Followers of PortraitofWar will likely remember that I have a penchant for stories related to unit and individual mascots during wartime. I have a soft spot for small dogs and particularly enjoy tracking down photos of dogs acting as needed companions during the boredom and contrasting hellish days of war. Cats are cool too……. I guess….
Tonight’s post was submitted by a WWII buff I tracked down online who was generous enough to share the incredibly endearing story of his father’s WWII mascot who eventually made it stateside to live an additional thirteen years as the family pet until passing away in 1958. The incredible story of Blackout takes us from a small town in England, to the shores of Normandy and across continental Europe as the German war machine is beaten into submission. The following post was submitted by Rick Hunter:
My father, Bill Hunter volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1940. After training which included participation in the Louisiana maneuvers, he was assigned to the 744th Light Tank Battalion as initial cadre when it was formed at Camp Bowie, TX. By January, 1944 he was a Master Sergeant in the service company of the 744th Light Tank Battalion, and the unit was in England training in preparation for D-Day. Dad’s job was to supervise the maintenance of the Battalion’s vehicles and the recovery and repair of battle-damaged vehicles. Light tank battalions were “separate battalions” that were typically attached to infantry units on an “as-needed” basis and as such they moved around a lot. The service company was usually located somewhat to the rear of the front lines and Dad’s position gave him a bit of flexibility and was not as dangerous as those of many soldiers. Perhaps for these reasons and his love of dogs, Dad bought a young female Scottie from a lady in nearby Manchester. He named the dog Blackout.
Although against regulations, Blackout was apparently a hit within the unit and the leadership turned a blind-eye towards her. She even received a coat crafted from an army blanket complete with sergeant’s stripes and the unit patch. Blackout and my Dad went ashore with the Battalion at Utah Beach about 3 weeks after D-Day and the unit fought through France and Belgium and into the Netherlands. They were camped near Geleen in the Netherlands for several weeks in October, 1944.
The Dutch had been starved by the Germans and were in a desperate plight. Attracted to Blackout, a 13 year-old boy and his 5 year-old sister from the town would make daily visits to see the dog. My Dad began to give the children food and candy and made them some small wooden toys. In 2008, my brother vacationed in the Netherlands and met those two children. The girl, then in her 70’s, showed my brother those toys which she still treasured.
The tank battalion crossed into Germany in January, 1945. They fought into Germany and participated in the post-war occupation of the town of Olpe before catching a crowded troop ship back to the U.S. Dad was not about to leave Blackout behind and he smuggled her onto the troop ship. Because there were many different units on the ship, it is difficult to imagine how he could have avoided detection, and in fact he did not. Upon arrival in the U.S., the soldiers were subjected to a muster to verify all were present. The officer in charge (not from my Dad’s unit) announced to the formation “Will the individual with the dog step forward?” My Dad did not move. The officer then said “Will the master sergeant with the dog step forward?” My Dad did not move. Finally the officer said “Do we have to call you by name?” My Dad stepped forward. The officer then announced “We just wanted you to know that we were aware of it all the time.” Nothing more was said or done and over the next few weeks Dad and Blackout processed out of the Army and returned to civilian life in Tulsa.
My Dad had 4 brothers and all 5 boys served during World War II and returned safely. Their mother was proud of her sons and displayed a Blue Star Mother banner with 5 stars in her front window. The Tulsa World published an article about the family in late 1945 that included the attached picture of the boys with their mother and Blackout shortly after their return.
In the picture and starting from the right, the boy in civilian clothing served on a ship in the Pacific and refused to wear his Navy uniform after discharge. Next is my Dad and the boy next to him was a navigator. I believe he stayed in the States as an instructor. Left of him is the youngest boy who had completed a pilot training program but I have little additional information. The boy on the far left was in Iran and is wearing a Persian Gulf Command shoulder patch.
As has become the norm here at PortraitsofWar, a family member of a WWII veteran has reached out with an additional photo related to the above post. Special thanks to Gail Becnel Boyd for contacting me to share this shot of Blackout that she found in her father’s WWII photo album. Thanks Gail!
11 thoughts on “A Scottish Terrier Goes to War: 744th Light Tank Battalion’s Mascot Dog BLACKOUT”
My father’s battalion. He would have served with Master Sergeant Hall, and Blackout. Thank you for this.
I found this picture on Facebook. I thought at first it was a Scottie named – Stuka.
Now after reading your story it may be your Scottie – Blackout.
I have no way to copy & paste the picture, or attach. The Scottie is sitting on top of a bomb in black & white.
If you will send me an email address will send you a copy of the post.
My father, Leo Becnel, was also in the 744th in either Co. C or the Service Co. I am currently scanning photos from his WWII photo album and researching his path. I have found a photo of Blackout with the notation on the back “Mascot of Service Co. – ‘Blackout’, England 1944”. I was thrilled to find your story.
Would you be willing to send me a scan/photo of the photo? I would be more than happy to update the post and add the shot. I’m sure the family would be happy to see another (possibly unseen before) shot of Blackout.
I have 2 pictures of my Grandfather’s Brother that was in the 744th at Camp Bowie. I can email them to you if you want to see if your father is in them.
Yes please!!! Would love to see them!
My father, Herb, was also in the 744th and was wondering if you could send those pictures. My father had very little that he brought back from as he was injured towards the end of war and was sent home.
My brothers and I would love to see even a small chance a pickoff our Dad.
Thanks in advance!
Brennan, I would be happy to send you a photo or two. How do I do that?
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My father was stationed at a US Army Air Corps base in England in 1950. We lived on base with our Scottie, JimJim. JimJim was quite well known on the base. One day he went on parade and followed the visiting General around while he inspected the troops. My father was standing at attention hoping JimJim wouldn’t give away that he belonged to dad. And he didn’t, when the General walked past dad JimJim kept right on going at the General’s heels.
On another day JimJim went to church. He was sauntering down the center aisle of the church during the service. The chaplain stopped his sermon and said “could someone please take JimJim Mullins to my office until the service is over?”
He had many other adventures too. I think the name of the base was Scampton.
Thank you for the touching story of your Scottie. JimJim sounds like quite the little rascal. Feel free to email me a shot of him if you have one and I will write a little blurb about him using the material you’ve provided.