C Company Mascot, 4th/47th Battalion, 2nd Brigade

The Story Of “Charlie The Cat”
Written by Clarence Shires, Jr.

In the fall of 1966, 1st Platoon Sgt. William M. Leurquin found a small kitten at an old farm house at Fort Riley, Kansas where we were conducting training maneuvers.   He brought it to Charlie Company’s 1st Platoon NCO Room and I became care taker of the kitten.  It was so small that it fit in my hand. We named it Charlie even though we didn’t know if it was male or female.  1st Platoon troopers chipped in for a cage, cat litter and cat food, but most of the food came from our mess hall. Charlie The Cat stayed in my space in his cage.  When we had spare time we took Charlie outside and he really liked this except for when we had that big snow in late December 1966. In early January 1967, we departed Fort Riley, Kansas, for our Tour of Duty in Vietnam. By this time, Charlie had grown to full size.

With the help of some my men, we smuggled Charlie aboard the troop train that carried us from Fort Riley to Oakland and I kept it hidden in my compartment on the train.  Some of us took food from our mess trays and fed Charlie.  Once arriving in Oakland, California, we smuggled Charlie aboard our troop ship, the USS General John Pope. I put Charlie and his cage in the cargo hole at our bunk area under our duffle bags. It wasn’t long before the Captain of our troop ship discovered that Charlie the Cat was on board and he put an article in the ship’s paper telling us that we could take Charlie out on deck.  Everybody liked having Charlie aboard and many of the Navy sailors took pictures of him. Charlie survived the three week cruise just fine and I think he was the only one of us who did not get sea sick.

When we arrived in Vietnam at Vung Tau, I put Charlie in a luggage bag and carried him on the landing craft to shore and then on the truck to Camp Bear Cat. We let him go at our base camp, but he stayed close to us while we were there between patrols. One memory I have was when a soldier, that was new to us, was mistreating Charlie.  First Sgt. Crockett saw him and to put it mildly chewed him out thoroughly.  Charlie The Cat was well liked. When we moved to Dong Tam, down in the Mekong Delta, we left Charlie at Camp Bearcat. For months we wondered what could have happened to Charlie.  We thought maybe he had been killed and eaten by local Vietnamese villagers. In early January 1968, I departed Dong Tam and went to Camp Bearcat to process out of country.  The night before I left Vietnam, some of us were standing around at our old Bearcat Base Camp, it was late at night and I felt something rubbing against my legs. It scared me at first, but then I realized it was Charlie. I picked him up and petted him and when I put Charlie down, it just strolled off into the darkness. I never saw Charlie The Cat again.

Years later I was talking on the phone to my 1st Platoon buddy, John Bauler and he said that he was a cat lover and had always wondered what happened to Charlie.  I told him about my last night in Vietnam and that I too have always wondered about his life after we left.

Written: January 2007

Clarence Shires taking care of Charlie The Cat at Fort Riley and aboard the USS General John Pope (see photo below).