Memorial Day Tribute to War Dogs
Having served in the Marine Corps and being an avid dog lover, I am elated to have the opportunity to write an article on how dogs have been utilized by the military for thousands of years. And, to pay tribute to the many dogs who have faithfully and honorably given up their own lives as a sacrifice so that their human partners could safely return home to their families.
I hope you will please take a moment, with Memorial Day coming up, to read this memorial and share your thoughts and experiences with us.
History Of War Dogs
You probably haven’t seen much T.V. coverage or read much history on dogs being used in battle; but our canine companions have been instrumental in military victories for thousands of years. Dating back to 18th Century B.C. in the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos many dog breeds have been used for different purposes based on their specific abilities. Some of those roles historically have been:
- Fighting or Attack Dogs – Larger breeds such as a mastiff or molosser type breeds would be sent into battle ahead of the troops as a first line of attack. It wasn’t uncommon for those dogs to wear armor and large spiked collars.
- Logistics & Communication – Dogs have been used in everything from pulling carts, sniffing out the wounded and dragging them to safety, passing messages in bottles back and forth, and in present day collecting intel via video cameras and microphones that are attached to them.
- Detection & Tracking – Due to their heightened sense of smell dogs, of course, make excellent trackers and have been used to track fugitives and can even uncover and detect mines.
- Sentries – From the beginning, sentry or guard dogs have been used to protect camps and bases and are still used today. It’s estimated that these sentry dogs saved over 10,000 US lives in Vietnam alone.
Current Uses of War Dogs
War dogs are used more, today than they ever have been. Training has progressed and their uses have evolved; presently they have even more roles in our military than ever before. Some of these r-*oles are things you’d expect such as police work, drug and explosive detection but they have also been used as tools of intimidation during interrogations. This practice was short lived, however, and has been prohibited.
Famous War Dogs
Chips The War Dog: Chips is the most decorated war dog from World War II. Owned by Edward Wren of NY Chips was a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky Mix. During his service Chip’s handler was Pvt. John P Rowell.
In 1943 during the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler got themselves pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine gun team. Breaking free from his handler, Chips proceeded to jump into the pillbox attacking the gunners forcing them out and leading to their surrender.
Sustaining several injuries during this incident Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart; which was later revoked due to the army preventing the commendation of animals. Disney thought Chips deserved some recognition, however, and made a movie about him in 1990. Chips was able to retire and return to the Wren family in 1945.
Nemo The War Dog: Nemo was the first dog to return from the Vietnam war. Nemo was purchased in 1964 and shipped off to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where he received his serial number A534 which was tattooed in his left ear. Shortly after, he was sent to Vietnam.
Acting as a sentry, Nemo and his handler would patrol an area at the perimeter of the base every night and were the first line of defense against any Vietcong intruders. In early morning hours of Dec 3rd 1966, 2 Vietcong units made an attempt to infiltrate the base. Thanks to Nemo and the other sentry dogs’ security teams were alerted and after 7hrs of hard fighting the invasion was thwarted. Unfortunately, this battle cost three other war dogs and their handlers their lives.
The following night Nemo and his handler were on patrol looking for any stragglers from the previous night’s attempted infiltration; during that patrol Nemo sensed danger and before his handler could even radio in the threat he was shot in the shoulder and Nemo was shot in the muzzle. The bullet entered under his right eye and exited through his mouth. Not one to quit without a fight, however, Nemo proceeded to attack the 4 Vietcong who had shot him, with no regard for his own life. This gave his handler time to radio in for help.
Once back at base, Nemo received emergency medical care including skin grafts and a tracheotomy but still ended up losing his right eye. These wounds proved to be enough to keep Nemo from returning to duty and he was flown back to Lackland where he spent the rest of his retirement years as an example of a great war dog.This Video Is Slow To Load But Has A Bunch of Great Info
The Famous Cairo: The war dog that you have probably heard of is, Cairo. In fact, he’s probably the only member of SEAL Team 6 you’ll ever know by name. Cairo, a tracking dog, and 23 other SEALS flew into Pakistan where they had been tasked with finding Osama Bin Laden and apprehending or killing him. Their mission was of course successful.
Adopting A War Dog
Effective November 6th 2000 because of H.R. 5314 civilians are now able to adopt a retiring military working dog. Since that time many war dogs have gone to wonderful and loving forever homes. Once a dog is declared “excess” after their active duty time is up, they can go up for adoption. Prior to this, they are given a complete medical screening and assessment of temperament to make sure the dogs are suited for a civilian home. Potential owners are also diligently screened to make sure they can handle one of these highly trained war dogs.
About 300 of these dogs are put up for adoption each year but just recently interested adopting parties has dramatically spiked. There is no cost or adoption fee for adopting one of these heroes but the new family is responsible for travel fees (which can be up to $2000 depending on if they are located oversees). Find out more about Adopting a Military Working Dog.
A Big Thanks To All War Dogs!
Not only are they man’s best friend but they are also a big part of the reason that we have freedom, and live in the greatest country in the world. With Memorial Day upon us, it’s a great time to reflect on the men and women who have served our country to give us the freedoms we enjoy but this year take a little extra time to remember the war dogs who have been instrumental in saving countless lives and making a lasting impact on the handlers they served.
In honor of all of our fallen war dogs, which you can view here on the K9 Wall of Honor, we will be donating $500 to the Military Working Dogs organization who go to great lengths to help retiring dogs find their forever homes. (Read follow up here on Allan The CMWD that found a home because of this donation)
We would encourage you to support their cause as well!
If you have enjoyed this post and want to help us get the word out about war dogs and these great organizations that help find them forever homes feel free to link to this from your site or share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
Another great way to help the military working dogs is to visit the ASPCA site and complete a message to send to your Congressmen. There is currently a bill that will change a military dog’s classification from equipment to actual members of the armed forces. This would entitle them to added benefits they do not currently receive such as travel back from overseas bases if they retire at a base outside the states and medical care post retirement.