While Horrie survived campaigns in Libya, Greece, Crete and Egypt, it was in Australia that he faced his biggest threat. The Department of Health at the time had a policy of euthanising pets brought home from war and, despite his celebrity status, the Department had its sights on Horrie.
After being threatened with jail, Moody delivered Horrie to the Abbotsford Quarantine Station, where the dog was to be put to sleep. There was public outcry and disbelief when Horrie the warrior dog was euthanised, and Moody shouldered the brunt of the blame. He searched for a short while and then indicated that he had something. I called in the combat engineers, who found a 20kg yellow palm oil container, filled with homemade explosives, and a short length of detonating cord. I sent him further on, along the top of the wall, and he indicated again. This time, he found a second palm oil container, the same as before.
This was a convincing non-metal find for the EDD team and definitely saved lives and equipment. When he showed an interest in becoming a tracker and dog handler, he underwent training and was matched with a black Labrador cross Kelpie called Caesar, who had been recruited from a Sydney refuge. After deploying to South Vietnam, Haran and Caesar were tasked with tracking operations carried out in very active combat zones. Haran was tasked with tracking the enemy and upon deplaning, he, a coverman, a machine gunner and Caesar started to patrol the contact site.
He did not. Instead, Caesar came straight back to me and sat on my foot. The story is largely his journey and his experiences, training, in Vietnam and a short very heartfelt epilogue about what life after the war was like for some of the returning soldiers. I found the reading experience excellent, it took me a while to get into it, because the narrative jumps around a little, from the 'present' or timeline narrative as Peter is trained, ships over, and comes home to the inserts.
The inserts are in a different font and describe events in Vietnam isolated from the narrative.
It took me a while to get used to the back and forth of this narrative style, but I had it under control by about page The different sections end up being very effective, they allow Peter to tell his story in a way that is down to earth, very non-judgmental and successfully gritty without gratuitous violence.
All of which are pretty hard lines to walk with any war book but especially about the Vietnam war. Early on we are introduced to the hero of the story, almost at times to co-author or co-narrator, Ceasar.
Tracker dogs, 1967
This Labrador cross was apparently one of the stars of the eleven tracker dogs and Peter's own partner for the whole of his tour of duty. It is fascinating watching the working relationship between the man and dog, it was very interesting reading about some of the other teams and their integration in the Army units. In some ways, I found Trackers to be one of the most humanising personal stories about the Vietnam war that I have read. First because of the dogs, I really like dogs and having them, their roles and army life as a focus made it very socialised. Also, the differential timeline interspersed with war events, that made the minutiae of everyday living and personal experience vivid and real.
The small epilogue one might almost call it an aftermath gives a moving, intensely sad depiction of the trouble Vietnam vets had in returning to Australia, the public apathy to their experience, the lack of support systems, the isolation, which is one of the more shameful parts of Australian history.
The usual post war experience was compounded in this case by having had to leave 'his' dog, behind, handing Ceasar over to another handler at the end of his tour of duty. None of the war dogs returned to Australia though they were found good homes in Vietnam when they reached the end of their active service. Thoroughly recommend this this book! Feb 16, JD rated it it was amazing Shelves: favourites , vietnam-war. Along with Putney's Always Faithful, this is now one of my all time favourite books, and one of the greatest war memoirs in my opinion.
Haran tells his and the war dogs of the Australian Army's story beautifully.
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He never goes deep into the horrors of the war in Vietnam and instead focusses on his thoughts and his bond with Ceasar and what they went through together. It is also heart-breaking that they had to leave behind the dogs when they left and in the end he can only tell where the dogs went after the military left and in my mind I like to think that they lived out their days in happiness.
The book is also interesting in the extent in which the Australian military was involved in Vietnam. Great book as it only took me a day to read it.
Dec 22, Ian rated it it was amazing. This is an extraordinary book, highlighting the work of the tracker dogs in the Australian Army during the Vietnam war, from the perspective of one of the handlers, author Peter Haran. The courage and loyalty of the dogs stands in sharp contrast to the short-sightedness of the military, and its refusal to bring the dogs home as Australia pulled out of the conflict. Apr 29, John Davies rated it it was amazing Shelves: military-nonfiction.
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Not a bad story, well written and easy to read. Peter and his fellow soldiers deserve praise and recognition for what they did. May 28, David Roberts rated it really liked it.
The book I read to research this post was Trackers by Peter Haran which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book was a bit of a surprise hit in Australia and Peter has written other books about his experiences in Vietnam since. They were used to track people, sniff out explosives and find trip wires.
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They used human trackers in addition to the dogs if they were looking for someone. The soldiers did a 12 month tour of duty but one dog had to 3 years.
They didn't bother taking them back to Australia due to the quarantine rules. They soldiers often offered to pay the dogs expenses if they could take them back home but it was refused. One dog in particular had shell shock and had to be retired. At the end of the war the dogs were given to the Vietnamese Army. I enjoyed reading this book and also his other books are worth reading. Jul 13, Jerry rated it it was amazing Shelves: military-history.
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An unusual book on the Vietnam war since it deals with tracker dogs and their handlers. In early I was stationed in Long Khan province with the 9th Infantry. The border province was Phuoc Tuy in which the majority of this book takes place. We ran some joint ops with the Australian infantry, and both our units ran dog teams. I must say, I always felt better going out on missions with dogs than just relying on human ears and noses.
Trackers: The Untold Story of the Australian Dogs of War by Peter Haran (Paperback, 2000)
Propelled by the The Lines of Torres Vedras. The Longest Winter. Standing between the German forces and the desperately regrouping Allies were just eighteen young Americans, I wanted to tell my father's story and call it 'The Lost Pilot'. Not that he was a The Lost Tommies. For much of the First World War, the Narrated in a fresh way, in elegant and original prose, and with a wonderful gift for taking the unexpected angle, it does great service to this astonishing Australian-Japanese The Nameless Names.