Puppies are fluffy and adorable and cuddly companions. Companions who arecapable of sinking long, sharp teeth into the flesh of enemy skulls andpulling muscle from the bone.
While dogs are known as man’s best friend, they’re also fur missiles that haveserved in mankind’s wars since at least 600 B.C. when the Lydian king deployeddogs to help break the invading army of Cimmerians.
In the early days, the dogs were used to break up enemy formations, charginginto the ranks and tearing down as many enemy soldiers as possible. Friendlyforces would either hit the enemy just behind the dogs or would wait, lettingthe dogs sow chaos before the humans hit with maximum force.
As warfare modernized, so did the service of dogs. They gained armor foravoiding injury in combat (think large dogs in little knight costumes) andbreeders tailored new generations of dogs better suited for fighting. Dogswere pressed into new roles, acting as couriers, sentries, and scouts.
In American military history, dogs served primarily as morale boosters, thoughsome acted as prison guards and sentries. In one case during the Civil War, aConfederate spy who suspected she would be searched hid documents in a falsecoat of fur on her dog. The documents were safely delivered to Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard who was a little surprised when the woman cut the false hide offof her dog.
On the water, dogs served as rat catchers and mascots. Ships’ dogs also helpedfind food and water on undeveloped islands.
During World War I, dogs originally appointed as unit mascots distinguishedthemselves in open combat. One of America’s greatest animal war heroes servedin World War I. Stubby the dog started hanging out with Connecticut soldiersdrilling for service on the front lines.
Stubby went overseas with the 102nd Infantry and gave soldiers early warningof artillery, gas, and infantry attacks. During a raid against Germandefenses, Stubby was wounded by a hand grenade. Stubby stayed in the war andlater apprehended a German spy. He was later promoted to sergeant.
Of course, the introduction of true industrial war in World War I broughtother changes to animal service, including the beginning of dogs acting asengineers. Dogs were fitted with cable-laying equipment and would place newcommunication lines when necessary, providing a smaller target for enemysoldiers trying to prevent Allied communication networks.
In World War II, dogs returned to their old roles, but they were also pressedinto new ones. In one of the more horrific moments for animal combat, Sovietforces trained dogs to scurry under German tanks while wearing magnetic mines.The mines would detonate against the hull, disabling or killing the tank butalso the dog.
The first airborne dogs jumped into combat on D-Day, accompanying Britishparatroopers as they fought the German armies.
America’s greatest dog of its greatest generation was likely Chips, a GermanShepherd, Collie, Husky mix that forced the capture of 14 Italian soldiers inone day during the invasion of Sicily despite being wounded.
Throughout Korea and Vietnam, dogs continued to serve next to their humans.
In Vietnam, an Air force sentry dog named Nemo was patrolling the airbaseperimeter with his handler when they were attacked by Viet Cong guerillas. Thehandler killed two enemies and Nemo savagely attacked the rest while thehandler called for reinforcements. Nemo lost an eye and the handler wasinjured, but Nemo kept him safe until reinforcements arrived.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, dogs have served primarily in explosive detectionroles, helping American and allied forces avoid IEDs and mines. They’ve alsoserved on assault teams with special operators.
While some of the dogs in modern special operations are trained to engagedirectly with the enemy, Cairo went on the kill/capture mission against OsamaBin Laden but was there to search out hidden passages, enemies, or weapons.
Image: Australian soldiers pose with their black labs trained to hunt VietCong soldiers in the infamous tunnels of the Vietnam War. (Photo: AustralianWar Memorial)
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