Lee Duncan, a corporal in the trenches of World War I France, rescued a military German shepherd and her pups during an artillery attack. Duncan, an orphan, “immediately bonded” with a pup he named Rin Tin Tin. He knew somehow that the dog would become immortal. Ninety years later, the legacy of Rin Tin Tin is still alive in the hearts of Americans.
“He was born in 1918 and he never died.” The dog that was to become a hero, an ideal, a companion and a caretaker also became a celebrity. Lee wrote a screenplay about the intimacy between a man and his dog, starring Rin Tin Tin. The dog became a favorite in Hollywood’s silent movies. He rode a steeplechase horse, dove off a thirty-foot pier, and drove an aquaplane. His successors starred in movies though the years. A 1950s television show about the dog and an orphaned boy adopted by a cavalry troop during the Apache wars hit the charts. Rin Tin Tin IV starred. No matter what the format, Rinty bounded across the screen to save the day.
Although rescued in World War I, Rinty became the “spokesdog” for the United States Army in World War II. Seen as a symbol of bravery, intelligence and toughness, he encouraged many families to donate their pets to the military. His legacy would have died without the dedication of Lee Duncan, Herbert “Bert” Leonard, Daphne Herford and other owners of Rin Tin Tin descendants.
Much of the book details Lee Duncan’s early years. His mother left him in an orphanage when he was six. He always felt alone, and the only balm to his loneliness was his friend and companion, Rin Tin Tin. Never forgetting his early difficulties, an orphanage was always the first stop when Lee and Rinty did publicity tours.