Oral History Interview with Jerry K.Walsh



Jerry K. Walsh in Vietnam in 1965 -------------------His Scout Dog, Marty (Serial Number 5X31)


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This interview was conducted by Kelly Lamb on November 5, 1998, for Professor Tom Forgey's class in American Military History at Southern Arkansas University. The interview took place in the McAlester Office at South Arkansas Youth Services (S.A.Y.S.) in Magnolia, Arkansas. The transcript below is an excerpt of this taped-recorded interview. The original audio tape is archived at Magale Library at Southern Arkansas University.

During the Vietnam era about 4,000 dogs served as scout dogs, combat trackers, or sentry dogs as part of the United States armed forces. Two hundred and eighty-one dogs were officially listed as killed in action and many more were wounded in action. It is impossible to accurately estimate the number of lives that these dogs saved.

It is clear that the use of canines by our forces in Vietnam is a significant part of the history of that conflict, but very little has been written about them. Even an internet search resulted in only two web sites related to the subject. See the Vietnam War Dog Handlers Association and its Memorial to Scout Dogs and the Quartermaster's Foundation History of the U.S. Army's Use of Dogs from 1942 to the Present.

Jerry Walsh served in Vietnam in the early years of the conflict as a scout dog handler. A few years after his return to the United States, he moved to southwest Arkansas. He completed undergraduate and graduate work at Southern Arkansas University and holds a master's degree in Agency Counseling. Jerry Walsh is the Chief Operating Officer of South Arkansas Youth Services, an agency dedicated to serving juveniles in need.

Lamb: When and where were you born?

Walsh: I was born in Connsville, Pennsylvania. June 16, 1946.

Lamb: How did you come to live in Arkansas?

Walsh: I was recruited by Rip Powell (of SAU) for track back in 1965. I graduated (high school) in '64. The smartest thing I ever did is not to go to college right out of high school. I had a basketball scholarship to go to Shippensburg University. I didn't take it because I listened to the admissions counselor who said that I would probably flunk out. The reason I bring that up is that it kind of plays into serving in Vietnam and getting out. What I did was that I went back around Pittsburgh and ran for the track club and worked. And then Rip Powell recruited me to come down (to SAU) in January of '65 and I got drafted in December of 1964. I told the draft board that I was accepted to Southern State College and, I think conveniently, they lost my confirmation letter. I think they were trying to meet their quota on the draft board so I was gone. I was in.

Lamb: Did a lot of other people your age from your area go to Vietnam?

Walsh: Oh yeah. In '65 no one was really stepping out of the line at the induction center and saying I'm not going to serve. Later on, some people did that but at that time, very few people did.

Lamb:Were you married back then? Or still single?

Walsh: I was single. I was sort of engaged. Getting ready to get engaged. In fact, I went into the Army, when I went to Vietnam, we were engaged.

Lamb: Is that the same lady that you later married?

Walsh: That's the one I am married to now.

Lamb:That's a long time.

Walsh: I never got any dear Jody letters from her when I was over there.

Lamb: So you got a notice and you were drafted?

Walsh:Yes. I was drafted. I went to Pittsburgh and I was inducted into the armed services there. Then I got on a train.