J. D. Taylor is a Veteran, retired Teacher, and Author. He currently lives in Alexandria Virginia.
Virginia Gentleman: Congratulations on your excellent book, Beauregard: A Canine Warrior, which centers on an army dog in Vietnam. When I first saw that the dog was named Beauregard, I, as a history buff, and a southerner, thought of the Civil War General P.G.T. Beauregard. Explain to our readers how he got that name?
John Taylor: “Puppy Beau bolted from his redneck Cajun dog fighter in the Louisiana swamps while being transferred from one cage to another. A driving, blinding rain and hurricane--like winds caused the redneck to mishandle Beau. As Beau scampered, the Cajun chased after him while shouting a plethora of four-letter words at Beau. All of a sudden the dog fighter froze in his tracks: he had stepped into his own medieval steel-jaw trap!”
A perfect STURM and DRANG (turmoil, storm and stress) scene.
Beau was rescued by a young boy and raised by his family to become a majestic 120lb black and tan Doberman. The boys family was a scion of civil war general P.G.T. Beauregard where his real name was Pierre Toutant of the Beauregard plantation. Following Creole tradition, the family signed their name Toutant de Beauregard. Upon entering West Point, Pierre dropped Toutant and became P.G.T. Beauregard . He was embarrassed by a hyphenated name.
Puppy Beau was named after the general.”
Virginia Gentleman: Beauregard was a Doberman. My understanding is that they were bred in Germany. Is that their origin? What makes them valuable to the army?
John Taylor: “The Doberman Pinscher was named after a German breeder, Ludwig Doberman; he believed that this breed would make an excellent guard dog.
During WWII, this breed became popular in the U.S. The U.S. Marine Corps used Dobermans exclusively in the Pacific Theater, especially at Bougainville. The Japanese called them "Devil Dogs."
Beau (to the best of my knowledge) was the only Doberman deployed to Vietnam with the 62nd Combat Engineers out of FT. Leonard Wood, Missouri in 1965.
Beau was used primarily as a Sentry dog guarding engineer heavy equipment while the 62nd was on a mission to build a tactical air base at Phang Rang, South Vietnam. Beau also doubled as a scout and tracker dog. He was that gifted.”
Virginia Gentleman: Did the Army prefer using German Shephard’s or Doberman’s?
John Taylor: The U.S. Army in Vietnam used Belgian sheperds for the most part because they had stronger hips and could survive the heat better than most other breeds. They were excellent scout dogs. Labs were used as trackers, trained at FT. Gordon, Ga. Beau and the majority of canine warriors were trained at Lackland Air Base in San Antonio, Texas.”
Virginia Gentleman: The character Jim Chivington seems to remind me of you, at least in terms for his love of dogs and his outlook on war. Is that by design? Is he autobiographical?
John Taylor: Not by design, not at all! This character evolved over time. He was my companion and voice throughout the story of Beauregard: Canine Warrior. The autobiographical aspect related to my service work with the 82nd Airborne Division as a medic. The character of Jim Chivington was also shaped by what Homer said in the Illiad: "Even the bravest cannot fight beyond his strength."
The Reverend Chivington was a real historical figure who ordered the slaughter of more than 600 Cheyenne Indians in 1864--known as the Sand Creek Massacre (in Colorado). Most were women and children--and they were supposed to be protected by President Lincoln. Chivington was never punished because the attitude by most white Americans was: "A good Indian is a dead Indian."
The same mindset prevailed in Vietnam, especially by U.S. Marines: "A good gook is a dead gook."
"He who does not know history is fated to repeat it."
In effect, ignore history at your own risk.
This epithet was known as the "mere gook rule" practiced by some marines once assigned to Oliver North's platoon (1968).”
Virginia Gentleman: What inspired you to write this book?
John Taylor: A number of motivations I felt by telling this story, it would be cathartic for me because of my anger and disgust that nearly 3,000 loyal, loving war dogs were left behind to be eaten or left to die because the U.S. government considered them "expendable equipment" like an old rusty jeep.
As a high school and college history instructor, I know the sordid story of how the U.S. became involved in S.E. Asia--going back to the Eisenhower--Foster Dulles era both espousing a MANICHAEN view of history: Good VS Evil--and the U.S. is good and the gooks of N. Vietnam are evil communists. It is our duty to destroy evil. Thus, the Vietnam War of aggression seeds were planted. Fast forward to the JFK--LBJ era and we have a defacto declaration of war based on a monumental lie: The gulf of Tonkin resolution (August 1964). (Much like Iraq and WMD.)
My next motivation was to expose the toxic sins of moral certitude.
This notion of good and evil caused me to review Shakespeare's "King Lear" while Shakespeare wrestles with creating a greater good and an unmitigated evil in the characters of the dead Cordelia and the evil Regan and Cornwall. The final motivation while blinking back tears, is my love of animals and meeting Beau's handler. According to the Vietnam Dog Handlers Association, the canine warrior in Vietnam saved at least 10,000 American lives.”
Virginia Gentleman: You’re battle scene at the beginning seemed to describe battle perfectly. Did you ever experience such a firefight in your service?
John Taylor: “As a writer, I do extensive research including interview and travel and two trips to FT. Rucker (located in Alabama) in addition to other journeys to find the truth. I also was privy to many unclassified documents at the FT. Belvoir archives regarding the 62nd Combat Engineers.
No, I never experienced such battles described in my book. I was honorably discharged in 1962 and was a college student when all hell broke out in Vietnam.”
Virginia Gentleman: Who are some of the authors that inspired you?
John Taylor: “There are many authors who inspire me--some of whom were my professors at U. Va and Georgetown university.
The litany is as follows--but not all inclusive:
Bernard Mayo (U. Va. My professor) American history, Jesuit Father Fadner (Georgetown--my professor in Russian history). David Donald (Lincoln scholar). Henry David Thoreau--Walden Pond. David Mc Cullough (American history). Barbara Tuchman--WWI--The Guns Of August William Shirer--Berlin Diary William Shakespeare—Macbeth Plato--The Republic Machiavelli--The Prince Albert Camus--The Stranger J. Paul Sartre--Being And Nothingness L. Tolstoy--Anna Karennia--War And Peace F. DOSTOIEVSKY--Crime And Punishment--The Brothers KARAMAZOV Bernard Fall, Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam--all Vietnam War experts. Karl Marx--The Communist Manifesto John W. Dower--Embracing Defeat--(Japanese history.)”
Virginia Gentleman: When did the army first start using dogs in war?
John Taylor: “WWI "Stubby" smuggled aboard a U.S. troop ship in 1917. Became a war dog by chance with German machine gun nests. Won the rank of Sgt. Met President Wilson--remains with Smithsonian institution. Stubby also became the symbol for the Georgetown Hoyas.
"Chips"--heroic--German Shepard in WWII. Served with General Patton's 3rd Army.
"Nemo"--heroic--German Shepard in Vietnam. Thwarted a VC sapper attack on Tan San Nhut air base. Was shot through his eye. Then returned to Lackland air base and lived the rest of his life in a luxurious kennel.”
Virginia Gentleman: What are the main uses of dogs in war?
John Taylor: “Military working dogs used as scout, tracker and sentry dogs. Also bomb sniffing dogs used in the military and civilian world. All of the above being used in Irag and Afghanistan. One major difference from the Vietnam war dogs: they came home, thanks to President Bill Clinton.
Many today are also used as PTSD dogs to help Iraq and Afghan vets who have mental and physical wounds.’
Virginia Gentleman: Are you working on a new book?
John Taylor: Yes--by fiat and EXNIHLO. No one has ever written a tome with this subject matter that cuts across all of society including pols, TV personalities, sports figures, actors, military officers and the hoi polloi (the common folk).