Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Bubbles, the dog who led planes in Vietnam

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent  In the early 1970s, pilots taxiing their planes on the east ramp of Bien Hoa Air Base may have been ferried to their final destination by a dog named Bubbles. The odd mix of golden lab and dachshund, whose 40-pound body reminded at least one airman of ...

Howard Lavick/Stars and Stripes
Howard Lavick/Stars and Stripes
Howard Lavick/Stars and Stripes

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent 

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent 

In the early 1970s, pilots taxiing their planes on the east ramp of Bien Hoa Air Base may have been ferried to their final destination by a dog named Bubbles.

The odd mix of golden lab and dachshund, whose 40-pound body reminded at least one airman of a Heinz 57 bottle, belonged to Staff Sgt. John E. Molnar, whose job it was to marshal in aircraft along the flight line marked by a yellow stripe. Bubbles, having watched Molnar do the job and apparently not afraid of the large planes, began to mimic his routine and took to walking ahead of them. "Once in awhile we put a headphone set and sunglasses on him and it really cracks up the pilots," Molnar told Stars and Stripes in 1971.

The job did come with certain hazards — Bubbles had a close call with the "prop blasts of a C130 and was blown 15 feet through the air." Another time he "was almost sucked into the turbine of a commercial 707."

But that didn’t stop Bubbles from taking the occasional nap on the runway. So at home was this dog among the planes and pilots that he often refused to budge. The pilots who had had grown fond of their assistant and mascot knew how to get him to "move in a hurry" — revving up a nearby engine was all it took.

Tip of the hat to Tom who spied this gem earlier this week in Stars and Stripes‘s most excellent daily feature, Archive Photo of the Day

Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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