K9 Veterans Day: Appreciating Dogs of War
The first U.S. Military dogs were introduced during WWI. The dogs were originally used to deliver messages between troops. As time went on, the military realized that dogs could be trained to do so much more. In March of 1942, the Dog Wars Program was established. These dogs were used to guard shipyards, patrol coastlines, and detect gas attacks. Today, we want to celebrate those dogs that fought and fight alongside our troops. The following are some unexpected, heartwarming stories about these tough pups who have been surviving us for decades.
Smoky, The Unlikely Hero
Weighing in at just four pounds, Smoky was a Yorkshire Terrier that was found in February of 1944 after being abandoned in a foxhole in New Guinea. Smoky was then purchased by Corporal William A. Wynne who traveled with Smoky all over the Pacific Campaign. They shared the rations and spam for food. Smoky survived 150 air raids and a typhoon. She even parachuted from 30 feet in the air using a parachute made just for her. She later died in 1957 at the age of 14.
Nemo, The One Eyed Wonder
Nemo worked with Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg in 1996. On december 4th of that year, they were on patrol near an airbase in Vietnam when they came under enemy fire. Nemo took a hit to one of his eyes while Throneburg was shot in the shoulder. Nemo attacked the enemy, giving his handler time to call in reinforcements. When Thorneburg fell unconscious, Nemo crawled on top of his body and protected him. The only way the reinforcements were able to get him off was with the aid of a veterinarian who sedated Nemo so medics could attend to Thorneburg. Nemo and Thorneburg survived, with Nemo living until 1972.
Kaiser, The Fighter
Kaiser’s story is a sad one, but an important one to remind us of how hard life can be as a K9 unit in the military. Kaiser was a German Shepherd, one of 4,000 dogs who served in the Vietnam war. His handler, Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar, and Kaiser did more than 30 combat patrols. After being sent on a search-and-destroy mission, they were ambushed and Kaiser was hit. He died, licking Salazar’s hand. He was the first war dog killed in action during Vietnam. A sad thought, but an important reminder to the hardships of war.
Chips, The Brave
Chips was a Collie-German Shepherd-Siberian Husky mix whose owner donated him for duty during WWII. He was one of many dogs who were donated by families in the U.S. to fight during the World Wars. Chips was trained as a sentry dog and was deployed in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. During the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down by an Italian Machine-gun team. Chips broke away from his handler and attacked the gunners, causing them to surrender. He sustained minor injuries during the attack and later that day, he helped take 10 Italian prisoners. Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his actions. Unfortunately, the commendations were revoked since military policy at the time didn’t allow such recognition for the animals. Chips was discharged in 1945 and returned to his original family. They ended up giving chips to his military handler, Private John P. Rowell.
Stubby, The Pup of the Trenches
Stubby was an American Pit Bull Terrier who was found as a stray on the Yale campus in 1917. He was smuggled to France during WWI by his owner, Cpl. John Robert Conroy. Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment in the trenches in France for 18 straight months and participated in 17 battles. He was able to use his amazing senses to warn his unit of poison-gas attacks, artillery fire, and to locate downed soldiers. He was promoted to sergeant after sniffing out a German spy in the trenches. When Stubby was wounded by Mustard Gas, he was issued his own gas mask, specially designed for him. His handler was able to smuggle him home after the war, where he met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. Stubby was presented a gold medal from the Humane Education Society. Stubby passed away in 1926.
Military War Dogs Today
Military working dogs today are part of the Military War Dog Program and undergo intensive screenings and training to join. There about 3.000 MWDs deployed all over the world and working for many law enforcement agencies. They are used to sniff out illegal substances, bombs, or even sniff out certain disease similar to COVID.
A few great ways to celebrate the brave dogs who work hard to keep us safe, this March 13th are visiting a Military War Dogs Memorial, raising awareness on social media, donated to a charity that supports K9 veterans, and honoring a K9 vet you may know by buying them a treat or a new toy!
All information on the dogs and their stories was found on Military.com: here.