Speed - U.S. Army Dog in WWII

-Contributed by Brian Harrison, all rights reserved.-

My father Tony Harrison came from a family of 11 children, 3 boys and eight girls. His father Melrose was a successful pharmacist and the original owner of Park Place Pharmacy in Charlotte while my grandmother Maggie raised the family and ran the household. The family always had family pets, one of which was Speed, a German Shepherd who belonged to my grandmother and was given to her by a family friend.

My great aunt Ruth was the youngest of the children and she told me Maggie loved to visit with family and friends on our front porch, and to talk with people walking by. Ruth said that while on the porch one day during the war an officer from the nearby Charlotte Army Air Base saw Speed and told my grandmother "the Army needs that dog". Her son James was already serving in the Army Air Corps (bombardier with the 584th BS, 394th BG, KIA 11/21/44, Captain Harper's crew) and son Tony would soon be leaving for the U.S. Navy so she agreed.

Here is Speed with another family dog before he left for the service:

Speed was stationed out west and had three different handlers during his time in the Army. Each handler wrote at least once to update the family on how Speed was doing and also to ask if they could have or buy Speed after the war - and each time my grandmother's answer was no.

Speed was returned to the family in early 1945 by train accompanied by his last Army handler. At the train station the handler told my grandmother that Speed had to be "de-trained" before being given back to the family. Maggie responded "no need" and took her chain and hooked it to Speed's collar and told him "we are going home" and to "get in the car", which Speed did (and he never bit anyone says Ruth).

Below is a picture of Ruth as a teen posing on top of the wooden crate Speed was shipped home in. She is showing off the nylons that Speed's last handler gave the family in his last attempt to try and keep Speed. Ruth mailed him a copy of this picture instead.

Speed received "Honorable Discharge" papers which my grandmother proudly framed and displayed on her wall along with the picture below.

The back of this picture reads:

Ruth told me that Speed being returned to my grandmother helped to make up for the pain of losing her son James in the war. I was born too late (August 1952) to really remember Speed but I do remember my grandmother telling me every time we visited her about how proud she was of all of her children, and Speed.

Below is a picture of the family taken in late April 1953 on the occasion of Melrose's funeral. Speed can be seen laying on the porch.

When Speed passed away, two uniformed soldiers in white gloves came to my grandmother's house carrying a casket. They washed and groomed Speed and took him for burial in an animal cemetery in town.

The world was a smaller and better place then.