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34th Tactical Fighter Squadron - Thud Era

Korat RTAFB, Thailand - May 1966 to May 1969

Roscoe - Top Dog at Korat

Roscoe in 1967
Roscoe in 1967

Top Dog of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing

By 1st Lt John Henderson
(Originally printed in Airman Magazine, 1973)

Thud pilots who flew their war out of Korat, Thailand, will remember Roscoe. In fact, most anyone who did his Southeast Asia tour at Korat will remember the sandy colored mongrel who had the run of the place.

Roscoe is the dog that a whole wing adopted. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Surprisingly, not many people know the "true" story of Roscoe. I don't either, so I will tell you what I was able to piece together from newspapers and talking with people who were at Korat when Roscoe arrived.

Roscoe's origin is uncertain. What is known is that in June 1966 Roscoe came to Korat from Yokota AB, Japan. He came with his owner, Maj. Merrill Ray Lewis, when the F-105s came to Korat to form the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Major Lewis was shot down two months later over the Northeast Railroad and as of September 1973 - he was MIA.

Roscoe was named after Capt. Roscoe Anderson, an F-86 pilot, a MIG killer in Korea, and a friend of Major Lewis's. When Captain Anderson was killed in an F-105 landing accident at Yokota, Major Lewis named the dog in his memory.

Some people say Roscoe came from Korat City, others say he is a Japanese dog, still others say he is American. The veterinarian states that based on medical history and physical characteristics Roscoe is not a Thai dog.

Some people say Roscoe came to Korat in the back seat of an F-105, however, Thud pilots who were at Korat at the time say that the F-105s then did not have a back seat [but the 36th TFS at Yokota did have a few 'Fs - RV].

When his owner did not return, Roscoe nearly died of a broken heart. He wouldn't eat, he just moped around waiting for Major Lewis. Someone finally started taking care of Roscoe and got him to eat. He was adopted by the whole 34th TFS. Years later, when the 34th changed from F-105s to F-4s, Roscoe stayed with the squadron. Paperwork was submitted and Roscoe became the only official mascot of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.

Since Roscoe is the only mascot allowed at Korat he is entitled to special treatment. Roscoe has the rank of colonel and as such he has free run of the whole base including the Officers Club, rides in government vehicles, and has access to the operations complex known as "Fort Apache". Roscoe used to attend regularly the wing commander's morning stand-up meeting. He was privileged to sit in the wing commander's chair. During the war over North Vietnam, aircrews could count on Roscoe being at the briefing. If Roscoe was asleep or bored with the briefing, the mission would be easy; if he sat up and was alert, the pilots braced for a risky one.

At one time Korat had only one Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) initial approach fix. Yep, you guessed it. It was named "Roscoe". Unfortunately, when it was determined that Korat needed two initial approach fixes the name "Roscoe" was not retained.

Roscoe has effective ways of getting rides around base. He just walks up to a vehicle when the driver is getting in, or he stands by the side of the road until someone stops for him. When he gets where he wants to go, Roscoe informs the driver who then stops and lets him out. Roscoe used to ride in the back of trucks, but not anymore, he rides up front on a better seat.

People have had doubts as to how long Roscoe would live since he has had heartworms. However, due to the skill of the Air Force veterinarians at Korat, Roscoe survived two attacks. In May 1973 Roscoe underwent IRAN (Inspection and Repair As Necessary) and came out with a clean bill of health. However, like many older Americans Roscoe was overweight.

There's even a Roscoe control officer - currently, me. There has to be someone to make sure he remains a Code One dog.

After all, Roscoe is the dog a whole wing adopted, or vice versa.

Roscoe sleeps

Roscoe Flys West

Roscoe was cared for by all, but especially by the 34th TFS, including Squadron Commander, LtCol Bob Smith (late 1967 to mid-1968).

Roscoe died of a heart attack at one of his favorite spots, the Korat Officer's Club, on September 13, 1975.

Update, July 3, 2009

Jan Lewis found a story about Roscoe's departure and forwarded it to Dave McNeil. Thanks to both for adding to the Roscoe legend.

Click the image at right to read the story.

Roscoe death article.
Roscoe was legendary at Korat. Click any picture for a larger image.
  • With LtCol Sherril
    With LtCol Sherril
    Sorry to see you leave.
  • Late 1966
    Late 1966
    Where are my friends?
  • All Dressed Up
    All Dressed Up
    All squadrons represented.
  • Memorial Plaque
    Memorial Plaque
    A plaque presented to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AF by 10 pilots from the 34th. It is located on Memorial Wall #2, Plaque #47, "F-105 Fighter Pilots".
  • Memorial Statue
    Memorial Statue
    Taken in 2012 by Maj Goh "Pacman" RMAF. The memorial is located right outside the KABOOM.
  • Paw Prints
    Paw Prints
    This composite picture is two photos of Roscoe's paw prints in the concrete out side the Kaboom Club. Right after the concrete was poured and finished, Roscoe walked over it. The Thai finisher was going to wipe the prints out, but was ordered not to. If facing the club the prints are all the way down to the right end of the walkway.
Two Roscoe Incidents recalled by Dr. Ken Singer

34th TFS Flight Surgeon, September 1966 to September 1967

  • The IG

    The IG (Inspector General) came around for an inspection in late 66 or early 77, and one of the write-ups to be corrected was that a dog was on the base that was not permitted, and the dog had to go. When they were about to return for their re-inspection to be sure that the items written up were corrected, General Chairsell came to us and said that we had to keep the dog out of sight, as "...Roscoe is more important to the mission of this wing than the IG is". We did not have a vet on base yet, so the flight surgeons were supposed to keep him under wraps. Roscoe was very active and was not about to be penned up, so we medicated him. Not knowing the correct dose, we gave him a little, and nothing happened. So we gave him a little more, and he was still frisky. After the third dose, he went to sleep under the desk in the squadron ops area, and then we couldn't awaken him. We were so concerned that we might have killed him, that we carried him back to the infirmary stayed up with him all night to be sure he was breathing. About 24 hours later, he woke up, wagged his tail, and trotted back to the hooches and the briefing that day. The IG team had come and gone, and never saw him. We medics thought we deserved a medal, but never received one.

  • Quack

    The second one... Somebody (I think it was Dick Heyman) began to call me "Quack" and when I would show up several would start quacking. At one of the hooch parties they presented me with a present: a large box with 2 live ducks. As soon as the box was opened they started quacking and Roscoe started barking at them. After things quieted down, the ducks were left in the box and everybody went to bed. The next day they were gone, and someone had seen Roscoe carrying something in his mouth across the flight line towards the Army base. The ducks were never seen again, and the dog seemed much happier.

    I always found it easier and less confusing to take care of Roscoe that most of the pilots!

Check the following links for more stories and pictures.

In Praise of The Squadron Dog (Vintage Wings of Canada)
Bob Freitas's site has much of this same information plus some comments.
Update, May 3, 2009: Tamara Lewis Kolstad, Ray's daughter, sent us a nice note with the "real" story. Here's what she says about the early days:
We got Roscoe as a puppy in Japan from some friends of my dad's on Johnson AFB. At the time, we were told he was a combination of German Shepherd, Alaskian Huskey, Samoyed, Wolf and Pekinese. After a couple years, Daddy took him over to Korat in a C-130 close to the day my mother, brother and I were sent home to the states. Almost immediately upon our arrival in the states we were given the news of my father's MIA status. My Mother was asked if we wanted Roscoe shipped to us, but under the circumstances, and we knew how Roscoe would want to be with Ray if he was ever found, we chose to leave him in Korat where he was made the mascot. Don't get me wrong, we loved that dog so much, but we knew he would be sad at the loss of Ray and that he would have a better life at the base.

Thank you Tamara for giving us the "rest of the story".

Update, July 3, 2009: Jan Lewis has found some early Roscoe pictures and graciously shared the four below with us via Dave McNeil. (Click on any picture for a larger image.)
  •  Jan with Roscoe (floppy ears) and his brother, Watasi. That's her son Buck on the left.

    Jan with Roscoe (floppy ears) and his brother, Watasi. That's her son Buck on the left.

  •  Ray Lewis's children, Merrill Ray Lewis III & Tamie Ray Lewis, with Roscoe in Japan.

    Ray Lewis's children, Merrill Ray Lewis III & Tamie Ray Lewis, with Roscoe in Japan.

  •  Roscoe with his brother, Watasi, on the left.

    Roscoe with his brother, Watasi, on the left.

  •  Roscoe and a bear cub at Korat.

    Roscoe and a bear cub at Korat.

In Remembrance Of Those Who Served!

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