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Vietnam War Veterinarians

During the Vietnam War, American soldiers relied on working military dogs for a variety of crucial tasks. They could alert a soldier to an enemy presence or detect explosives, trip-wires and landmines. It is estimated that 10,000 lives were saved by more than 4,000 military working dogs in Vietnam.

Fold3 Image - 10 December 1968. Location: Long Binh, Vietnam.  Photographer: SP5 Ronald Delaurier.  US ARMY VETERINARY SERVICES.  CPT Jack H. Crawford, veterinarian, 245th Med Det (Vet), examines a dog's teeth at the pet clinic of the 245th Med Det (Vet) which provides veterinary care and treatment for animals and pets belonging to US government personnel.
These hard-working military war dog required specialty care, and soldiers who were trained veterinarians were the ones to offer it. Vietnam veterinarians provided everything from emergency care to everyday exams and treatment of disease and heat exhaustion. Veterinarian care was essential to keep both soldiers and animals healthy.

Military dogs were not the only animals cared for by Vietnam veterinarians. They often cared for sick animals like unit mascot dogs and adopted pets.

Vietnam veterinarians also participated in a civic project that provided care for animals that belonged to the local Vietnamese people. Captain Harold Lupton, a military veterinarian with the 175th Veterinary Detachment, recalled patching up an injured water buffalo that belonged to a local villager. “First they’ll bring in a dog for treatment. If that goes all right, they’ll bring in their pig. Last week we had a guy in here with 25 chickens to be examined,” Lupton said. Vietnam veterinarians set up hospitals and clinics in locations across Vietnam.

Vietnam veterinarians earned praise and commendations for their exemplary work in Vietnam.
We salute the veterinarians who worked hard to care for our working military dogs and other animals.

Did you or a relative have an experience with a veterinarian in Vietnam? If you would like to learn more about veterinarian care during the Vietnam War, search our archives at Fold3.com!

44 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this information. I have recently learned my husband’s great-grandfather was a veterinarian during WWI. Any chance of information from this era?

  2. My Grandfather, Henry Roberts, was Vet student at Ohio State University, entered the Army and spent the WWI years in Columbus Ohio. More information on the how the program worked would be welcomed.

  3. While not a Vet nor K-9 handler, I, in my duties as Commander of Nighttime Security & Law Enforcement forces at Tan Son Nhut AB, Vietnam, was eternally grateful for the activities of our K-9 teams. They were absolutely an invaluable faction of our Security & Law Enforcement duties!!

  4. I spent a total of 8 years in Southeast Asia. Of interest … when the Vets weren’t doing their primary job, somehow they wound up inspecting food sold in the commissary! YES … food! Sounds strange but absolutely true! They did it for years!

  5. Was with the 4th infantry War dog unit 69 n 70 Pleku n An Khe V .N .

  6. In the early 1970s, I worked with two young Army vets as a volunteer vet tech at an Army Vet Clinic in San Diego at the submarine base in Pt. Loma. Ron Short and Frank Goldsmith were their names; Ron hailed from Colorado and Frank, Ohio. I remember them talking about doing meat inspections also, but don’t know if it was during down time in San Diego or in Vietnam. I never did hear them talking about serving overseas, but they could have since they were at least ten years older than me which would’ve put them in their early 30s. They were dedicated, hardworking veterinarians who gave their all to the many four-footed clients. My passion and dedication to companion animals was definitely informed by that year I worked with them both. They both returned to private practice; Frank stayed in San Diego and was my dear friend and veterinarian to my many critters until he died about
    five years ago…way too early.

  7. I trained as a Veterinary Technician at Walter Reed (the old one in Northwest DC) 10/70-12/70, then more training at Dog Handler School, FT. Benning GA., 1/71-4/71. Arrived in country 4/71, assigned to 212th MP Company 18th MP Brigade at Long BInh. Assigned to detachment at Long Thanh North Airfield, on the Vung Tau Highway, 7/71 to 12/71. Assigned to detachment at Vinh Long airfield in the Mekong Delta 1/72 to 3/72. Rotated home to Co. C 1-104th Infantry, Massachusetts Army National Guard 4/72 -9/75.

    • The members of the Martha Jefferson Randolph Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution thank you for your service.

  8. Thank you for your service.

  9. My father spent 22 years in the Army in the veterinary core He died of a massive heart attack in Lima Peru in 1960. He was assigned at that time to the military advisor group stationed in Cochabamba Bolivia. He earned that position because in 1940 when he enlisted he was in the horse Calvary patrolling the border with Mexico. His commanding officer was a Colonel Brennen and a Colonel George. I always found it interesting that as late as 1960 the Bolivian Army has a horse Calvary and U S was sending advisors to give them advise.

    • Lack of usable roads really “ups” the value of the 4-footed friends. Many areas in the third world are only accessible by trail, still. We had a President (Eisenhower) who knew the value of roads. Thank Ike for our interstate highway system. They have helped us get where we are today.

  10. That’s awesome, thank you. I love stories like that.

  11. I was a sentry dog handler with the Military Police in Vietnam 1968. My first compound was in Long Binh and we kenneled apx 60 dogs. 7 dogs died suddenly and the vets were called in to investigate the cause. Autopsies were performed on the spot. Finding the reason was of vast importance to save others and protect the investment of these special war fare animals.

  12. I was a Scout Dog Handler with the 48th Infantry Platoon Scout Dogs out of DaNang in 1971-2. I was always so impressed by the dedication of our vets and vet techs. I have talked to several at various reunions over the years. Some have told me the toughest part of their job was euthanizing healthy dogs at the end of the war because we were ordered to leave them there. I’m so glad the law was changed and now reads, “No Military Dog left Behind”

  13. My brother served in Nam. Thank for sharing

  14. Interesting, but so sad overall.

  15. I don’t believe that’s entirely true! I believe now there’s a 3rd party contracted for our service dogs who after their “usefulness” are abused, poisoned and abandoned unless another 3rd party rescue organization can get them home! It is STILL DISGRACEFUL and HORRIBLY ABUSIVE to our service dogs. Feel free to research this issue…

    PS: I shutter to think of the fate of our ABANDONED Vietnam dogs who many had a “price” on their heads….Vietnam/Cambodia is considered by many to be even more abusive & torturous in many ways to dogs & cats than CHINA!! That’s saying something…….

    • Kimberley, Perhaps you should do a little research yourself. There are several rescue groups who specialize in helping the animals get back home, including the “Big Four.” Instead of dwelling on atrocities that happened years ago, put some of that energy into volunteering your own time into helping those organizations bring the working dogs, cats and mascots home to the servicemen or the families.

    • I am speaking of NOW, not yesterday. I do interact with the rescue groups, however, our service dogs shouldn’t need rescue groups! And, today’s reality for our beautiful service dogs is as I stated. Sorry, if you’re uninformed or just don’t like distasteful reality…perhaps YOU should become informed….if the reality is not too distasteful for you.

    • Ggggrrreeeaaatttt way to win friends and influence people! Meow meow meow meow meeee-yow…

    • The canines in Viet Jam were not allowed back in the U.S. due to a fatal blood disease transmitted by ticks (Ideopathic Canine Pancytopenia ). We dealt with this on a daily basis, and in our unit (595th M.P. SENTRY DOG) the animals were dipped in a Malthion solution on a monthly basis . These wonderful animals were not mistreated by the Services , but couldn’t allow them back in the States for fear of spreading the horrible disease. As a Veterinary Animal Specialist ,I was “hands on” with the treatment and care of extraordinary animals .

  16. During the 1970s, my spouse was stationed at Ft Greeley, AK, (technically overseas). There were 2 vets assigned to the base, along with 2 OB/GYNs = total medical care available.
    They did food inspections, & animal care for both military & civilians nearby.
    The worst cases were removing porqupine quills from dogs’ noses…
    Wildlife (buffalo, moose, grizzly & black bears, etc) was fierce!!

  17. For several months in 1968, I lived next to the Scout-Tracker School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Having those black Labrador Retrievers right across the lawn from my barracks gave this hunter a great taste of home, away from home. War was hell in the stateside Army but I made it through OK.

  18. Interesting blog. The US Army Veterinary Corp will be celebrating their 102 year anniversary here in San Antonio,TX next month. There are several Facebook pages or websites that relate to the vets. AREVP (Army Retired Enlisted Veterinary Personnel) is a closed group that you can request to join if you served in the Veterinary Corp or Veterinary Service in any capacity (Officer, Warrant, Enlisted or civilian). Search AREVP to locate it. Also at http://www.arevp.org. UVMA (Uniformed Veterinary Medicine Association) is another active Facebook page of interest to veterinary personnel. Search uniformedvma.org on Facebook..

  19. The definitive book on this subject is listed on amazon at https://www.amazon.com/history-United-Veterinary-Vietnam-1962-1973/dp/B0006EX9VW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1526331282&sr=8-1&keywords=Clark+%2B+Veterinary+Corps

    History of US Army Veterinary Corps in Vietnam (1962-1973) by COL William H Clark.

    It is listed at a prohibitively expensive price. I was fortunate to get a copy from the author long ago.

    • Wow! I wish I could find one on the dog handlers! Not being sure of Daddy’s rank and unit, I have no idea where to look for that info on him. I know he was decorated. I heard someone say he was a Green Beret ( they were talking about him in a store and had no idea I was his step daughter) and that whatever he was, he was supposed to have been a bad#$$. PBS or the Military channel did a documentary on them but they didn’t provide enough info to help with my research!

  20. What about WW II Veterinarians? My father-in-law was on the Aleutian Islands in the Army as a veterinarian for most of the war, and my husband (a veterinarian) and I (also a veterinarian) would like to know more about his service. Thank you!

  21. Too bad they (the US government) abandoned those awesome dogs in Vietnam.

  22. My step dad was a scout in Vietnam and I remember an old photo he had of himself with his dog. He continued to train dogs for years after he left Vietnam! He is still a dog lover and spoke well of the dog in the photo. They were a team. He helped train every dog I ever had when I was young. I had a collie mix that would herd my child around like a sheep when he was a toddler. We had a 7 acre lake (complete with cotton mouths and copper heads) and if my baby got out of my sight I could call him and Rambo would come leading him back to me. That boy was more slippery than an eel but, thanks to Daddy, I never had to worry about him. I know he taught him that trick because I didn’t. Daddy’s skills with the service dogs helped to train many guard and drug dogs in our area.

  23. Thank you for your service. Interesting story.

  24. I was wondering why we don’t see any mention of british war dogs , such as those in the 1951 suez crisis

  25. My father, Dr. Frank C. Meisner, was a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Army Veterinary Corps during WWI, not Vietnam. Veterinary expertise was needed, not for our present day highly specialized war dogs, but for equines. The horses and mules bore the burdens of the war. My dad was stationed in New Mexico during the entire war, working specifically on equine disease prevention. He mustered out at Ft. McFerson in Atlanta, GA, and remained in Atlanta as a large and small animal veterinarian, working with Dr. Hopping, and Chief Veterinarian for Southern Railroad, until his retirement in 1962. At that time he became the veterinarian for the Atlanta Humane Society until his death in 1968. He loved mules. “Finest animal man ever created.”

  26. My good friend Tommy McMillan was a dog handler in Vietnam. He was a soldier but he and his dog “Duke”walked point for the Marines on the Peninsula. I believe I remember him saying his Army unit was the 175th. Any chance of getting any info on them

  27. My father-in-law, Dr. Everett Laird(deceased in 1980’s) was a Vet in WWI. He had something to do
    with mules. I Would love more info.

  28. I saw a news item a week ago about a state that is considering what to do with all service dogs that will not be needed if certain drug made legal. I got so angry since that out come seemed more like they said putting to sleep seemed the out come since to expensive to keep them. There is a bill in Senate called the King billl that will destroy all the issues regarding the bad puppy mills, horse slaughter, dirty abusive factory farm and Yes the Tenneesse Walking Horse horror that is not being investigated by the officials in charge. Brings us to the Secretary Of Agriculture Perdue who is not addressing a the issue. Look up Tenn.Walking Horse abuse and see where they are showing 2 years old.with that nasty long shank cutting bit and the 8 pound weights in their hoof , chains rubbing their front feet have been sored. to cause terrible pain to create a unnatural gait.due to severe pain.
    We need to be very vocal and asking all animal lovers to post everywhere about the abusej of all animals due to the way our country seems to have very angry uneducated people lacking compassion.

    • Hi Joan, I shall try to follow up on the King Bill you mentioned because it was not clear to me if it would help or hinder animal welfare. Once again it seems mostly it is all about how animals can help us in wartime; it is comforting to know that sometimes other animals may in turn be helped also. In Australia our big issue at present is the export of live animals, mainly to the Middle East. If one suggested exporting jungle animals to Antarctica, it would be regarded rightly as stupid; but it is supposed to be Ok just because it is shamefully legal to send woolly sheep to a northern summer in those hot countries. War zones in some areas as well as pirates are just other hazards.

  29. I saved a small monkey (Michele) from the VC. She road on my shoulder for 3 months . I was a Recon Platoon Leader. I was assigned a tracking dog w/ handler. On breaks Michele would go up on tweak the dog’s face. Tracker would tolerate it to a point.
    I have a photo of me on the M38 tank. Michele was out on the end of the gun tube looking back. Tracker was attempting his best to get out there and get her. Apparently he had had enough.
    Before my mid-tour leave to Hawaii and wife, I learned Michele had to have shots to enter the quarantine in States. The Vet at AnKhe said he need x3 bodies to open the vial. The next AM there I stood with Michele and x2 new guys who “volunteered”. Michele got the shots and the Vet dismissed the other two.

    Several day later I was blown up (lost a leg, other paralyzed and huge hole through hand). Michele was fine. Eventually I medevaced to the States. Wife is still upset I ruined her vacation.
    Michele was back at base camp next to the chimp Bozo–there they lived out their lives together. So I still thank that Vet. GO ARMY. Nat Ward
    PS: I was the first amputee to be retained on active duty in the Vietnam war thanks to 2 years at Walter Reed.

  30. I worked many years ago with CSIRO in Sydney. One of the senior research scientists was Dr Hugh McLeod Gordon. He had been an honorary vet with the Light Horse between the ears. There was also Farrier Sergeant Chris Raymes who worked at the Veterinary faculty.

  31. Between the wars!!!!

  32. I spent one year in the Republic of Vietnam. I was a crew chief on OH6A helicopters in 1968. The only dogs I ever saw were the ones the Vietnamese were eating. Teagards you saps. P.S. I’m totally and permanently disabled combat vet. My V.A. care sucks. I’m on the V.A. death list. The thng that freaks me out is I never drank adult beverages or drugs. Thanks USA.

  33. How much of the U.S. Army individual records were save when the fire struck the U.S.Army Center in St. Louis, Mo.?