transferred or the war wound down or their masters failed to return from a mission. I know in many cases of the death or capture of the pilot or crewman who owned the dog, that the little guy would have been adopted by a fellow airman. In rare cases, the dog emigrated to Canada upon the return of the squadron. The vast majority, unfortunately, were victims of the war.
I have this maudlin image in my head of the fate of most of these lovely dogs, especially those adopted in theatre. I see the desert of North Africa. The last aircraft is fading into the haze, trucks filled with equipment and ground crew are raising a cloud of dust in the low light of a late afternoon as they too fade into the distance. I feel a growing silence. I see the detritus of war blowing and flapping in the desultory breeze, flies buzzing over middens of cans and boxes. I see heat rising from the desert floor and a single whimpering dog, standing, looking... waiting. War is hell, even for dogs.
The Squadron Dog... long may the little guy live!
When this story was published in April of 2016 on the Royal Canadian Air Force website, Dave Corkery, the son of Pat Corkery, the owner of the trucking company where Sheba “worked” wrote me a letter. As tragic as it was, I finally found out what had happened to that maginificent dog—it was Sheba through and through and her memory swells in my heart more than 50 years on. Here is what he wrote:
I hope I have reached the right Dave O’Malley, who wrote that great story of the squadron dog, on the RCAF website. My name is Dave Corkery, the son of the owner of Corkery Cartage, Pat Corkery. You might have been the Smyth road kids, while we were the Russell Rd kids. We shared a back fence with the Russell Heights Project gangs! You probably knew Sheba, garage dog extraordinaire, in the late 50s or early 60s. The company went bankrupt and closed in 1968. I remember Sheba. She was the only garage dog they had that I wasn’t terrified of. The male dogs were nuts, but even they did not mess with Sheba. Gentle as a lamb, but fierce when needed. Only my Dad could go near her when she had her pups. I cannot remember how many times we had to tell her to get back to the garage, as Russell Rd in those days was a truck route, no sidewalks, and dangerous. Every spring she would have pups, and Dad would bring one up for us kids. We had at least 6-8 over the years, but almost all of them got lost or stolen, or got hit by cars! We named the first one Sam. The next was Max. Then we repeated those names with all the rest. To this day, when my brothers and I talk about our dogs, we have to figure out which Sam or Max we were talking about.”You mean Max, the black one? No, the Max with the ear half torn off fighting with the Smith Road dogs. No, that was Sam. You mean the Sam we used to sic on jerks that picked on us at Hutton Park? No, that was Max No. 3”. And so on! Sheba would walk up a few times a week to check on her pup. My mother would let my youngest brother Pat out to play in the back yard, and eventually, there would be Sheba, the pup and another dozen or so stray dogs sitting there, playing with my brother. Eventually, Pat could run faster on all fours than on two legs! What a zoo that place was. Mom called it “the house of nonsense”! My brothers Jack, Mike and Dan would roam Elmvale Acres with all the dogs, getting into mischief. (I was the good one!) Sheba was the best, even if she was hard to pet, because she did sleep under the trucks at night, and was pretty filthy. Odd how we never had any break-ins at our house!
Unfortunately, Sheba did not go gently to her final resting place. She went out like a Viking! At the end of Russell Rd, where the city bus yards are now, was a cement company, Francon Construction. We were all warned to never go near there, as they had Huskies patrolling the place, and they were vicious. Maybe Sheba just lost her mind with age, or she had a score to settle, but one day, she walked down there, and the battle was on. She took on 4 of them. Killed one. She didn’t make it. I come home to cops, Francon forman and Dad all yelling at each other, 5 kids crying, with poor old Sheba in the back of a pickup. The Francon guy was screaming at Dad, telling him he had to buy them another dog. I could tell you what Dad said to him, but women and children may read this, so let me paraphrase what he said: “No”. We took Sheba for granted, as she was a constant in our young lives. It was a hard lesson to learn, that what you have today, you may not have tomorrow. She was a lot like my Dad, tough and fierce on the outside, but gentle on the inside. Maybe that’s why they got along so well. They understood each other.
I really enjoyed your Squadron Dog story. Hope this blast from the past wasn’t too maudlin! I should write a book about those days. But no one would believe it!
Squadron dogs of the Great War
The earliest photographs of the squadron pooch date to before the First World War, but it was conflict itself that created the need for young men to have requited love of the canine variety. These two Royal Flying Corps lads are delighted to show off their almost cartoon-like Jack Russell before setting out on a mission over German lines.
Two pilots and the squadron dog of 103 Squadron, RAF pose with their massive single-engined de Havilland DH9 bomber at Ronchin, France after the war. The dog was no doubt considerably more reliable than the notorious Liberty engines that powered the aircraft. Squadron hounds have roamed the ramps of military airfields as long as there have been pilots to feed them.
Though a wild fox, this squadron mascot of an RFC pursuit squadron does have the canine qualifications.
No. 62 Squadron RAF officers (possibly Nivelles, France) wearing a mixture of RAF and RFC uniforms. Commanding Officer Major Smith is seen at centre with dog. The squadron dog is far more interested in the squadron cat held by the seated officer at the right. Though cats always frequent hangars in wartime, it is the squadron dog who offers love and affection for returning warriors. Photo: Maj. Smith Collection
American officers of the 135 Aero Squadron with Wopsie. Wopsie, a floppy-eared black-and-white terrier type, who lived at the Air Service Headquarters of Second Army (to which the 135th Aero Squadron belonged) was the mascot of the enlisted men, who made fun of the officers by quoting the dog. When “interviewed” by a reporter, Wopsie spoke in Brooklynese: “Youse army guys are all wrong. . .You let these higher-ups around here bluff you into thinking that they are some punkins. They don’t impress me much. I’d just as soon break into a conference of generals and colonels as I would on a crap game in the Message Center. They’re all alike – I’ve got the dope on ‘em all.”
Squadron dogs go back as far as military aviation. Here we see famed First World War American ace Eddie Rickenbacker with a dog called Spad, the 94th Aero Squadron mascot. Spad was named after a type of fighter aircraft the 94th flew during the war. Many squadron dogs would would find their names from aviation or military life. Photo: Auburn University Libraries
The Red Baron, Manfred Von Richthofen and his beloved dog Moritz. This is what he had to say about Moritz in his diary: The most beautiful being in all creation is the genuine Danish hound, my little lap-dog, my Moritz. I bought him in Ostend from a brave Belgian for five marks. His mother was a beautiful animal and one of his fathers also was pure-bred. I am convinced of that. I could select one of the litter and I chose the prettiest... He has a silly peculiarity. He likes to accompany the flying machines at the start. Frequently the normal death of a flying- man's dog is death from the propeller. One day he rushed in front of a flying-machine which had been started. The aeroplane caught him up and a beautiful propeller was smashed to bits. Moritz howled terribly and a measure which I had hitherto omitted was taken. I had always refused to have his ears cut. One of his ears was cut off by the propeller. A long ear and a short ear do not go well together.
Squadron Dogs of the Second World War
RCAF Pilot Officer Hugh Constant Godefroy and the 403 Squadron mascot. Godefroy would go on to score 7 kills and retire as Wing Commander Godefroy, DSO, DFC and Bar, Croix de Guerre with Gold Star. 403 Squadron was known as Wolf Squadron, so they had a particular love of canines, wild or domesticated.
The caption I found with this photograph simply said "Dick with Dog". The is Pilot Officer Willie Lane. Lane died shortly after the photo was taken. Since Lane was shot down on 15 May 1943 (and was reported killed on 8 June 1943) we can assume the photo was taken during the second week of May 1943.The look of gentleness on the young pilot's face tells us how much comfort these dogs were capable of giving these stressed young men. Thanks to Dean Black of Airforce.ca for the identifying Lane. The dog's name was Lucy. Photo via Magnumcharger on Flickr
The same mascot puppy named Lucy charms his way into the heart of pilot Roy Wosniak (R) and fitter Sergeant Delong. Wozniak left the squadron for 55 OTU for a rest, on 3 June 1943. He had been flying with the squadron for one year. It is conceivable, therefore, that the photo was taken about the middle of May 1943. On 24 April 1942, Cpl Delong participated in a mock defence and mock attack of the squadron. He singlehandedly captured 18 “notional enemy” with weapons. He was promoted shortly thereafter. He was posted out of the squadron on 31 August 1943 - thanks to Dean Black of Airforce.ca for the identities of the airmen. Photo via Magnumcharger on Flickr
Royal Air Force ace, Flight Lieutenant Stanley Lock, DSO, DFC and Bar poses with his Spitfire and his dog. Lock's aircraft is marked with 26 kill marks. This photo was taken in July of 1941... days later he would be shot down. Tradition would have the dog taken care of by a surviving pilot. Lock became the RAF's most successful British-born pilot of the Battle of Britain, shooting down 16.5 German aircraft. After the Battle, he went on to bring his overall total to 26.5 victories in 25 weeks of operational sorties over a one-year period - during which time he was hospitalized for six months. During the Battle of Britain he became known to his RAF chums as "Sawn Off Lockie", because of his extremely short stature. Within less than six months of becoming one of the most famous RAF pilots in the country, he went missing in action over Calais. Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS
RAF pilots relax with the squadron mascot before the next scramble during the Battle of Britain sends them to an uncertain future. The importance of the squadron dog cannot be overstated. Life Photo
19 Squadron Hurricane pilot Flight Sergeant Grumpy Unwin (second from left) is accompanied by Flash the Alsatian as he pays a visit to 616 Squadron pilots and their mutt at RAF Fowlmere during the battle of Britain, Photo: Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Royal Air Force fighter pilots of 16 and 19 Squadron seem to exude relaxed and youthful elan despite the strains of the Battle of Britain which they were presently fighting. Flight Sergeant Grumpy Unwin DFC sits between squadron mascots Flash the Alsation and Rangy the Spaniel. Photo: Imperial War Museum, Duxford
In the summer of 1940, the future of England was uncertain and all Englishmen looked to the skies to find strength and hope. For young Hurricane pilots like John Boulton (L), Gordon Sinclair and Jerrard Jeffries (R), solace could be found in small dogs and a good book. All three men served with 310 (Czech) Squadron at RAF Duxford, the present home of the Imperial War Museum, but only Sinclair and possibly the dog, survived the war. Photo: Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Another photo of 310 (Czech) Squadron pilots, probably taken on the same day as the previous photo, shows the same squadron dog and pilots Jeffries (third from left on ground), Boulton (sitting at centre) holding the same book that Jeffries had in the previous photo) and Sinclair (sitting with paper in his hand). Twelve of these pilots are looking down at the dog, lending credence to the importance and love bestowed upon their mascot. Photo: Imperial War Museum, Duxford
The Squadron Dog was such an important part of the Battle of Britain and all aerial battles of the war, that he/she is honoured at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel Le Ferne, Kent. Photo by PaulHP at Flickr.com
A close-up of the plaque of the Squadron Dog statue at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel Le Ferne, Kent. Photo by PaulHP at Flickr.com
The legendary Wing Commander Johnnie Johnson and his magnificent Labrador Sally on the wing of a post D-Day Spitfire.
The Dog Who Cannot be Named.
A squadron dog with controversial name. The cream of Bomber Command, a 617 Squadron Dambuster aircrew, with the squadron's mascot prior to the famous raid on the industrial dam system of the Ruhr. Nigger was a black Labrador retriever dog belonging to Wing Commander Guy Gibson, and the mascot of 617 Squadron. Nigger died on 16 May 1943, the day before the famous Dam Busters raid, when he was hit by a car. He was buried at midnight as Gibson was leading the raid. ‘Nigger‘ was also the codeword Gibson used to confirm the breach of the Möhne Dam. Nigger’s grave is at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire. He had often accompanied Gibson on training flights. According to Bruce Barrymore Halpenny in his books Ghost Stations, the ghost of Nigger has been seen on numerous occasions around RAF Scampton and also around the Dambusters Memorial at Woodhall Spa.
The pilots and aircrew of 617 Squadron, The Dam Busters, pose with dear old What's-His-Name and Wing commander Guy Gibson (with pipe, next to What's-His-Name). During the shooting of Peter Jackson's remake of the 1955 classic, The Dam Busters, there was much debate as to whether dear old Nigger should continue to carry his anachronistic, insensitive and racist moniker. The debate was between those who wish to expunge him from history and those that say he was history. Since shooting has stopped, it's a moot point.
Old What's-His-Name may have been a Lab, but he was a dinky one for certain. Here the curious little lad comes close to the camera while 617 Squadron crews, by their Lancaster, await a mission. Nigger was portrayed in the 1955 film, The Dam Busters. He was mentioned by name frequently in the film. In 1999, British television network ITV broadcast a censored version of the film, with all instances of the name removed. ITV blamed regional broadcaster London Weekend Television, which in turn alleged that a junior staff member had been responsible for the unauthorized cuts. When ITV again showed a censored version in June 2001, it was criticized by Index on Censorship as “unnecessary and ridiculous” and that the edits introduced continuity errors. In American screening on television, his name has been over-dubbed as Trigger.
Straddle, the squadron dog of 422 Squadron RCAF
P/O Straddle – 422 Squadron RCAF Mascot, posing by the mid-upper turret of a Mk 11 Sunderland flying boat. Straddle went on a number of ops and his favourite place was the Navigator’s table. Photo via Pembroke Sunderland Trust/Boxbrownie3
422 Squadron RCAF mascot, Straddle takes the co-pilot's seat in a Short Sunderland flying boat. 422 flew the massive Sunderlands on coastal and submarine patrols and Straddle was known to actually go on these patrols. In the left seat is Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Detwiller. Only once did Straddle “embarrass” himself. John Moyles, a 422 Squadron Sunderland navigator tells us: “I knew LLoyd Detwiller and also Straddle. We took Straddle on patrols and, as he was accustomed, stayed on the Navigator's table during takeoff. Once over the ocean the order, 'test guns' was given. There were four .303 Browning in the tail turret, 4 in the nose turret, and 2 in the mid upper. The gunners liked to position their turrets, tail starboard, nose port, and fire simultaneously. The recoil would throw the ship off course, much to the pilot's annoyance. One flight when we had Straddle on board, the 10 guns going off in unison, caused him to pee all over the navigator's map. Straddle had a sad ending. After VE-Day he was brought to Vancouver, and a year later, was hit and killed by a car.” Photo via Pembroke Sunderland Trust//Boxbrownie3
Straddle leads 422 Squadron pilots and ground crew through the centre of a small town - quite possibly Lough Erne in Northern Ireland where they were stationed during much of the Second World War. Note the squadron coat that Straddle is wearing. Photo via Pembroke Sunderland Trust//Boxbrownie3
Other Squadron Dogs of the Second World War
The caption on the back of this photo reads “Douglas Spur, Al Fleming, Officers Mess – McBrien, Brussels.” Group Captain Bill “Iron” MacBrien, otherwise known by the pilots as “Tin Willy” owned this massive Great Dane, reading over the shoulder of McBrien in this set up shot (McBrien's GC stripes seem to be a Wing Commander's but his epaulette is probably folded.) Photo via Dean Black of Airforce.ca
GC McBrien would insist that the 403 Squadron duty pilot take this Great Dane dog from one place to the other in the squadron Auster liaison airplane. The enormous dog would not behave at altitude, and the pilots hated the task, some insisting on taking a side arm just in case the dog threw a fit. Seen here is the 413 Squadron Auster being refuelled. Photo via Dean Black at airforce.ca
Two members of No. 31 (Beaufighter) Squadron RAAF, Flight Lieutenant G. A. Greenwood (L) and Sergeant B. Agnew hold the squadron mascots, a joey (young kangaroo) and an un-named dog at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory. Though the 'roo is cute as a button and the Aussie-est of pets, it would have about as much personality as a beaver would when it was fully grown. Plus it would never behave itself in a squadron parade. The dog's the one who will always stay close to home and always return the pilots' affection.
A group of pilots on a Boulton Paul Defiant Squadron pose with their Squadron Mascot at RAF Driffield. Photo via Adrian Woodall
Many a young man who sought comfort and friendship with a squadron dog would go on to greatness including Air Chief Marshal Sir Augustus Walker GCB CBE DSO DFC AFC. Here we see “Sir Gus”, as he was known, with his crew of No 50 Squadron in front of a Handley Page Hampden, with Fifty Gus' dog, RAF Lindholme 5 November 1940. Photo: Courtesy of Yorkshire Air Museum
This beautiful colour photo of P-51-D "Dragon Wagon" features its pilot Capt. James E. Duffy Jr. from the 354th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force and the barrel chested squadron mascot named Yank. The 354th pilots were known as the "Bulldogs", so dear old Yank was chosen for his British lineage.
First, Second or the Korean War... it never changes. Lt. J.J. Schneider, of St. Louis, sits on the wing of P-51 with Capt. J.B. Hannon, of Omaha at an airfield in Korea on Jan. 15, 1951. Between them is the oddly named Admiration Dog, mascot of their wing, who, according to the caption I found on a Russian website, flies with the airmen. AP Photo/JJim Pringle
Rusty, the cocker spaniel belonged to an American pilot named Lt. Augustus "Gus" Hamilton of the 366th Fighter Squadron, 358th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. He was killed in action near Bérou-la-Mulotière on July 14th, 1944 during a mission he volunteered for after he had completed his required missions. He was last seen diving his P-47 Mrs. Ham - Lil' Ham 3rd on a foursome of enemy aircraft. His bags were already packed to go home. The dog was adopted by the rest of the squadron and his aircraft code letters, IA-Z, were never assigned to a pilot again. Gus was honored with a memorial at his crash site several years ago. Inset: Hamilton (Right) with crew chief Sergeant Starr and Rusty at his feet. Photo via Carol.Lerche at flickr.com
A small aircraft needs a small dog. Somewhere in France little Soupée sits on the nose of a Stinson L-5 Sentinel Army cooperation aircraft nicknamed "Mary".
Adolph, the mascot for this B-17 crew and one of their gunners, a Sgt Sweeney were featured on the cover of YANK magazine July 7, 1944. Adolph returned to the states with Sweeney. The nickname of the B-17, Bachelors' Delight, speaks to the testosterone-fueled over-confidence of its crew, but they probably found requited and unconditional love with Adolph. Bachelors' Delight may lay claim to the most missions completed at 123.
Another B-17 crew in the USAAF's 8th Air Force. Crew 74 from the 390th Bomb Group, 571st squadron and their dog Ground Loop. This crew was shot down December 20, 1943 on bombing mission to Bremen, Germany with all but one surviving as POWs.
Bob Bogash sends us this shot of his uncle, Jerome Flohr - seen here in England with the crew (including Squadron Dog) of his B-17F "Tech Supply". Jerome, the aircraft navigator in the back row on the far left. Sadly, he was killed in November of 1943 after completing 17 missions. Photo via Bob Bogash
American Lt. Walter Konantz of 338th Fighter Squadron of the 55th Fighter Group cuddles his Scottish terrier Lassie next to his P-51D "Saturday Night". A close read of the inscription reads: Major (Ret) Walter J. Konantz 55th Fighter Group, 8th AF - 60 combat missions without abort, 2 Me-109s, 1-Ju88, 1 Me-262 jet fighter, 21 locomotives, 1 - ammo train. Photo R. Abbey, 55th Fighter Group Association
Walt Konantz and brother Harold Konantz were both fighter pilots with the USAAF - here they show off Walter's beloved Lassie. Photo: 55th Fighter Group Association
Lassie sits on the wing of Kanantz's P-51 Mustang Saturday Night. Photo: 55th Fighter Group Association
Air Force or Fleet Air Arm, a squadron dog is a must in many a group photo. Here RN 886 Naval Air Squadron and their aptly-named mascot Piglet form up for a photo.
The squadron pooch was and is a universal phenomenon. Here pilots of No.1 Squadron Tigers, Royal Indian Air Force, pose with Bonzo and their commanding officer Squadron Leader Arjan Singh, DFC (seated in driver's seat) at Imphal, India in 1944.
Canadian, Indian, Polish, American - it's all the same. Misla, the squadron mascot of 303 Kościuszko (Polish) Squadron RAF presides over a display of a fin from a JU-88 - the 178th German aircraft shot down by the unit. The squadron was named after the Polish and American Revolutionary hero General Tadeusz Kościuszko, and the eponymous Polish 7th Air Escadrille founded by Merian C. Cooper, that served Poland in the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War. Photo: Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum London
Top Left: The German Shepherd Varg joined 331 Squadron (a Norwegian squadron in the RAF) on the Orkney Islands and became their mascot. The dog had many owners over the years, and when one owner was killed on operations, he was passed onto another pilot. Here Varg is taken care of by Captain Ragnar Dogger. Top Middle: S/L Don Andrews, the Commanding Officer of No. 453 Squadron RAAF, pictured with his dog Sprog in England in 1942. Photo via Australian War Memorial. Top Right: 504 Squadron RAF mascot 'Susie' Middle Left: Squadron mascot Ciapek of 305 RAF Polish stands on the barrels of the nose turret of a Vickers Wellington. It didn't matter what the nationality of the squadron was, a small squadron dog was always wandering about. Middle Right: a 59 Squadron RAD, B-17 Flying Fortress crew at Chivenor, Devon, with Stinker. Bottom Left: Foxhole served as squadron mascot for US Marine Bombing Squadron 613 and companion to the men of the squadron. Foxhole's owner, Technical Sergeant Samuel A. Wolfe, found him on Eniwetok and brought him to Kwajalein via a PBJ. Bottom Centre: G C Unwin, DFM and Bar, DSO, with Flash, the 19 Squadron mascot. Unwin became one of the first pilots to fly the brand-new Spitfire in 1938. Bottom Right: An un-named Scottish Terrier was the USAAF 372nd Squadron's Mascot and is pictured here sitting on a sandbag by the bomb shelter on Los Negros.
Top Left: Can't remember where I found these guys, but they are Canadian (save the American) and their Irish Setter Top Centre: Frank, mascot to a bomb group of the Fifteenth Air Force, stares down the canine visage of a B-24 Liberator called Howling Wolf, Italy, 1944. Top Right The Squadron mascot, Peter - 70 Squadron RAF - a Vickers Wellington unit in North Africa. Bottom Left Flight Sergeant James Hyde of San Juan, Trinidad, a Spitfire pilot who arrived in Britain in 1942 to begin his training, here pictured in 1944 with his Squadron’s mascot, a dog called Dingo. Bottom Right: RCAF officer Ross Hamilton of 407 Squadron with Blackie, the squadron Mascot. As with many bomber squadrons with room aboard their aircraft, Blackie often flew Ops with 407 crews on their Lockheed Hudsons - though one has to think, he had no idea of the risks.
Roscoe, the legend who "commanded" a fighter base
Thud pilots who flew their war out of Korat, Thailand, will remember Roscoe. In fact, most anyone who did his Southeast Asia tour at Korat will remember the sandy colored mongrel who had the run of the place. Roscoe's origin is uncertain. What is known is that in June 1966, Roscoe came to Korat from Yokota AB, Japan. He came with his owner, Maj. Merrill Ray Lewis, when the F-105s came to Korat to form the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Major Lewis was shot down two months later over the Northeast Railroad and as of September 1973 - he was MIA.
When his owner did not return, Roscoe nearly died of a broken heart. He wouldn't eat and he moped around waiting for Major Lewis. Someone finally started taking care of Roscoe and got him to eat. He was adopted by the whole 34th TFS. Years later, when the 34th changed from F-105s to F-4s, Roscoe stayed with the squadron. Paperwork was submitted and Roscoe became the only official mascot of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.
Roscoe was named after Capt. Roscoe Anderson, an F-86 pilot, a MIG killer in Korea, and a friend of Major Lewis. When Captain Anderson was killed in an F-105 landing accident at Yokota, Major Lewis named the dog in his memory. Photo via 34 TFS History Website
Roscoe also has a plaque dedicated to his honor and the 40 KIA F-105 Thud pilots of the Vietnam War at the National Museum of the USAF, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio . Photo via 34 TFS History Website
Roscoe's plaque at his graveside at Korat, Thailand. Anyone wishing to learn more of this wonderful dog and how much he was loved by the men who flew at Korat, visit the 34 TFS History Website
Introducing the Vintage Wings Squadron Dogs
Anyone who has ever seen Mike Potter with Chilli can attest to her fierce loyalty. She can always be found within 10 feet of her master and has been known to nip pretenders and interlopers (such as the author) who think they can make a similar bond. Photo Peter Handley
Cleo, the English spaniel belonging to Rob Fleck, our president, is the most frequent canine visitor to Vintage Wings these days. Cleo is an old gal and you can usually find her resting near Rob's desk. Photo: Mother Fleck
Squadron or Hangar Dogs still function today to bring joy and affection to hard working pilots and maintainers like André Laviolette of Vintage Wings of Canada, seen here with Cleo. Photo: Mother Fleck
The author's best friend in the world, William Wallace Braveheart Kirkpatrick O'Malley, relaxes with his tennis ball under the wing of our Spitfire at the Vintage Wings of Canada hangar. Wallace has been known to leave gifts for the maintenance staff if he is not walked outside every few hours. Photo: Peter “What's-that-on my shoe” Handley
Wallace follows a departing Vintage Wings aircraft last summer. Like the great hangar dogs of the past 100 years, Wallace is vertically oriented – looking to the sky as airplanes and helicopters pass. And maybe squirrels.
A hundred years after Orville Wright's first flight, Orville Beckham prepares to solo in Kent Beckham's home-built Piits Special at the family airfield in Southern Ontario. In addition to flying for Air Canada, Beckham is a member of the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team. Photo: N. Kent Beckham
Vintage News subscriber Bob Bogash, a retired Boeing employee, sends us this shot of his beautiful Chiba "assisting" him restore the Boeing 727 prototype for one last flight. Photo Bob Bogash