Shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted out a photo of Conan, a military dog making international news for his role in a recent raid, The Columbian got a call from an old friend.
Former Columbian reporter Tom Vogt called with a reminder that Clark County — and specifically Ridgefield — has some local history with heroic war dogs.
The Ridgefield Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 2012, and contains the names of Ridgefield-area troops who died in combat. One name on the monument is Cpl. Tubby, a dog in the War Dogs program who served in Guam during World War II.
Tubby came back into local consciousness at Ridgefield’s centennial celebration in 2009, according to Bob Ford, former commander of the local American Legion post. Ford and Bruce Crockett, another former commander of the post, were working on an updated memorial. The centennial celebration partly took place at an old monument, but Ford said a lot of residents said their relatives weren’t included.
They put out a notice asking for information about anyone with local ties who died while serving. A longtime Ridgefield couple said their daughter was reading a book by Susan Orlean called “Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend” about the famed dog who was discovered on a World War I battlefield. In a portion of the book about war dogs, it mentions a Tubby from Ridgefield, Wash., who was shot and killed in Guam.
In Orlean’s book, it says Tubby had been donated to the Marines by Mrs. and Mr. Leo Raymond of Ridgefield. He was partnered with handler Guy Wachtsletter, according to Orlean’s book and the local Legion post.
Ford said that Japanese soldiers would hide in caves on Guam, so Tubby and other dogs were sent as scouts to sniff out anyone in hiding.
“He’s credited with nine kills,” Ford said of Tubby. “He saved countless numbers of lives by bringing these guys to the marines’ attention.”
Ford added that since Tubby died saving his handler’s life in a combat situation, he was awarded the rank of corporal. He said that Wachtsletter wrote the Raymond family a letter about Tubby and how he was shot and killed. According to Orlean’s book, part of the letter read, “He behaved like a true Marine at all times and didn’t even whimper when he died. He was shot thru the heart and died instantly. We have buried him in the Marine Cemetery along with the other heroes of this campaign.”
“It was a no-brainer to put Tubby on the memorial once we learned about him,” Ford said. “War dogs are pretty special. They get them as puppies and go through a lot of training. There’s only 17 specific breeds they’ll take. He died in action, and he died a hero.”