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By 1944, Ernest Taylor Pyle (in Normandy, France) had won millions of loyal readers and a Pulitzer. (The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana)

On the Wing and On the Ground

Ernie Pyle's aviation and war dispatches.

When Ballentine and his mechanic had first seen the object in the water, they thought it was a man swimming. But as they got lower, they could see it was a dog. He had undoubtedly been in the water for hours and was swimming his last strokes when they pulled him out. He was seven miles from the nearest land. He wore a collar with the letter “H” engraved on it. He was part Airedale and part just “dog.”

The mystery was how the dog got out there. No ships were known to have gone thru the Straits during the night.

So the Jason sent out a radio message to one of its sister tenders, 150 miles away. Soon a message returned. It was from the German cruiser Hamburg. It said:

Hamburg passed thru Basilan Straits dawn this morning. Ship’s dog ‘Hans’ overboard unnoticed. Please thank Lieut. Ballentine and mechanic. We request that Jason adopt Hans as Hamburg bound Europeward.”

The Jason did adopt Hans. He is the ship’s mascot now and “Sunset” saw him again just a few weeks ago in Shanghai.

The magazine with that story came to me in the mail one morning. That same afternoon I was down at the Anacostia Naval Air Station. There was a flier in the station whom I had never seen before, and Lieut. J.J. Clark, the executive officer, introduced him to me as “Lieut. Ballentine.”

“Are you the man that rescued the dog off Zamboanga?” I asked, pretty much amazed. He smiled and said that he was. Lieut. Ballentine is now in charge of the air detail at the Naval Ordinance Proving Grounds at Dahlgren, Va., just below Quantico.

Ballentine recounted to me the story of the dog-rescuing. But the best part of it is this—that they never did learn where the dog came from and that “Sunset” just made that up about the German cruiser in order to make it a better story! Lieut. Ballentine thinks that was pretty clever of him.

—Ernie Pyle


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