Winner of the 2023 Gold Medal for the Military Writers Association of America for Memoirs/Biography
Navy Dog is a one-of-a-kind love story between a salty, battle-ready U.S. Navy crew and a little orphan dog.
Having Seaman Jenna as the mascot on the USS Vandegrift was never meant to be a statement or symbolic act, or to put the crew on the radars of four-star admirals. Jenna came aboard unannounced, a Christmas gift that brought instant joy to the crew and transformed a gray ship into a home for 225 sailors. Her addition was not pre-approved by the chain of command—contrary to military protocol. Before long, Jenna became a phenomenon—the only dog on a Navy ship since World War II—despite the best efforts to keep her from the public eye. This orphaned Shiba Inu and the displaced crew shared countless adventures and trials during her five years on board. Jenna dodged being eaten in Korea (a country that still views dogs as edible fare), sidestepped Hawaii’s strict quarantine law, avoided threats of being shot in Australia, charmed a Chinese admiral, and nearly initiated an international incident in Pakistan. Jenna became a symbol of the ship and of free will, and created a bond amongst the crew that remains strong decades later…long after her death. Neal Kusumoto is proud to say that he was the captain of that fine ship, blessed with a magnificent crew that included one special sea dog. Join Seaman Jenna as a part of the crew on her five-year adventure on the high seas.
Neal Kusumoto commanded three ships before retiring as a captain. After his rousing tour on USS Vandegrift, he was put in charge of training all officers selected to command ships. He was in the Pentagon as the Deputy Executive Assistant for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during 9/11 and the start of the War on Terrorism.
Raised in Hawaii, he attended Iolani School and was named Hawaii Junior Citizen of the Year in 1974. Further education included US Naval Academy (BS), Naval Postgraduate School (MS), Naval War College (MA), and NATO Defense College. He is the President of the U.S. Alumni delegation. He recently retired as the Executive Director for Mine Warfare after forty-four years working for the Navy. Neal lives with his wife Linda in San Diego. They adopted Bella-moto from a shelter, but don’t expect her to live a rollicking, sea-tossed life like Jenna did.