Fort Benning, GA a monument located at Sacrifice Field honoring the 551st PIB
Furlough is the mascot for the 551st. This member of the 551st served in Panama, N. Africa, Sicily, Rome, Maritime Alps and the Battle of the Bulge. Sadly, Paul DeLillio (Paul looked after Furlough in the Bulge) informed his son that Furlough had received a mortal wound while wandering between lines in the Bulge, and according to ‘Left Corner of My Heart’ she had not been seen after the Bulge. In the Maritime Alps some members of the 551st said they knew to take cover when Furlough started getting nervous. Before departing for Panama in December of 1942 from Camp Patrick Henry with the 551st PIB, Dan Morgan remarked that she was the only Furlough they ever received prior to deploying, that “Something special happened to us at Camp Patrick Henry. We could not see it then – it was one of those “little” things: the addition of “Furlough” to our ranks. She was a short-haired dachshund, colored black and tan, and just a pup. Some of our men took her out of the yard of the port commander, and Jim Heffernan became her keeper – at risk of court martial. Furlough would become one of the everlasting bonds that would hold us together, brothers in life and death.” Camp Patrick Henry is now the Williamsburg/Newport News Airport. No one knows who was actually responsible for the acquisition of that morale booster. Furlough was the subject of some heated debates as the 551st boarded ships from Panama due to pets not being allowed onboard ship. LCOL Joerg risked court martial when he informed the Captain of the ship that he risked mutiny if Furlough was disposed of, once she was discovered by ship’s company. LCOL Joerg left the 551st soon after that for a short while only to return to the 551st about a year later. I guess the 551st didn’t want to give up Furlough, or Joerg. Some believed that Joerg’s leaving could have been partly due to fallout over the incident with Furlough. He returned after some trying months for the 551st finding a large percentage of the battalion in the brig.
Furlough and the 551st PIB visited Camp Patrick Henry again in April of 1944 in order to embark for the European Theater. They arrived on 12 April and departed aboard the liberty ship Mulholland, which carried Hq, A and B companies. Company C left aboard the liberty ship Abraham Lincoln. Jud Chalkley and a few medics were on a third ship all according to Dan Morgan, pg. 129 of ‘The Left Corner Of My Heart’, by Dan Morgan.
Another story about Furlough comes just after their jump into Southern France. She was arranged to be brought ashore aboard one of the ships. A new replacement, a Lt., was told to bring her up with him to St. Martin Vesubie and rejoin the unit…well, Furlough was lost along the way. Upon arriving to his post the Lt was ordered to retrieve Furlough or not to bother returning. He later showed up with Furlough.
A quote taken from ‘Left Corner of my Heart’ by Dan Morgan:
“For almost all of us, she was the only furlough we got before going overseas. It hurt not to be able to say goodbye. For me, personally (as for most of us), it meant that I had not seen my family since my enlistment nine months before — and especially, since my decision to volunteer for the parachute troops. The thought that someday soon I would be making a probable one-way trip behind enemy lines brought a feeling of sadness over me, for I had a strong desire to bid my mother and father and sister one last farewell. Our Furlough brought her bright eyes, wagging tail and throaty bark to help dry the few tears we spilled in that distant time. She boosted our morale in a way that nothing else could have done. For that we are forever grateful to her — she has become a LEGEND.”
Some more words about Furlough from the men that adopted her, from “Left Corner of My Heart”:
Major Ray ‘Pappy’ Hermann, Battalion S-3: “It was customary to give newly-graduated jumpers a furlough when they left jump school and before they reached their first duty assignment. What the ‘Chosen ones’ – the officers and men of the 551st – got was a quick trip from the Frying Pan to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, and the port of embarkation. For the men huddled around a bunk deep in one of the USS Dickman’s cavernous compartments, naming the puppy they had ‘liberated’ came about as naturally as had her acquisition. Henceforth, the little dachshund destined to be the mascot of the 551st Parachute Battalion would be known as: Furlough.”
S/Sgt Leo Urban, Hq Company Mortar Platoon: “20 August. We are packed like a lot of fish. They have the beds stacked four high. There’s about two feet between each bunk, and it sure is hot down here. There is not much room to move around in. I don’t know when they are going to let us up to get some air. I’m about to die. Chow is about ready and we have to eat out of our mess kits. I hope the chow is good because I only had two sandwiches all day long. We got all of our dogs on the ship – Furlough and her pups. They carried each pup in a gas-mask container (put the gas masks in their barracks bags).
Someone put Furlough in a barracks bag and came aboard with her. She’s been on a ship before, so she knows what it’s all about. She was a little pup when we first got her. You could put her in your pocket. I guess it’s all right if her pups are aboard this ship.”
Pfc Jim Heffernan, Hq Company Light Machine Gun Platoon: “When it came time to leave Panama, the Colonel had got it cleared to bring Furlough. The cooks took care of her, since they had the food available. They took care of her two puppies also. We had smuggled them on board with Furlough. The puppies were later thrown over the side.”
Pfc Dan Morgan “Furlough was the first to get into trouble. Our Colonel had quietly allowed us to bring the dogs on bard, but Furlough was too big to hide from the crew.”
Capt Ed Hartman, Battalion S-2: “A crewman, acting on the orders of the Master, attempted to throw Furlough overboard in compliance with Army Transport Service regulations. Animals were not allowed to come back with the troops. He was immediately surrounded by a group of very quiet but angry paratroopers who made him realize that if Furlough went over the side, so would he.”
Pfc Dan Morgan: “At this point our Colonel called on the Master and a face-down and potential mass mutiny was avoided. Feelings were running high at that moment. It is possible that if the Master of the vessel had attempted to have Furlough thrown over, we would have taken over the ship. We were in no mood for games. So the Master wisely decided to bide his time until we docked in San Francisco and then turn the matter over to the Port Authorities. The Colonel risked a court-martial and the loss of his command over this incident. These were the things that marked him as our own.
On that same day, someone threw Furlough’s two pups over the side. When they were missed and we learned they had been thrown over, we were very upset. We sat on our bunks down below and stared at one another speculatively, wondering about the penalties for mutiny at sea. All it needed was one man with a loud voice saying, ‘Let’s go!’ and I guess we would have gone on deck and rounded up the crew, for we naturally assumed they had done it – but this may not have been the case.”
Sgt ‘Hedy’ LaMar, Company C: “All I know about those dots is that on the boat coming back, the word was that we couldn’t dock with those dogs on board. I heard they got one or two volunteers from our own men – Company A, I think. They were guys who just didn’t care. I don’t remember their names. No, it wasn’t the Navy; our own men did it.”
Sgt Emory Albritton, Combany B Mortar Squad: “Joe Edgerly was broken up over it. He shed some tears, and he wouldn’t believe that our own men had done it. That’s where the rumor started that the Navy had done it. Edgerly came to see me and asked about the pups, and I said that I had heard that Company A men had thrown them over. He said, ‘ I can’t believe that anyone in this Battalion could have done that’.”
Pfc Dan Morgan: “Later on, many men in the Battalion would have the impression that Joe Edgerly was the one who gave us Furlough, an impression that stemmed from his concern and affection for her. Joe was one of our outstanding athletes –boxer, track, weights, one-arm pushups, whatever. He was also a champion of the underdog, in the most realistic sense. He had a very rough start in life as a homeless youngster living on the streets of Boston, so his interest in underdogs had logical origins. He had taken Furlough under his care since she first came to the Battalion at Camp Patrick Henry, and the depth of his grief at the loss of her pups generated strong sympathy in all of us. A very good thing that whoever it was, the crew of the ship or the men of Company A, did not come face to face with Joseph Edgerly in the commission of their cowardly deed. This incident added measurably to a feeling of disgruntlement that was gradually to erode our morale over the next several months.”
Major ‘Pappy’ Herrmann, Battalion S-3: “On our training marches there at Mackall no one was surprised to see Furlough scampering along behind her beloved 551st troopers on the pine-needle-covered paths and trails. In the course of the winter of 1943-44’ there were more puppies.”
Pfc Jim Heffernan, Hq Company Light Machine Gun Platoon: “The mess hall took care of feeding Furlough, but we kept her in the Light Machine Gun Platoon barracks most of the time, and we made a bed for her in the barracks boiler room. The hot water in the latrine was leaking then and everybody was complaining, so they called the civilian plumbers in to repair the water system. Furlough had her other set of pups then – six of them. She would let any of us come right in and play with the pups, but when those plumbers came in there she immediately got the first one by the leg. It was the first meanness we had ever seen in her. Then the second plumber tried it and she bit him too. Then I went in there and she didn’t bother me at all. I was in my coveralls so we decided that she had never seen civilians before, and that was the problem. So we got some coveralls from supply and the plumbers put them on. They went in and she didn’t bother them a bit.”
Pfc Dan Morgan: “Our ‘sea tail’ caught up with us in early September. ‘Pappy’ Herrmann notes that the Battalion command post was then in the hills high above Villefranche and Nice, on the grounds of a gracious French lady named Mimiti.
Furlough had been left behind on 15 August, to be brought in across the beach, and when the ship carrying our rear elements and all our supplies docked, she was handed to a new lieutenant who was going up to join the Battalion. He got in a jeep and proceeded north, then decided to make a stop in one of the small towns he passed through. Furlough jumped off and ran up a side-street with some friendly-looking FI’s and I suppose the lieutenant may have whistled at her a time or two and then gave up. He arrived at the Battalion eventually and reported in. The Officer in Charge asked him, ‘Where’s Furlough?’ (He having probably been advised by radio that she was en-route). The lieutenant said, ‘What’s furlough?’ He was then advised as to what Furlough was and was told to go back down the line and find her. The last words he heard as he was speedily departing were, ‘If you can’t find her, don’t come back.’ He found her.”
Sgt Carl Noble, Company C 2nd Platoon: “I heard when Foe Edgerly was killed, Furlough stayed with his body until they were able to come back up there and pick it up the next day.
Furlough got very combat-cautious while we were in the Maritime Alps. When she moved, if we were expecting action, she would sense the tenseness in the men and would go from cover to cover. She would turn around and watch the guys, trying to figure out what was going on.”
Pfc Jim Heffernan, Hq Company Machine Gun Platoon: “I saw Furlough just a few times on the train across France. Then I saw her quite often at Caserne Foch, running in and out of the barracks. One night she would sleep with one bunch of guys and the next with some others. She didn’t care as long as she was with some of us.”
Pfc Dan Morgan: “Furlough was probably left behind at Laon when the Battalion convoyed to the front, but no one seems to know for sure. ‘Pappy’ Hermann feels she was left, but Jim Heffernan, who brought her to us, suggests that she may have been taken along into the Bulge. She has become legend, and like most legends, she is likely to turn up in all sorts of unexpected places – and who can say for sure?
One man says he saw her in the Bulge being carried by one of our guys in a specially-made canvas sling curing our last attack. Rumor has it that she was seen on 7January with the Colonel, and that she ws killed by the same burst that killed him. Another man told Jim Heffernan that he had seen her running as fast as she could go, across an open field up in the Bulge, under heavy shelling.
The legend grows – she has become very much a part of our proud Battalion. Many years after the War we acquired a female dachshund pup in my own family. Soon we were raising them, pedigree and all. I never gave it thought until now, 15 years later, why I chose dachshunds – it had to be Furlough, the only ‘furlough’ I ever got before going overseas that first time – the trip I figured was one-way. She was the ‘last farewell’ to my Mother and Dad, my Brother and Sister. She symbolized for each one of us in the Battalion, some very poignant memories. We protected her and she returned our caring ten-fold in pure affection. How fitting it was then, that she shared our fate and was lost in the shadows and forgotten. Even in our ruin, she was with us to the end.
(Pg. 452) And now Furlough enters the story for the last time. Only two of our men claim to have seen her during the period 3-7 January, up front in the Bulge. Knowing the resourceful nature of our men, I am inclined to believe she may have made it. I know the GOYA’s would have wanted it that way – and so the legend grows.”
– S/Sgt Jim Stevens, Company A: “I think I saw Furlough up there in the Bulge and I guess she was being carried. It seems to me that some guy in Hq Company had made a little sling or something and was carrying her on his back – and that makes you think: that guy had to carry all his own equipment, and he had to be really tired, but he still found the extra strength to carry her too. She probably weighted at least 20 pounds. Later I heard through the grapevine that the Colonel had been killed by a shell, and the story was that Furlough had been wounded too, by the same shell that got the Colonel.”