Friday, February 12, 2016

The War Dog Beach Patrol of Bayocean

Photo of unidentified dog and handler from US Coast Guard Historian's Office. I'm still hunting for photos of Bayocean's patrol.
From April 1943 to September 1944, the Coast Guard maintained a war dog beach patrol station on Bayocean. They rented the three houses  Portland lumberman Johann Poulsen had built at the inception of Bayocean Park. The station was headquartered in the house owned by Johann's daughter Thora King, later by the Hicks. Twenty-two enlisted men stayed in cots in the basement until they built a 25 x 50 barracks for themselves in the fall of 1943. Station logs show numbers fluctuating during the eighteen months they were there, with station commander First Class Petty Officer Ed Russ as the only constant. He and his wife Genevieve and infant son Phil (names provided by Lady Russ, wife of Phils' younger brother Brian)  lived in Johann and his wife Dora's place, which had been inherited by their daughters Marie Kerns, Kate Thatcher, and Louise Zan inherited in 1939 after Dora died. Second in command was First Class Petty Officer Kenneth Trafton. He and his wife Mildred lived in the house owned by the Poulsens' daughter Agnete Bates. 

The first 22 Coast Guard patrolmen 
listed in Bayocean logbooks. If you 
recognize any please contact me.

Edwin (Ed) Russ. Photo courtesy
of his daughter-in-law Lady Russ
In the early stages of American involvement in World War II there were fears of land invasion and sabotage by Germany along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and by the Japanese on the Pacific Coast. So, in the latter half of 1942, the Coast Guard established a  Beach Patrol Division and set up an integrated network of lookouts and patrols by foot (with and without dogs), horse, and boat which left no stretch of beach vulnerable. They worked closely with the Army, whose soldiers would be called in to take over if an invasion was discovered. The Coast Guard would hold off the enemy as best they could with rifles, machine guns, and dogs. 

Based on interviews with those who were children at the time, the dogs of Bayocean did their job quite well. Vance Mason said they sometimes got loose and terrorized the neighborhood. To him, they looked like deer loping through the brush. He'd scurry to climb the nearest tree in terror. Joann (Dolan) Steffey, whose father A.T. Dolan bought one of the houses after the war dog patrol left, came very close to being mauled by one of the dogs. Donny Meyers fondly recalls watching movies at the main house (later owned by the Hicks) on Sunday afternoons with his buddies. He was befriended by one of the guardsmen, who would take him along when he fed his dog. It was friendly then, but he knew better than to approach it - or any other dog - at any other time. These dogs had all been someone's pet before the war. They were recruited and trained by Dogs For Defense. Men at the station, who were not their handles, would regularly "agitate" them to make sure they continued being ferocious to anyone who was not their handler.

Typically, two men and a war dog went out for six-hour shifts, and covered the entire coastline of Bayocean - around the clock at the beginning, just at night in the end. In August 1943, Oregon Governor Earl Snell established rules and gave the patrolmen authority to enforce them. They confiscated cameras, put out bonfires, and kept cars off the beach. They weren’t very popular with teenagers. 

Pat Patterson. Photo courtesy of his daughter Dee Cherry
The station logbooks (National Archives, Washington DC) show comings and goings of officers from the Naval Air Station Tillamook. Lieutenants (JG) Lynn Clapp and E.S. Klock handled things requiring a commissioned officer. Chaplain Townsend provided religious services. Harry Levin looked after their medical needs. Army Captain Burg was the veterinarian. 

After D-Day the threat of invasion by Germany and Japan was less of a threat, so beach patrols were fazed out, with the Pacific Coast being last. Some of the men, who had been recruited from farms in mid-America because of their experience with animals, went home. Most of the dogs were retrained for civilian life. But some went on to serve in battles overseas. One group helped train Chinese Nationalists in the use of war dogs and horses (information in this paragraph is from Prints in the Sand). Pat Patterson of the Garibaldi horse patrol stayed to marry a local girl and become a port commissioner. Now in his 90s, he fondly recalls stories from the time he served his country in this special way.