DOGGONE IT!

Potter Mascot Retired with Perfect Service Record


Potts

Remembering "Potts."

"Potts" may have been the only sea dog in the United States Navy in World War II to have his own service record and ID card.

At least, that's what those of us who served aboard the Destroyer USS Stephen Potter believe.

Whenever some of us from the Potter crew gather for reunions of shipmates, there's always a great deal of swapping of sea stories.

Inevitably, we talked about "Potts," the little mutt that went to sea with us as our mascot in 1943 who rode the bounding ship through more than a dozen major engagements with the Japanese in the South and Central Pacific for the next two years.

"Potts" was a small, black mongrel with a splash of white on his chest, wispy‑haired and long ears that stuck out and drooped at the ends. You could not call "Potts" a pretty dog. But he had a sort of soulful cuteness that made him instantly endearing.

How he got on board was a mystery only known to a crafty boson’s mate named Lewicki (the men swore that Lewicki didn't have a first name, actually it was Anthony) who is alleged to have picked up the puppy on the streets of San Francisco and smuggled him aboard the night before we went to sea as a brand, spanking new ship of the line.

As Jimmy Vellis, our first executive officer, recalls, the ship was already underway when he discovered that Lewicki had the little dog on board. Already burdened with enough worries about his first voyage as an exec with mostly green officers and crew and a new ship, Vellis almost had apoplexy.

He couldn't throw the dog over the side, so Vellis agreed that the pooch could stay, as long as Lewicki saw to it that he didn't make a mess on the deck or get underfoot.

That was the beginning of the naval career of "Potts," who was promptly given that name by the crew. An enterprising yeoman got the idea of making out a service record for "Potts of the Potter" just like regular crew members had.

Of course, "Potts" was given a service number, 999.99K9, and his picture was taken and put on his regular Navy ID card, complete with his paw prints on the back and properly signed by the exec.

For his genealogy, "Potts" service record showed that Rin Tin Tin was his great grandfather.

Whenever crew members went over on the beach on the tiny atoll islands in the Pacific to enjoy their ration of two cans of beer, "Potts" always stood in line with the men and was given his quota of. suds. Sailors from other ships often ganged around the Potter crew on the beach just to play with the dog mascot. Claytus Melcher swears it's true that the first time Potts went ashore and after watching a pet dog from a cruiser relieve himself on a palm tree, tried to do the same thing.

But, says Melcher, "Potts fell over."

Once on an island liberty ashore, "Potts" got on the wrong whaleboat to go back to the ship and was AWOL for days while the Potter went out to sea on another operation. After we came back to our anchorage at the island of Ulithi in the Caroline Islands, out of dozens of ships in the harbor, a small landing vessel tied up alongside the Potter.

Remarkably, "Potts" happened to be on that vessel and one of our officers immediately spotted him. With some reluctance, the other ship handed the little dog over to us and we had our mascot back.

Whenever our guns were firing, "Potts" would run up and down the deck barking as loud as he could as though he was the ship's cheerleader. Some of us felt, however, that he really didn't like the noise and was just letting us know.

There was no way for "Potts" to climb up and down the ship's ladders to get below decks or topside, but that proved to be no handicap for him. Whenever he wanted to get up or down, he knew just how to position himself at the top or the bottom of the ladder, and one of the shipmates would come along and carry him.

When we came back to Mare Island for repairs in August 1945, crew and a new ship, Vellis almost had apoplexy.

He couldn't throw the dog over the side, so Vellis agreed that the pooch could stay, as long as Lewicki saw to it that he didn't make a mess on the deck or get underfoot.

That was the beginning of the naval career of "Potts," who was promptly given that name by the crew. An enterprising yeoman got the idea of making out a service record for "Potts of the Potter" just like regular crew members had.

Of course, "Potts" was given a service number, 999.99K9, and his picture was taken and put on his regular Navy ID card, complete with his paw prints on the back and properly signed by the exec.

For his genealogy, "Potts" service record showed that Rin Tin Tin was his great‑grandfather.

Whenever crew members went over on the beach on the tiny atoll islands in the Pacific to enjoy their ration of two cans of beer, "Potts" always stood in line with the men and was given his quota of. suds. Sailors from other ships often ganged around the Potter crew on the beach just to play with the dog mascot. Claytus Melcher swears it's true that the first time Potts went ashore and after watching a pet dog from a cruiser relieve himself on a palm tree, tried to do the same thing.

"Potts" wandered away from a crew member on shore leave in Oakland. The anxious crew got a story and picture of "Potts" in the Oakland Tribune, and offered a $25 war bond for his return.

A couple of days later, an employee at the Sante Fe Railway depot recognized the little dog from the photo in the Tribune and notified the worried Potter crew that their beloved mascot had been found.

"Potts" stayed aboard all the way until the ship was decommissioned in December 1945. He went home with one of the crew members and lived for another two years after the war.

But the service record of "Potts of the Potter" has been preserved.

--by Bill Minor--