In the 1950s, the escalating Cold War between the two Great Powers dominated the military rearmament in Europe. Infantry, tanks, howitzers and other ordnance, even nuclear weapon systems, marked the appearance of American and other allied garrisons in West Germany. At the same time, there were concealed depots, ammo depots, Air Force bases and much more.
Stationed in Augsburg in the early years were, among others, the 5th Infantry Division, and later, until 1958, the legendary 11th Airborne Division. Besides the ubiquitous military vehicles and soldiers there was, at that time, also a small, inconspicuous unit that hardly appeared outside the kaserne. South of Bldg 121 resided the 35th Scout Dog Platoon. From 1954 thru 1957, there were 18 Shafer Hounds and their handlers, 2d Lt Thomas M. Vaught being in command 1956-1957, 511th Airborne, as part of the 7th U.S. Army.
Scout, messenger as well as sentry dogs were in action for the Army. They were not only patrolling, reconnoitering, searching certain substances, booby traps, mines and hidden persons, but they were also guarding, accompanying or message transferring. At Ft. Gordon as well as at Ft. Benning, both in Georgia, were Dog Training Centers, lacking nothing that was appropriate for dogs. While Labradors were excellent scout dogs, the German Shafer Hound had besides an excellent nose also esteemed all-round qualities.
The dogs had to take three months of “basic training” in Augsburg. They were required to re-take the course every time they got a new handler. Dog and handler were always a close unit. Top training included extra tricks like playing dead dog and answering sick call by limping around on three legs. The platoon fed one pound of horsemeat per meal and dog each day. The Scout Dog Platoon included one officer and twenty enlisted men, including platoon leader, platoon sergeant and veterinarian.
On a dog obstacle course the exclusively male dogs could train all required skills. At parades, dogs and handlers were a special asset to the otherwise typical traditional military inventory. Although it was here only for a short time, the Scout Dog Platoon is part of the diverse military history of “America in Augsburg”.
More than 50 years later, Thomas M. Vaught sent us impressive photos of his time at Sheridan Kaserne. (All other photos: Amerika in Augsburg e.V. archives).