Local veteran reflects on when he brought dog home from war zone

As interest rises in adopting canines who've fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, one vet proves it's not a new issue

Lincoln Johnson, Lawrence, right, a World War II veteran, brought a dog back from Germany by hiding it in his duffel bag. Johnson visits with his friend Corky Reed on Monday at the McDonald's restaurant, 1309 W. 6th, where a group of friends meet daily. The dog was a mixed breed dog named Waldmann, later shortened to Wally.

A photograph of Lincoln Johnson, Lawrence, from his time serving during World War II. Lawrence brought a dog back from Germany by hiding it in his duffel bag.

This dog, a mixed breed named Waldmann, was brought back into the United States after World War II when his owner, Lincoln Johnson, of Lawrence, hid him in a duffel bag.

Dogs get a lot of attention when they are in a war zone.

Last fall the story of an American soldier’s attempt to bring home a stray dog she took in while serving in Iraq received considerable publicity. The military doesn’t normally allow that, but this time it relented because of the news coverage and the involvement of an international animal organization.

Lincoln Johnson, a 93-year-old Lawrence resident, can identify with that soldier. At the end of World War II while serving with the Army in occupied Germany, he adopted a dog from a farmer.

When time came for Johnson to return stateside he hid the 9-month-old retriever mix among his clothes inside a duffle bag just before boarding a ship in Belgium.

A lot of soldiers had taken in pets without the Army saying anything, Johnson said, but he didn’t think he would be allowed to openly take the dog on the ship. The female dog was called Wally, which was short for Waldmann, the name the farmer had given it.

Johnson and Wally got caught as they tried to get past the boarding checkpoint.

“She didn’t make any noise, but I guess she moved,” Johnson said with a chuckle, as he told the story recently while sipping coffee at a local restaurant.

Johnson had to let the dog out and was told to stand to the side and wait. Pretty soon a major arrived.

“I thought, ‘this is the end of this trip home,’ ” Johnson said.

Much to Johnson’s surprise, however, the major told him to take the dog to a holding area in the bottom of the ship.

“I think he must have liked dogs, too,” Johnson said.

Wally had company while chained up in the ship. There were a few other dogs there as well, Johnson said. The dog was allowed plenty of food and Johnson cleaned up after it.

Johnson, who spent four years in the Army in a field artillery unit and serving as an airplane mechanic, was discharged and returned to his hometown of Lawrence. Wally went on to live about 10 years, Johnson said.

The dog also stayed for awhile with Johnson’s elderly mother in Topeka. “He was good company for her,” he said.

Johnson went on to have other dogs but Wally is still his favorite.

“She was more intelligent than the rest of them,” Johnson said. “She picked up on things pretty quickly.”