A Soldier's Best Friend
May 28, 2012 - Dogs have been working in combat roles alongside American soldiers for more than 100 years. In fact, they have been alongside soldiers since antiquity. But only in 1942, were dogs officially inducted into the U.S. Army.
Dogs have played a central part in more recent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan where about 2,700 dogs were serving worldwide, according to the U.S. Defense Department. It was the largest deployment of canines in the world.
These "war dogs" are used on patrols, in drug and explosives detection, and on specialized missions, like the Navy SEAL raid that took down Osama bin Laden last year.
As we celebrate Memorial Day, take a look at the history of dogs in war.
Image: Marine Cpl. Jonathan Eckert sits with his improvised explosive device (IED) sniffing dog, Bee, as he tries to cope with the death of a fellow Marine while waiting for a MEDEVAC helicopter to pick up the Marine's remains.
War dogs were used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians, Alans, Slavs, Britons and the Romans.
The Molossian "Canis Molossus" dog of Epirus was the strongest known to the Romans, and was specifically trained for battle. During the Late Antiquity, Attila the Hun used giant Molosser dogs in his campaigns.
The breed was a native to Albania and later migrated to Italy. The Molossian breed is similar to the Mastiff we know today.
Image: Jennings Dog, on display in the British Museum.
"Dogs should be used against the Indians," Benjamin Franklin said. "They should be large, strong and fierce."
Taking the founding father's advice, the Secretary of War Joel Poinsett authorized the purchase of 33 bloodhounds from Cuba for offensive against the Seminole Indians and escaped slaves who had taken refuge among them in western Florida and Louisana.
The Story of Sallie the Yankee
The American Pit Bull Terrier was used in the Civil War to protect, send messages, and to act as mascots in American World War I propaganda and recruiting posters.
Sallie, a brindel bull terrier, joined the Civil War as a puppy in the early days of the war. Sallie held her position on the line and barked fiercely at the enemy.
At Gettysburg, Sallie was separated from her unit in the confusion of battle. She returned to her unit's former position atop Oak Ridge, staying among her fallen comrades, licking wounds of the injured.
Days later, after the Confederates retreated from the field, she was found weakened and malnourished, amidst the dead and debris. A compassionate soldier recognized her and returned Sallie to her unit.
On Feb. 6, 1865, at Hatcher's Run, Va., a bullet struck Sallie in the head, killing her.
Heartbroken over the loss of their beloved mascot, the men buried her on the filed of battle under heavy enemy fire.
This is the only known image of Sallie.
Sgt. Stubby of World War 1
Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant
Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. The division had their training facilities in Massachusetts. That's where Corporal Robert Conroy became enamored by the dog who walked into their training camp one day and they became constant companions.
Stubby entered combat on Feb. 5, 1918 at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons, and was under constant fire, day and night.
After being gassed himself, Stubby was sensitive to the early signs of gas and warned his unit of gas attacks.
At the end of the war, Cpl. Conroy smuggled Stubby home. In 1926, Stubby died in Conroy's arms. His remains are featured in "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War" exhibit at the Smithsonian.
Stubby was honored with a brick in the Walk of Honor at the United States World War I monument, Liberty Memorial, in Kansas City at a ceremony held on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 2006.
Smoky of World War II
In World War II, over 10,000 trained military dogs were deployed as sentries, scouts, messengers and explosives detectors.
One of the more famous military dogs was the four pound, seven inch tall, Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky.
An American soldier found Smoky in an abandoned foxhole in the jungle of New Guinea. He was later sold to Corporal William A. Wynne. Smoky and the Corporal spent two years in the jungle of New Guinea.
Smoky served in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force Recon Squadron and flew 12 air/sea and photo reconnaissance missions.
Smoky was credited with 12 combat missions and awarded eight battle stars. He went through 150 air raids on New Guinea and made it out alive from a typhoon at Okinawa. Smoky even had a special parachute made for him.
Smoky died in 1957 at the age of 14. She was at home with Wynne in Cleveland.
Fluffy and the Dogs of Korea
On July 11, 1951, a new Army War Dog Receiving & Holding Station was activated at Cameron Station, Alexandria, Va.
The war dogs were processed and conditioned before being shipped to the Army Dog Training Center, Fort Carson, Colo.
Image: "Fluffy," the pet dog of PFC. Carman B. Barnett of Shumaker, Ark., regroups here with his fellow Marines on the bank of the Han River in South Korea.
Nemo and The Dogs of Vietnam
The Vietnam War saw a huge increase in the use of dogs in direct combat roles. The jungle made it difficult for soldiers to see and hear what was coming. Military dogs came in handy for that.
One famous dog of the Vietnam War, Nemo, attacked a group of Vietcong guerrillas who had opened fire.
Nemo's ferocious attack bought his handler Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg the time he needed to call in backup forces.
A Quick Reaction Team arrived and swept the area. Although severely wounded, Nemo crawled to Thorneburg and covered him with his body.
Nemo required many skin grafts to restore his appearance. He was blinded in one eye.
On June 23, 1967, Air Force Headquarters sent Nemo back to the United States with honors, as the first sentry dog to be officially retired from active service.
Image: Muzzled sentry dogs and their handlers ride on the back of a truck as they return to their kennels and barracks in Vietnam
Dogs and their Handlers
After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the U.S. security forces stepped up their efforts to train and deploy explosive-detection dogs.
Belgian Malinois and German shepherds are used for their intense, intelligent, hard-working natures.
Lance Cpl. Joshua A. Moose and his military working dog Hertha, show the strong bond between them during a break in training.
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Cairo, the Dog Who Led the Osama Bin Laden Raid
Dubbed by the New York Times as the "the nation's most courageous dog," Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, accompanied the American commando team that "thundered into Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden."
The Malinois breed is similar to German shepherds but smaller and more compact, with an adult male weighing in the 30-kilo range.
Malinois are commonly used in the military and as police dogs.
The Wounds of War
Labrador retrievers are often used to wander off-leash ahead of troops to ensure safety and as bomb-sniffing dogs.
But, like soldiers, they can also suffer from the same mental and physical injuries of combat.
Image: Gunner is comforted by his handler, Corporal Chad McCoy, 25, 2nd CEB, USMC. Corporal McCoy and other handlers assigned to the 2nd CEB Kennel believe that Gunner, a skittish dog who runs at the sound of explosions, suffers from a canine version of post traumatic stress disorder.
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Adopt a War Dog
Though these puppies who are at a military training facility won't have to worry about this just yet, it's not always easy for dogs to come back home after combat. After the Vietnam War, only 204 of an estimated 4,900 war dogs returned to the United States, according to military dog organizations. The others were euthanized, given to the South Vietnamese army or abandoned by soldiers trying to save the dogs.
In 2000 President Bill Clinton signed a law allowing former military dogs to be adopted.
The nonprofit Military Working Dog Adoptions helps find homes for the returning dogs.
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