Tag Archives: dogs

Vittles the Berlin Airlift Dog 130 Missions


Air Dog
Vittles, the only dog to log more than 130 missions during the Berlin airlift, proved also to be a great morale booster during the allied relief effort.
By Don Vaughan

Lt. Clarence “Russ” Steber, a former Air Force pilot, may hold the record for the most missions flown during the Berlin airlift, but it’s his boxer, Vittles, that most people remember.* And with good reason. Vittles was the only dog to log more than 130 missions from Erding, Germany, to Berlin and back. He even had his own parachute, on orders from Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay.

Steber, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying a record 415 missions during the 318-day allied relief effort to West Berlin, bought Vittles from a German friend when the dog was 1 year old.

But after I got him, I realized I didn’t have any place to leave him, Steber recalls. I couldn’t leave him in the bachelor officers’ quarters all by himself because sometimes I would be gone for two or three days at a time. So I started taking him in the plane with me.

Vittles quickly was adopted by Steber’s fellow pilots, who came to adore the affectionate pooch. If I had to take off without him for some reason, Vittles would get aboard another plane, and the crew would take care of him until we ran into each other again, says Steber, 86, of Melbourne, Fla. Vittles flew a total of 131 missions with me and many more missions with other pilots that were not recorded.

One day, Steber was instructed to see LeMay, who commanded the airlift at the time. I thought, “Oh boy, I’m in trouble now,”Steber recalls with a laugh. But much to Steber’s relief, LeMay wasn’t upset just concerned.

“Are you the pilot who owns the dog that’s flying in our planes to Berlin?” LeMay asked Steber.

“Yes, sir,” Steber replied.

“He’s flying without a parachute?” LeMay asked.

“Yes, sir,” Steber said. “Vittles doesn”t have a parachute.”

“That dog is the greatest morale builder to my pilots and crew than anything I can think of, so I want a parachute made for him,” LeMay said.

On the general’s orders, Vittles was outfitted with a special harness and parachute that attached to Steber’s chute via a tether. “If I bailed out with him, my chute would open first and pull the rip cord on Vittles’ chute,” Steber explains.
“That dog is the greatest morale builder to my pilots and crew than anything I can think of, so I want a parachute made for him.”

Gen. Curtis LeMay, USAF

Vittles’ parachute is the only one ever made by the Air Force for a dog now is on display as part of the Berlin Airlift Exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. “Throughout the history of the Air Force, animal mascots have provided unit identity and made valuable contributions to esprit de corps, says Senior Curator Terry Aitken. “The parachute allows us to tell the story of the Berlin Airlift’s mascot and the special bonds between Vittles and the pilots that he flew with as a “crew dog.” It’s a wonderful story and already a special hit with our visitors.

Vittles never had to use his parachute but Steber wasn’t so lucky. During one harrowing mission, in which Vittles did not participate, Steber lost his engines and had to bail out at a low altitude over Soviet territory. The landing knocked him unconscious, and he awoke to find himself in Soviet custody.

The Soviets interrogated Steber for several days, but all he would tell them was his name, rank, and serial number. “I was a young American, and I gave them a hard time,” he says. “Everywhere I went, they had a bust of Stalin on the desk and a picture of Stalin on the wall. One day I got tired of their questions, so I reached over and grabbed a bust of Stalin and pulled it toward me. “Who’s this?” I asked the interpreter. “Napoleon?

That insolent question earned Steber a beating at the hands of his angry captors. “It turns out that [everyone else in the room] could speak English and understand it too,” he recalls with a chuckle. Steber eventually was released and allowed to return to Erding, where he continued flying missions to Berlin.

Even though Vittles never had to bail out during a mission, he was aboard when Steber made a few hard landings. During one mission, the hydraulic pump on Steber’s C-47 burst and caught fire, forcing him to land with no flaps or power other than engines. “We crashed at the end of the field and struck an MP building, Steber says. Luckily, none of the crew including Vittles was injured.

Another time, Steber’s C-47, which he later learned had been overloaded, crashed at the end of a runway in Berlin, but again no one was hurt. And in a third hair-raising incident, Steber was forced to land with zero visibility because of fog.

“I was flying blind,” he recalls. “So using the ground control approach, I touched down on the runway as best I could. I couldn’t see a darned thing, but I kept hearing a blump, blump, blump noise. I got the plane stopped and we found that I was a little bit off the runway and had run over the runway lights.”

Between missions, Vittles was just part of the gang. “Everyone loved him because he brought a smile to their faces, Steber says. “The other guys enjoyed taking Vittles into the officer’s club and giving him pans of beer. Sometimes he got so drunk that I had to carry him home.

Vittles became a celebrity at home and abroad. In fact, his popularity was such that he became known as “the world’s most photographed dog. His picture appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, as well as in the comics. In one cartoon, Vittles is sitting at a table in the officer’s club with a fork and knife in his paws. The chief cook is behind him, yelling: “I don’t care how many missions he’s got, he’s not eating in my dining room!”

When the Soviet blockade of Berlin ended in 1949, Steber and Vittles were sent to Biggs AFB, Texas. At the age of 6, Vittles contracted heart worms from a mosquito bite and fell ill. LeMay, upon hearing the news, arranged for a veterinarian to care for the dog, but nothing could be done. When Vittles died, the news was reported on the front pages of the El Paso Times and the Air Force Times, as well as on the local television news. The beloved mascot of all who participated in the Berlin airlift was buried on the grounds of Biggs AFB.

Tagged , , , , ,

Lucy senior dog at Ground Zero

Lynne Engelbert & “Lucy”, age 10½
California Task Force 4 (Oakland, CA).

“We worked 12-15 hrs., went through decon and back to the Javits where she was greeted by the VMAT folks (they were awesome!), bathed in warm water, given her nose-to-tail vet check, fed, walked and then I would go take care of me. Usually when I returned from the shower, she would be out playing tug with the firefighters. Endless energy! Lucy was able to locate numerous remains and help to bring closure for several families … There are no credits on the rooftop shot. I just handed my camera to a nearby firefighter and asked him to take some shots. The rubble site shot was on the Marriott hotel site where Lucy located the remains of a firefighter. This photo was taken by Tom Clark, Structural Specialist with CA TF4 … Thank you for your efforts to recognize these wonderful animals.” — Lynne Engelbert.
NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (USA) — As a rule, emergency rescuers don’t hesitate to consider their own hides. Sadly, there were 341 brave firefighters who died by that credo in the Sept. 11 horror last year. And, not to be overlooked, just as many dogs were just as eager to rush toward an uncertain fate for the sake of duty.

Only one dog died in the World Trade Center1, but the risks taken by each of the estimated 350 search-and-rescue (SAR) pooches were immense, nonetheless. They walked on shattered glass, stuck their noses into concrete dust and crawled on their bellies through cavities that even rats were too afraid to explore. So what exactly is the price for such devotion?

Skin cancer, prostatitis, nerve damage and arthritis are a few of the ailments that are dogging “Bear”, a 12-year-old Golden Retriever who sniffed through the rubble for three months. But we’ll get to Bear’s story in a minute. First, let’s hear the facts agreed upon by most veterinarians and handlers.

“The University of Penn is doing a study of the teams that worked the WTC and Pentagon,” says Lynne Engelbert, a rescuer with California Task Force 4, “So we will find out in about 3 years if there are any ill effects.

“Lucy (left) didn’t have any issues at all. And she was 10½ years old at the time. She worked the rubble like a puppy … I know more of the teams that worked either the WTC or the Pentagon and know of nothing so far in any of them.”

Indeed, if there’s one indisputable point, it’s that the ASPCA, Suffolk County SPCA, VMAT and “doggy M*A*S*H” units took good care of our four-legged helpers (and we can’t overlook the TLC from a few volunteer dog-chiropractors on site who offered some professional back-rubs). But even with such expert care, our canine first-aid teams were not infallible.

For one, there’s no accounting for the psychological trauma that possibly could have affected some of the dogs. Fortunately, though, most dogs who have been trained in disaster recovery were well prepared for the “smell of death”.

As Ms. Engelbert explains: “This is what Lucy and I train to do. Although the site was massive and the devastation total, we were ready to go to work and did so as soon as we could. …finding the dead isn’t new to us. Although we would much prefer to find the living, helping to bring closure for the families of the victims was also gratifying. Knowing the families had ‘something’ definitive and could go on with their lives brings a sense of accomplishment.

“Neither one of us have had any emotional issues as a result of this deployment.”

full article here;:http://dogsinthenews.com/issues/0207/articles/020723a.htm

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

full article here

Coby and Guinness two labrador retrievers — searched tirelessly through the rubble of the World Trade Center 10 years ago before returning home to Southern California and, eventually, retirement at their handlers’ Highland home.
Coby was 6 when he was deployed to the WTC site with Redlands Battalion Chief David Graves.

Both of these dogs worked for an even larger and more crowded area than they were trained for, they searched for 11 days in 12 hour shifts. There reward was a nap or a chew toy

Over the years Cody lost his hearing but continued working with hand signals. Guiness had been trained for wilderness search and recovery before joining Riverside Task Force 6.

The massive pile of wreckage was so dangerous multiple times it was cleared of searchers because of fear of more collapse.

Coby has sinced passed on but not before finding 18 to 20 people in this human holocaust at Ground Zero. One can only imagine there is a reserved spot in heaven for such heroism.

Tagged , , , , ,

365 Everyday Heros.

365 Everyday Heros..

The idea behind this blog is simply a channel for me to further understand the interspecies companionship between humankind and our best friend in the animal world. For eons since the first canine decided to follow paleolithic humans, the bond between us and them has been sealed. They have followed us on our treks for food and shelter, they have fought along side us in war, they have comforted our sick and dying, they have befriended our young, they have protected our families, they have died for us,caught food for us, they have amused us with their whimsical souls they have worked for us in our societies and civilizations, they have protected us, guided us and even saved countless of our lives. We owe them our deepest gratitude. These pages are my attempt to recognize their courage , sacrifice and honor. And though every dog is an individual this blog is in hopes to recognize their undying loyalty, and selfless nature by sharing the many throughout history who have shown us their heroic and protective nature.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,