BY CHRIS PRICE
Hello. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Christopher
D. Price. I am the son of Tommy D. Price-42nd IPSD, Vietnam-1971.
My Dad thought you would enjoy getting a son's point of view of
a dog handler. The more I thought about it (which took all of about
20 seconds), it did seem to be a good idea. Maybe even a whole new
chapter for the 42nd IPSD.
As a child, when my Dad was in, I do remember more than many give
me credit for, and more than I have told anyone else. I remember
seeing the news and wondering, "My Daddy will fix all of it,
don't worry." I admit, at that age I didn't really understand
the full scope of all that was going on in "The Nam",
but I knew that it was something big......and my Dad was there.
I remember seeing my Mom, glued to the TV, waiting for a sight of
him, eyes welling with tears. Only years later did I realize that
she was hoping to see Dad, and praying that she wouldn't. There
were a lot of late nights, prayers, tears and most importantly hugs.
Dad was gone for a long time......when is he coming home?
I remember so vividly the day we met Dad when he came home. I was
so short and those buildings were so tall. At my height, the floor
actually formed a horizon to me. I could only see his head at first,
but I knew......that was my Daddy. I ran to meet him, not exactly
half way (laughing), but I was all there. My Daddy was finally home!!
Life after he came home was.....how shall I put this.....an adventure
to say the least. He was so different. I couldn't figure out why
my Daddy was different than he was when he went away. But, I put
that aside and learned to deal with the "oddities" and
went on. Though our "father/son" relationship was not
to be the same for some thirty years.....I loved him without question.
It has taken many years to gain some of the stories that happened
to him while he was there. I knew not to "prod" because
I DIDN'T know the repercussions if I did. He became very withdrawn,
and it took my own experiences to understand why. I could see the
pain and even fear in his eyes for a long time after he came home.
This later turned to pain and exhaustion. I could never tell him
just how much I DID understand his pain. I could (and still) only
wait until he is able to reach out himself.
I know that I am rambling, I know.....but there are so many memories,
feelings, emotions......it will take a lot to be able to convey
them all to you. I hope that we will be able to correspond further
on this, as I too (as Dad does) have no outlet at this time to the
things I have experienced as the son of a dog handler.
(There will be another story by Tommy Price about the injuries suffered
"A TRIBUTE TO ALL WAR DOGS" - by Gene Wimberly
I heard a story once about all the animals in the world. God
was talking to them. He said, Who will stand with Man? The dog
spoke up and said, I will. It has been that way through history.
The relationship between the Scout Dog Handler and his Dog is
a special one. Our lives were entrusted to each other skills.
Mistakes meant death or somebody being wounded. Where you walked
-everybody else would walk, if they were smart. Nobody wanted
to get close to you. If you tripped a mine the grunts did not
know you that well and it did not hurt them as bad as it would
if one of their guys bought it. While you were in the field they
loved you. You were the man! You were going to walk point for
them. They felt safe because you and your dog were there to guard
them from the unseen danger. You find a mine, or pop an ambush,
and they love you. You miss, well, I have been over that already.
That brings up a nice question. Why did we do it? I for one felt
safer having my dog in front and knowing what was going on. I
felt my best chance for surviving was was with my dog. I was right.
The dog teams that were KIA more than likely had that same point
of view. When we took point it was because we could do it better
than anybody else around us. It takes a lot of guts to do that
job. After a fire fight it was not unusual to hear the Lt. say,
Dog Handler check it out. Now the SOB has you on a hot trail and
you know it is just a matter of time before contact again. Why
do you go down the trail? You trust your dog and you know your
chances are better than the grunts.
The teams that died----GOD BLESS THEM! They gave their lives
so that other may live. The dogs gave theirs out of love to their
handlers and some of the handlers out of love for their dogs.
We were a team. We worked as a team. We played as a team. We were
different--more independent than any GI in the war. We fought
the war with our best friend by our side. To Bad we could not
take our friends home.
Gene Wimberly, 42nd IPSD 101st Airborne
"POINT MAN" - by Ken Olson
My best friend sits beside me on the chopper. The early morning
fog which still covers the highlands is finally lifting. Huey
flying over tree tops with dark green jungle below.
On the ground. people asking questions. Same questions and "does
he bite"? Which way should we go?
Walking carefully. Watching eyes, ears and nose. Looking left,
front and right with quick glances. Wondering where did the enemy
Soldiers following. Talking loudly. Line grunts! Kicking C-Ration
cans. I'm wondering. Will I ever make it home?
My friend speaks silently. With his eyes, ears and nose. Sounds
of movement. The jungle moves. A flash. A bang. Automatic weapons
fire breaks my ear drums as I look for my best friend ahead.
More firing. Grenades exploding. Fear grows inside me. My heart
feels empty. Wondering if he's there. Being purposely still. Or
is my best friend dead?
Explosions getting louder. Green tracers and red. The jungle
is moving. Elephant grass weaving. Soon I see my best friends
eyes, ears and nose. Finally I am elated seeing his Belgian Shepherd
I smile. Then silence. All is still. I check my M-16. Magazine
empty. Don't remember firing. Wounded crying around me. Ours and
theirs. Smoke lingers near the jungle floor. Slowly lifting as
the noon sun rises. Some American soldiers look. And count their
The silence is broken. My best friend is already at my side.
Sniffing me all over to see if I'm alright. I pat his head softly.
Whisper "good boy" and "Search". And so it
begins again. I think of home for a brief second. Until I realize
my thoughts must wait if I'm to return home. So my thoughts return
to my best friend. My eyes fixed on his eyes, ears and nose.
Sound of choppers. Pop smoke! Phu Bai, Chu Lai, Saigon. Silver
Bird! Going home. Happy but sad. At the kennel. Trying to say
good-bye to my best friend. Tears, in his eyes and mine. Whispers
of thanks my friend. He knows I must go and silently wishes me
and my family well with his eyes, ears and nose. I don't look
back. I look at my patch. 101st, 42nd Scout Dog Platoon scroll.
I know I must go. My heart is saddened at this good-bye.
I'm on the plane. Homeward bound. I see the dark green jungle
below fade away as we climb above the clouds. I think of my best
friend. And I start to cry.
I get home. Brain tumor and surgery. Agent Orange? Finish a career
with the Army. Successfully I might add. Stayed Infantry and I'm
damn proud of that. Talk to other soldiers who were unaware of
the best friends some of us Viet Nam Vets had. Scout Dog Handler?
What the hell is that?
20 years. Retirement. New job. More stories of a past Army career.
Old photos come out from time to time. My best friend always appears.
Memories!Laughter! Sadness! Then tears.
Then God appears and says: Dog Handler! Look who's here!
The smell of a kennel is near. My best friend Fritz, 1K14 is
here. I'm smiling. His tail is wagging. And more tears.
God Bless them all. Dog Handlers and their best friends.
MY TRIP TO NAM WITH MY DOG SGT. BILKO 1966
I was sent from Germany to Ft. Benning and at that point no one
knew what the IPSD meant on my orders. Classified???
I arrived at Ft. Benning and was soon to find out. We were sent
to the kennels to pick out our dog. I got by a kennel and saw
the name Sgt Bilko and there in the back of the kennel was a dog
just standing there. I said to the dog, If you are as stupid as
the damn name you are my dog! The dog then lifted his head up
and looked at me the way only a German Shepherd Dog looks at you.
Wondering which one of us was the most stupid! That is how my
dog got the name "Stupid" This was a name given with
He was far from being a stupid dog and was responsible for saving
my life many times and the lives of many others over the next
few years. We went to Nam the last of Aug or 1st of Sept. Flew
over in a C141 . 3-4 plane loads. Each plane had a 2-1/2 ton truck
and trailer, people and dogs. Our plane had the LT's jeep and
trailer, all extra dogs along with our own dogs and LT Limer,
Harry Brown, Melander, myself and a few more. Left Warner-Robins
AFB in GA . One aircraft at a time in a 3-4 day period, then on
to McCord AFB in Seattle-Tacoma area, then to Alaska and on to
Japan . From there another small island where we had to have the
hydraulic system in the airplane repaired. From there we went
toTonsunute AFB in Saigon.
The dogs were excercised in Alaska and Japan and when fed they
were given a tranquilizer in their food. We ended up in tent city
Bravo,Saigon.. The dogs were kept in old kennels that had been
used by the Air Force. An Air Force Vet (Captain) attended to
the dogs everyday for about a week.From there we were moved to
Phan Rang to the 1st Bde 101st Airborne Div. We were put out on
the perimeter near a garbage dump. The first night we slept under
the stars. Helmets were used as water bowls and we had large aluminum
bowls for the food. We had to dig holes to put the helmets and
bowls in so the dogs did not tip them over.
There were three concrete pads for 3 GP tents. The NCO had one
and the E4's and below had 2 tents. Limer and Cohenour shared
a small Hex tent. We then had to build a wall of sandbags around
the tents, 2 bags wide and 6-8 bags high. :Later on the engineers
came in and poured concrete floors for the
vet shack and kennels. After that they built a vet shack and put
up kennels. A new shower was built from a gasoline tank off of
an airplane. Cleaned
out good and placed on top of a wooden frame. The engineers also
help to build a small place for the guys to shave and wash. An
AirForce 10KW Generator and a walk in refer was "FOUND"
just laying around and the engineers helped set these up and then
put electricity into the tents.
Handlers went to the field for at least 7 days and the average
time was 25-30 days. Resupply of food for dogs and amno came in
with the Infantry resupply chopper.. The longest time I spent
in the field was 39 days. I was out for 22 days, came in long
enough to get the mud off (about two days) and then back out for
the 39 day period. Sgt. Bilko and I transferred to the 34thIPSD
in May of 1967. to 1st Calvary Division. I left Nam July 1967,
went to Ft. Campbell then Ft. Bragg and retired from the Military
I always wondered what happend to my dog and found out in March
of 2002 that Sgt. Bilko was KIA in Oct of 1968 as was his handler
Richard Banaszyski of Wisconsin while serving with the 34th IPSD.
After all these years to find out my dog was KIA I sat down and
LARRY THOMASON, 42ND IPSD