You hear stories about troops bringing home the dogs they became close with in Afghanistan and Iraq. Well in 1963 the same thing happened, but instead of a dog that our troops fell in love with, it was a bengal tiger!
That’s right, after being originally adopted by the Marine guards and outgrowing its home, it was handed over to the U.S. Army 93rd transportation company! Tuffy the tiger became their mascot and they took on the name the Soc Trang Flying Tigers!
There have been numerous stories in the media of soldiers rescuing abandoned or stray dogs in Afghanistan and bringing them home to the United States, but what about a Bengal tiger?
That’s exactly what happened in 1963 during the Vietnam War when the U.S. Army 93rd Transportation Company donated their mascot, Tuffy, a 250-pound Bengal tiger to the Toledo, Ohio zoo.
Willard Womack, a soldier in the company, recalled the story to students at Whitewater Middle as the school’s keynote speaker during their Veterans Day celebration on November 11.
The U.S. Marine Corps Guard at the American Embassy in Bangkok had originally adopted the tiger cub.
After the tiger outgrew his first headquarters, the marines turned the cat over to the 93rd Transportation Company in Vietnam, whose pilots built him a pen, complete with swimming pool.
Soon the company became known as the Soc Trang Flying Tigers.
Just as the students were enthralled with the stories and messages that were shared by veterans during the celebration, Womack was also moved by the event.
“I was truly overwhelmed, and brought close to tears, as we walked in to that standing ovation. For a moment or two, as I stood there, I was wondering if I could remember any thing that I had been thinking about to say. My mind just went a little numb,” he wrote in an email to Bonnie Hicks, the school’s computer connections teacher who helped organize the celebration.
Tuffy died at the zoo in June 1980 at the ripe old age of 18.