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Dog Days of Summer

July 9, 2012

The dog days of summer seem as good a time as any to highlight one of my favorite finds in the stacks – Fritzie the war dog as shown through the papers of his owner, Bessie Goethel.

Bessie Goethel with Fritzie, 6 months, September 1939, MS 243

Bessie, married to an officer in the Army, was involved in the USO Women’s Club and trained in motor mechanics in order to serve as part of the Volunteer Special Services Unit of the Bexar County Red Cross in the Motor Corps. From 1939-1946, the Goethels were stationed at Camp Barkeley, near Abilene, Texas, Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma, and Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.

Fritzie at the fence, February 1940, MS 243

Fritzie was adopted as a puppy in 1939 from a neighbor. His mother was a full-blooded English Setter and his father was of uncertain ancestry. Due to his penchant for adventure and his skill at escaping the yard, Fritzie sustained several injuries in his early years. At the age of 10 months, he was attacked by a neighbor’s dog, who happened to be his father. In his second year he was tossed by a wheel in a chase with a truck and had to spend some time at the base pet hospital.

Fritzie playing with James, in San Antonio to see a doctor regarding his Polio, 1942, MS 243

In September of 1942, Bessie left Fritzie with family in San Antonio and joined her husband at Camp Barkeley in Abilene.  Fritzie continued climbing fences and escaping the yard, frequently returning home with the neighbor’s chickens.  In February 1943,Dogs for Defense, Inc. issued a call in the local paper for dogs to serve in the war effort and Fritzie was volunteered. Seen as a solution to his perceived boredom with surburban yard-life, his biography states: “Since I couldn’t go to Abilene with Bessie and Louis and had too much energy to be confined in a small back yard I was inducted in the Army.”

Fritzie on his departure for the Army, outtake from San Antonio Express-News article, Tuesday, March 9, 1943 MS 248

Fritzie departed San Antonio on March 6, 1943 and was sent to San Carlos, California for training. He served as a sentry for appropximately a year with the Army before receiving an Honorable Discharge and being returned to the Goethels. During his service, Fritzie had received an injury to his tail that would not heal and required amputation.

Certificate of Fritzie’s return and Bessie requesting information regarding his missing tail, March 31, 1944

The bulk of the materials in the collection concern Fritzie’s life prior to joining the Army.  There are few photos of him after his return to the Goethels and only one showing his amputated tail, seen below.  A biography of his life, written by Bessie Goethel, ends with Fritzie’s departure for Army training with a promise to pick up the story upon his return, but nothing more was written.  Fritzie passed away May 13, 1945 while traveling with the family.

Fritzie without tail, July 1944, MS 243

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 1, 2012 3:31 pm

    Thanks for your attempt to explain this to the people. It a great help!Thanks for this one and yourSan Antonio Fence .I just loved it.San Antonio Fence
    Email: vhfenceweld@gmail.com

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