A number of collections in the Old China Hands Archives document the lives of American military personnel serving abroad in the 20th century, primarily in China but also in other countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Scrapbooks, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera sometimes document extraordinary moments, but largely show what day to day living was like for individuals serving abroad in the United States military. Alongside photographs of local sites and fellow servicemembers, dogs make fairly frequent cameos. Today on Valentine’s Day we’ll highlight a few beloved canine companions that caught the affections and attention of people serving in the military.
Photographs in the Captain Charles Jackson Papers capture the image of Captain Jackson with dog Judy while at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in 1946. Captain Charles Jackson entered the United States Marine Corps in 1934 and served in Tientsin (Tianjian), China from 1939 to 1941. He retired in 1955 with the rank of Captain.
The Fred M. Greguras Papers contain a number of photographs featuring furry friends. An unidentified U.S. Army servicemember serving in Korea took a photograph of Pete, General James Van Fleet's dog. The location of the photograph is unclear, but the image was carefully captioned on the back with the dog’s name.
The Greguras Papers also contain a photograph album put together by Frank Allen, documenting his time in the primarily in the Philippines and possibly during the Spanish-American War period. The photographs in the album are carefully captioned and capture both familiar-faced domestic friends as well as a "Coyotie Dog."
A number of dogs can be found in a group of ephemera and photographs in the Greguras Papers believed to have originally belonged to a U.S. Marine named James Smith. Smith was stationed in Beijing (referred to as Peking or Peiping) in 1946. Smith took multiple photographs of two dogs named Butch and Duffey, but there isn’t any mention of them elsewhere in the papers, so their full stories are unknown.
Many of these dogs are documented in photographs only, with the exception of Soochow, a well-known U.S. Marine companion. His passing merited an obituary in the U.S. Marine publication Leatherneck. Soochow was born in 1937 in Shanghai and named after Soochow (Suzhou) Creek, where he was found by the Fourth Marines. Soochow, a stray, was adopted as a new "member" and unofficial mascot of the 4th Regiment. On the eve of the United States' entry into World War II, Soochow traveled with the Marines to the Philippines. There he survived the Battle of Corregidor and became a prisoner of war until his POW camp was liberated in 1945. At the close of the War, Soochow moved to the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot and remained in the U.S. until his death in 1948.
Whether glimpsed in a single photograph, or documented and beloved across continents, dogs provided servicemembers comfort, camaraderie, and a sense of familiarity when far from home. The care taken in identifying photographs of dogs, and the affection shown by the humans in the photographs, is a testament to the love and connection between human and dog.