Dogs do their best to assist people in most unusual and even dangerous situations.
Dogs and humans spend centuries standing side by side and overcoming various fears, difficulties, and most unusual tasks.
From day one, dogs were bred to help people, to make their everyday working duties easier.
Humans affected dogs so much that their brains changed over time and evolved into animals that we know and love today.
Dogs were bred for various tasks – for hunting, to serve as guardians, or to retrieve birds from water, which is why some dogs are so great swimmers – you name it, dogs were there, one basic command away to do their best and get that praise.
Some breeds are better at running than others, while some are excellent in cart pulling, and some are great at being silent and reacting only when needed.
On top of that, some dogs really do an amazing job in most stressful situations.
While some dogs aren’t introduced properly to fireworks and how it works, some dogs were bred to jump on tanks, track bombs, and even pull man from the fire.
Simply said, some dogs are world-class soldiers. War dogs or military working dogs are a real thing, and they have been around for centuries worldwide.
War dogs have been around forever, located in rural places of Congo where they had to chase lions, like Basenji; learn to survive in Middle East desert-like Canaan Dog; or simply doing the best to guard the American soldiers as Belgian Malinois do – they all have been around, doing their best in the time of warfare.
Still, they didn’t become officially recognized until March 13, 1942, as military dogs.
Final recognition came when a private organization, Dogs for Defense was established to recruit the public’s dogs for the U.S. military’s War Dog Program, known as the K-9 Corps.
Today, K9 is one of the most popular terms in modern culture and whenever people hear it they know that someone is talking about a dog.
Another massive supplier of war dogs was the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, a breed that was quick enough became associated with the U.S. Marines.
Dobermans were so popular that they were even given a rank, starting as privates.
Breeders And Trainers
In hard times the government always relies on its people to help them and support them do more. Creating perfect war dogs wasn’t any different.
Prominent trainers and breeders were crucial figures in creating the best dog wars.
They were the main instrumental in appealing to the American public to donate their pet dogs in the war effort.
Yes, dogs had to be given, since not many households had dogs as they do today.
Still, they were searching for specific traits in dogs. Moreover, they were specifically searching for:
- Specific breeds
- Dogs between 1-5 years
- Either sex
- Strong and physically fit dogs
- Preference was given to breeds with watchdog traits
Some of these demands were relaxed because it was evident that there would not be enough dogs to meet the demand.
Therefore, crosses and breeders were trimmed to around 30 breeds, led by the following breeds:
- Airedale Terriers
- Labrador Retrievers
- German Shepherd Dogs, and
- Saint Bernards
Those who handed over their dog, got a certificate by the government, as special thanks, for their “patriotic duty.”
Dogs For Defense
Would you give your dog today to join the army?
Getting a dog is such a serious decision, and letting it go must be devastating, not knowing if your dog is about to survive or not – but again, once you give your dog away to the government, is that your dog anymore?
Still, people did what had to be done, and dogs were immediately sent into training, where some did an amazing job, and others didn’t.
Those who performed poorly were returned to their owners (imagine that happiness of reunited friends!), while those who demonstrated excellent traits were sent into battle, where they were utilized as:
- Messenger dogs
- Mine-detection dogs
- Dogs for sentry and scout duties
Over time, the military began training its own dogs, and by the war’s ended, Dogs for Defense procured approximately 18,000 of the 20,000 dogs.
Some dogs, like Chips (a German Shepherd/Alaskan Husky/Collie mix) saved the lives of many U.S soldiers and even earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star.
As warfare modernized, so did the service of dogs. Soldiers started protecting them.
They were given armors for avoiding injury in combat, and with time breeders tailored a new generation of dogs better suited for fighting. With time their roles evolved as well.
In American military history, dogs served primarily as morale boosters, although some of them acted as prison guards and sentries.
On the boats, dogs served as mascots and rat catchers, if there were no cats around.
Ships’ dogs had an extra role – they were responsible for helping people find food and water on remote and undeveloped islands. During World War I, dogs mostly served as unit mascots.
The most famous dog from that period is Stubby the dog who went overseas with the 102nd Infantry and gave soldiers early warning of artillery, gas, and infantry attacks.
He was eventually wounded in a raid against German defenses. Later on, he was promoted to sergeant.
In World War II, dogs returned to their old roles, but they were also given new ones.
Dogs started searching for mines under tanks, which often resulted in heavily harming or killing dogs.
The first airborne dogs jumped into combat on D-Day, accompanying British paratroopers as they fought the German armies. Throughout Korea and Vietnam, dogs continued guarding soldiers.
Korean War Dogs
Five years after WWII, a new conflict shook the world.
The Korean conflict started and again triggered the need for military working dogs. They were carefully chosen and sent on combat night patrols.
During their night patrols, dogs did an amazing job ambushing snipers, penetrating enemy lines, and discovering enemy positions.
They were so loathed by the North Koreans and Chinese that reports noted the foes were using loudspeakers saying, “Yankee, take your dog and go home!” Canines on a night patrol were a big success, that even the Air Force utilized dogs for patrolling air–base perimeters.
Vietnam War Dogs
Vietnam brought a new environment and new job roles for the canines. In this area dogs, just like soldiers, had to deal with:
- Thick and not always friendly vegetation
- Heavy and continued rain
- Subsequent mud
- Enormous heat, and
- Heavy humidity
As you may guess this was heavy on the dogs as well since they are prone to heatstroke and high temperatures.
There is a reason why dogs were more active once the night was down – they could move easier, they could breath better, and they actually lived healthier and longer.
Also, their range of duties was wide, since they worked in duties of scout, sentry, patrol, mine and booby-trap detection, water, and combat.
Just like their predecessors in Korea, these dogs weren’t loved much, and there was an award or $20,000 for their capture.
Five Famous War Dogs
It’s known that on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, we remember people. In fact, we remember Americans who served in the military. Did you know that military dogs are celebrated as well?
In fact, March 13, 1942, was the birthday of the U.S. K9 Corps, and here are five dogs who bravely served next to their soldiers and gave their best to protect them.
Chips was the most decorated dog in World War II. This famous dog was a Collie–German Shepherd–Siberian Husky mix. He traveled to France, Germany, North Africa, and Sicily.
Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his actions.
Sadly, the commendations were annulled because at the time military didn’t allow such recognition for animlas. Chips returned to his home in 1945.
In his Pleasantville, N.Y., Chips got to spend his senior days.
There cannot be famous military dogs, without at least one German Shepherd – after all, they are ultimate dogs when it comes to training.
Kaiser was a German Shepherd who served in Vietnam under his handler Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar.
Together, they had more than 30 patrols and participated in 12 major operations together.
In 1966, they were ambushed, where Kaiser was shot and died while trying to lick Salazar’s hand.
Kaiser was the first war dog killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Nemo was patrolling with Bob Thorneburg on December 4 in 1966in Vietnam, when teh two came under enemy fire. Bob was shot in the shoulder, while Nemo took a round to his eye.
Nemo ignoreD his pain, and continued fighting enemies, giving Throneburg more time to run from enemies.
However, Bob fell unconscious and Nemo crawled on top of the soldier’s body to protect him from harm.
No one could approach Bob because Nemo guards him, and it took a veterinarian to remove Nemo. They both recovered from their wounds.
Nemo was later given a permanent retirement kennel; he died when he was 11 years old in December 1972.
Smoky is one of the most famous Yorkshire Terriers ever. He saw a lot of action in the Pacific during World War II. He was founded in the jungles of New Guinea in February 1944.
He was included in many combat missions and survived more than 150 air raids. He used his hearing to warn of incoming artillery shells.
When he wasn’t busy protecting soldiers and achieve impossible missions, Smoky entertained troops with many tricks.
Smoky died at the age of 14. Smoky’s adventures are chronicled in detail in the book Yorkie Doodle Dandy, written by her adoptive owner William A. Wynne.
Stubby is probably the most famous war dog, who was eventually given the rank of sergeant. Stubby was an American Pit Bull Terrier.
He was found as a stray on the Yale campus in 1917 and smuggled to France during World War I by his adoptive owner, Cpl. John Robert Conroy.
Stubby participated in 17 battles, four offenses, and on his days off he improved troops’ morale.
He also used his keen senses to warn his unit of any poison-gas attacks, incoming fire, or to love alive and downed soldiers.
Stubby died in his owner’s arms in 1926. For more on this dog check StubbyDog.org
The Bottom Line
Dogs are fluffy and nice until the time comes for them to show just how fearless they are. Cuddly companions can turn into strong protectors in a matter of seconds.
That’s why they were so perfect military addition – they were ready to do the work and spend time with people in brutal conditions.
You can call them what you want – war dogs or military working dogs, they have been around for centuries, doing what they do the best – working and protecting.
Over the years their roles evolved, but their need to protect humans remains.