Jeff Jardine

Muso: The dog of war who came home in 1945

Marine Corps League

Shortly after World War II ended, the Marine Corps League and its auxiliary in Modesto published an untitled yearbooklike roster of Marines, soldiers, sailors and other people from the Valley who served in the military during the war. Likewise, the Escalon Presbyterian Church produced “We Who Served,” specific to the Escalon area.

These books contain capsules detailing the service, most accompanied by photos. A star next to the name meant the soldier died in combat.

They are fascinating windows into the era and on those from the area who served and, in some cases, died during the war. But one entry in particular, near the very end of the more Modesto-centric version, piqued my interest. It read: Marshall, Moose (War Dog) and went on to explain that the dog belonged to Anthony L. Marshall of Escalon and served in “the Pacific area.”

Interesting, because 40 pages previous, the photo and bio capsule of Sgt. Anthony L. Marshall of Escalon told of an Army Air Corps officer with the 34th Pursuit Squadron. He had survived the horrific Bataan Death March after U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese in the spring of 1942, and he died in the Cabanatuan Prison on Luzon the following September.

Did that dog go with him to the Philippines? What was their story?

I contacted Barbara Willis of the Escalon Historical Society. She first put me in contact with Marshall’s cousin, David Marshall of Colorado, a former Modesto-area resident who remembers Anthony Lawrence Marshall fondly and the dog not so much, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Willis found a copy of “We Who Served” and sent me scans of the pages referring to Lawrence Marshall and to the dog. In Escalon’s version, the dog is named Muso and was one of four such war dogs on loan to the Army from Escalon-area families. Others belonged to the Condrey, Matt and Deutsch families.

Another discrepancy: The Escalon book stated that Muso entered the service on April 17, 1943, served in the “European Area” – not in the Pacific theater – and was discharged on Sept. 7, 1945.

Here’s the family background, per David Marshall: Lawrence Marshall was the eldest of Tony and Martha Marshall’s four children, three of whom were boys. David Marshall said Martha Marshall was kin to George Eastman, who built Kodak into a camera and film giant. The family referred to Anthony as Lawrence to differentiate him from his father, also Anthony L. Marshall, and known as Tony.

Tony Marshall moved his family from Gustine to Escalon in the early 1940s. Lawrence, by that time, was a mechanic working on P-40 fighter aircraft in the Army Air Corps and stationed at Hickam Field in Hawaii. His unit, the 34th Pursuit Squadron, was reassigned to Clark Air Base in Manila, the Philippines.

David Marshall recalls cousin Lawrence visiting the family farm in Gustine while on leave in 1940.

“I used the excellent drawing lessons that Lawrence gave on creating airplanes the rest of my life,” David Marshall, 83, wrote in his 2013 autobiography titled “Living on the Cusp: A Memoire.” “I was not used to having a young adult pay such special attention to me, so he instantly became one of my favorite cousins. I had 52 cousins, and he was my favorite.”

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, they attacked American forces in the Philippines, destroying the fleet of P-40s on the ground. With no planes to maintain or repair, the brass assigned Lawrence Marshall a rifle and told him he was now an infantryman. Japanese forces soon forced Gen. Jonathan Wainwright to surrender. Lawrence Marshall was among the 50,000 Americans and Filipinos forced to plod 60 miles over two days, with no food or water, in the infamous Bataan Death March.

“My cousin survived the torturous walk only to die two years later from gross malnutrition, hideous mistreatment and physical cruelty at the hands of the (Japanese),” David Marshall wrote.

According to both books and to his gravestone at Escalon’s Burwood Cemetery, Lawrence died in September 1942. Word of his death likely didn’t reach the family back home until about two years later. And no, Muso the dog didn’t go with him to war.

Dad Tony Marshall volunteered Muso to the Army in April 1943. Muso returned in September 1945, about a month after atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan’s surrender to end the war. Muso returned with a Certificate of Faithful Service from the Army, but he was a changed dog and no longer an approachable family pet.

Martha Marshall tried to get Army handlers to reveal more about Muso’s service; they refused.

“We knew only that he’d been in the Pacific,” David Marshall said. “She wanted to know where he’d been, who he was with. The Army would never tell. What his record was, we never knew.”

“I well remember that dog,” Marshall told me when we spoke by phone on Tuesday. “That dog came back meaner than a snake.”

One day, while visiting his aunt and uncle, Marshall learned firsthand how mean Muso could be.

“I’d forgotten that they’d tied it up,” he said. “I walked past it and woke up and it came at me.”

Only because the dog reached the end of the chain did Marshall avoid being attacked. No one other than Tony and Martha Marshall could handle Muso, David Marshall said, and Tony in particular.

“My uncle was a very colorful man,” he said. “He drove a beat-up old Chevrolet. Muso would ride on the roof, barking at anyone who went past. But the dog would stay on the roof. That dog would viciously bark like he was going to kill someone, but he never jumped down. He scratched the paint off of the top of the car, and the scratch marks rusted. He was a colorful dog, but he scared the hell out of me.”

David Marshall remembers that Muso lived at least three or four more years after returning from the war.

And like favorite cousin Lawrence, Muso is remembered in the pages of books that stand as proud records of service.