The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Randy Willie was Patton's dog

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

In the spirit of this week's news and its theme of sex and generals, I couldn't help but recall a detail from war-dog history pertaining to one of America's most famous general's dogs. General George S. Patton known for his bullish temperament was a great lover of dogs, especially one -- a bull terrier named for William the Conqueror, Willie as he was called.

Willie had a certain saucy disposition one that, as Mark Derr writes in his wonderful book, A Dog's History of America, earned the little dog rather notorious reputation among Patton's troops in the Third Army:

Known for his randiness, Willie wore bells, so people would know when he was around and take extra care."

Patton acquired the dog when he was just a little puppy and proudly wrote in his diary that, "My bull pup ... took to me like a duck to water." Patton fawned over the Willie, taking him everywhere he went and was said to have thrown Willie a birthday party. Patton also wrote that "Willie is crazy about me and almost has a fit when I come back to camp. He snores too and is company at night."

Indeed others noticed the closeness between the general and dog. Political and war cartoonist Bill Mauldin who, at one point Patton reportedly threatened to have jailed, remarked on encountering the formidable pair after coming face-to-face with the general and Willie:  

Beside him, lying in a big chair was Willie, the bull terrier. If ever dog was suited to master this one was. Willie had his beloved boss's expression and lacked only the ribbons and stars. I stood in that door staring into the four meanest eyes I'd ever seen."

When Patton died Willie was sent home to live with the family. This heartrending photo was taken just before the dog left for the good the life he shared with his general.

Remarkably, Willie has a Facebook page -- unadorned though it may be with its one follower. In more tangible memorandum commemorating this relationship, there is a large bronze statue of Patton and his dog in California.

Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in September 2013.

The Best Defense

Soldier poets of the Great War (I): Eating breakfast under the flying German shells

I spent a lot of time recently reading poems from World War I, much of it new to me. Rather than discuss them all at once, I am going to feature one poem or even one line a day. 

Here is W.W. Gibson's "Breakfast":

We ate our breakfast lying on our backs,

Because the shells were screeching overhead.

I bet a rasher to a loaf of bread

That Hull United would beat Halifax

When Jimmy Stainthorp played full-back instead

Of Billy Bradford. Ginger raised his head

And cursed, and took the bet; and dropt back dead.

We ate our breakfast lying on our backs,

Because the shells were screeching overhead.