Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Flying Dog at Barksdale

In the 1940s, there was a newspaper called Barksdale's Bark, which provided Barksdale Field news. On Jan. 23, 1943, the article, "Flying Mascot Has Parachute in Case he has to Bail Out," announced, "Salvo, the only flying dog at Barksdale, has a parachute."

Salvo was a 4-month-old fox terrier at the time of the article and already had 28 hours in the air. He holds the title of being the first dog in the world to make a solo parachute jump. His first jump was from 1500 feet in the air. He became the number one applicant for the "parapups" battalion at Andrews Field, England, where he was stationed.

According to the article, "Lt. Hugh Fletcher named the pup after its first plane ride. Pilot J.W. Wright had done a few maneuvers and was taxiing in when the crew noticed the little fox terrier was moving unsteadily toward the door. After the B-26 stopped, the billious [sic] pup scrambled out and heaved a mixture of chewing gum, waste paper and candy. It was then Lt. Fletcher decided he should be called 'Salvo.'" (The definition of salvo is a simultaneous discharge of artillery.)

Tech. Sgt. Glen Schultz designed Salvo's parachute out of spare materials. The parachute had a 50-inch canopy with a static line for positive opening if he should have to bail out. When Salvo was to jump, Lt. Fletcher fixed one end of the parachute cord to the plane, and when he jumps and begins to descend, his weight pulled the cord and opened the release mechanism.

Source: Imperial War Museum; Roger Freeman Collection Id: FRE 1184.
Salvo went into action in the European theater when he was just one year old with the honorary rank of 2nd Lt. He was the seventh member of and the mascot for the bombardment crew that flew the B-26 Marauder nicknamed "Jezabelle." He proudly served alongside his owner, 2nd Lt. Hugh R. Fletcher, bombardier navigator; Sgt. A. J. Peloquin, tail gunner; Flight-officer T. E. Anton, co-pilot; and Lt. Joseph W. Wright, pilot; Pvt. H. E. Spencer, radio gunner; Staff Sgt. Jack H. Shock, engineer gunner.

Salvo went on five missions and two battle operations over western Europe. By May 1944, he had logged more than 300 hours in the air and had been up as high as 18,000 feet. In addition to his custom-made parachute that snapped onto his harness, he also had a combination gas and oxygen mask that protected him during emergencies and supplied oxygen when flying at high altitudes.

If you are wondering if Salvo had his own "dog tags," the answer is yes. His official serial number was 000000.

In July of 1944, Lt. Fletcher was interviewed while in London, and during the interview, he told of Salvo's bravery and was sad to report that he was, at that time, "missing in action." Before going MIA, Salvo met Duchess, the mascot for another Air Corps crew, and fathered a litter of future heroes.

It appears that Salvo was perhaps reunited with his crew and continued to serve until the war ended. According to Nigel Cawthorne, author of Canine Commandoes, "By May 1945, Salvo had clocked up more than five hundred hours in the air..."

As you can imagine, being the first parachuting dog made Salvo famous around the world. His story, along with pictures of him parachuting, appeared in newspapers throughout the nation. In one Akron, OH newspaper, the article stated that "The fliers say Salvo is chockfull of the stuff that heroes are made of." And a citation that accompanied an award Salvo received asserts, "His sheer doggedness while under fire and his loyalty to Lt. Fletcher and the United States Air Force reflect great credit on himself."
To learn more about the history of Barksdale Air Force Base, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett St., Bossier City. Contact us by phone, 318-746-7717, or email,

By: Amy Robertson

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