Marine War Dog and Handler

1st Marine War Dog Platoon's Private First Class John Kleeman and Caesar, serial 05H, an 87-pound (39.4-kilogram) German Shepard. Growing up in the Bronx, Caesar's natural skill was enhanced by his runs to the store for his owners, three brothers. They turned him over to the Dogs for Defense program the same day they signed up. The dog was recruited into the US Marine Corps and trained at Camp Lejune, the Corps's dog handling training center. Caesar trained with Kleeman and Private First Class Rufus Mayo. They landed with the 1st Marine War Dog Platoon on Bougainville on November 1, 1943. On November 2, Caesar ran eleven runs, totaling 31 miles (50 kilometers) under fire between a 250-patrol of 2nd Marine Raider Regiment's Company M and the Regimental Command Post. Torrential rains had knocked out the radios, and telephone wire had yet to be run. On D+3, Mayo had control of the dog at the front line, and Kleeman was back at the Regimental Headquarters. Caesar leapt from Mayo's foxhole where he was sleeping and charged approaching Japanese infiltrators. Mayo called him back, and the Japanese shot Caesar, one bullet close to the heart. A firefight broke out and Caesar ran, wounded, all the way to Kleeman at headquarters. The surgeon decided to leave the bullet near the heart as an operation would be too risky. Caesar returned to duty in three weeks. 1st Marine War Dog Platoon left Bougainville on January 23, 1944. His story was widely and incorrectly reported as attacking a Japanese soldier with a grenade. Caesar was sent on a bond tour stateside where he was embraced by actress Heddy Lamar. The photo is most likely staged.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Date Photographed: 
Friday, January 14, 1944
Cape Torokina