Remembering Sentry Dog Nemo

Nemo was obtained by the Air Force in the summer of 1964 when he was 1 1/2 years old.

In January 1966, Nemo, and his first handler, Airman Leonard Bryant Jr., were transferred to the Republic of South Vietnam and was assigned to the 377th Security Police Squadron, stationed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Six months later, Airman Leonard Bryant Jr. was rotated back to the United States. Nemo was then teamed up with 22 year old Airman 2nd Class Robert Thorneburg.

Just before total darkness on December 4th, 1966 after Sentry Dog Nemo and his handler Thorneburg were posted, Nemo alerted and was released to attack the VC who had evaded earlier detection. Nemo and his handler were both wounded, but not before killing two VC.

Nemo’s injuries included the loss of one eye and a gunshot wound that ripped into his nose and had exited his mouth. Nemo, an 85 pound German shepherd, although severely wounded, protected his handler who had been shot in the shoulder by crawling across his body and guarding him against anyone who dared to come near.

When help arrived, they were able to convince Nemo to leave his handler, who was then given first aid. Nemo, suffering from a gunshot wound to his face and the lost of his right eye, was relieved of Sentry Dog duties.

The base veterinarian performed skin grafts on Nemo’s torn up face. He did a tracheotomy to help the dog breathe. He had to remove the dog’s right eye, which was hanging uselessly out of its socket. Nemo has been credited with saving his handler’s life and preventing further destruction of life and property at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.

On 23 June 1967, Headquarters, USAF, directed that Nemo be returned to the United States as the first Sentry Dog officially retired from active service. The C-124 Globemaster carrying TSN Hero Nemo, touched down at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas on July 22, 1967. Nemo was now home!

His permanent retirement kennel was located at the Department of Defense Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. Sentry Dog Nemo was one of the few Military Working Dogs that returned home. Nemo spent his retirement years at the Department of Defense Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas.

He was assigned a permanent kennel near the veterinary facility. A sign with his name, serial number, and details of his heroic exploits designated his freshly painted home. Nemo was frequently taken on tours throughout the United States to assist in the procurement of Military Working Dogs. The military used Nemo as a Department of Defense canine recruiter. He made several television appearances and helped maintain an adequate supply of working dogs for all the armed services.

Sentry Dog Nemo died in December of 1972 at Lackland AFB shortly before the Christmas holiday. The Vietnam War Hero was laid to rest on March 15, 1973 at the DoD Dog Center at the age of 10. The government recruited over 4,000 dogs and we believe that less that 200 made it home. It was estimated that these dogs saved the lives of over 10,000 American soldiers. On November 15, 2005 a dedication was made to honor Nemo at Lackland, AFB named “Nemo’s War Dog Heroes” Memorial. The legacy will continue to honor all of canine heroes past, present and future. Till this day, Nemo, is the most famous canine to serve in the military.


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