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107510653 oAt the very end of the war, American Corporal Lee Duncan picked up two dogs from a litter of German shepherds discovered in the rubble of a kennel near Saint-Mihiel where his unit fought. He named them Nénette and Rin Tin Tin, to evoke the little woolen puppets that the children of Lorraine offered to allied soldiers as a lucky charm. Nénette died during the return crossing to the United States, but Rin Tin Tin, arriving safe and sound on American soil, quickly demonstrated the exceptional abilities which led him straight to the movie sets of Hollywood (right).

Rin Tin Tin: The World War I True Story 

By By Kate Kelly
via the America Comes Alive! web site

Rin Tin Tin likely would have been a German war dog if the World War I battle near Saint-Mihiel had gone differently.

In September of 1918, the Allies broke through the German line in northeastern France. As the Germans evacuated the area, some men were sent out to scour the countryside to see what remained. Among the discoveries were a mother dog and her puppies, left behind in a damaged war dog station.

Lee Duncan, a soldier from Southern California, couldn’t bear to leave the dogs behind. With help from a buddy, he took them back to the base where his unit, the 135th Aero Squadron, was camped.

The rest is Hollywood history.

Lee Duncan’s Childhood

Lee Duncan (1893-1960) was born into a poor family in California. His father soon left them. In 1898, his mother placed Lee and his sister in an orphanage as she was unable to support them. (Orphanages were sometimes used by families for temporary placements at this time.) By 1900, Duncan’s mother moved in with her brother. She was able to take the children back, but Duncan’s family life was never a settled one.

As a young man, Duncan saw the call for the military as an opportunity. He became part of the U.S. Army Air Service, serving with the 135th Aero Squadron during World War I.

Read the entire article on the America Comes Alive! web site here:

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