The Most Famous War Dogs: You Won’t Believe Their Bravery
20. Animals & War
Human civilization has grown accustomed to war. From World War I to the long war in Iraq, we’ve seen unspeakable horrors, as well as the rise of unlikely heroes. And guess what? Not all war heroes happen to be human. Although the great battles and generals of war are still known today, some of the most famous “fighters” to those who lived through it were animals. Millions of dogs, camels and horses have served in many wars, and their stories have been left untold. They may have been on four legs, but their courage and bravery helped hundreds of men and women throughout history.
19. Legend of the War Dog
Dogs have played a key role in war for thousands of years. The Babylonians and Assyrians both used dogs in warfare. During the American Civil War, dogs helped medics locate wounded soldiers. In World War I, dogs were prolific, assisting troops all over the world.
18. Introducing: Rags
The setting of World War I was at the crossroads of old world ways and increasing mechanization. This made for a very gruesome war, where people who were accustomed to riding horses or charging into battle were faced with bombs, grenades and chemical weapons. One four-legged hero that rose up out of the ashes of turmoil was Rags, a stray dog who turned into a famous member of the First Division American Expeditionary Forces.
17. An Unlikely Discovery
Rags was discovered by American soldiers in a Paris bar during Bastille Day, in July of 1918. They thought he was just a pile of rags. But when the bundle of rags barked, he became their new best friend. Sgt. George Hickman took the dog back to the base, where he officially joined the American cause.
16. Boosting Morale
The adorable Rags was the mascot of the force, fighting alongside them and boosting morale. The dog would flatten himself when there was a mortar attack. Surprised soldiers found he helped them remain alert, because by watching out for him, they were keeping themselves safe too.
15. From Mascot to Soldier
Rags had a long life. Living from at least 1916 to 1936. He originally started as a mascot, but then followed soldier’s right to the front. Once there, Rags refused to leave the battlefield. His pal, First Sergeant James Donovan, trained Rags to deliver messages. This was at a time when there was not reliable automated services for communications. According to Hayter-Menzies’ research, Rags likely saved hundreds of lives by safely transporting messages. “Practically overnight, Rags learned how to run messages,” Hayter-Menzies recounts. “He could also tell when shells were coming minutes before the men could hear it, and he would flop over onto his side to let them know.”
14. A Fulfilled Life
Rags lived for 20 more years. People can even pay a visit to his grave at Aspin Hill Memorial Park in Silver Spring. He was given a military burial with full honors. War veterans have heard all about Rags and many have left American flags on his graves.
13. A New Dog In Town
World War II saw the rise of Hitler and the mass genocide of Europe’s Jewish population. It was a horrific time for the world, which was once again drawn into a global conflict of epic proportions. One of the most decorated dogs in World War II was Chips, a Collie-German Shepherd-Siberian Husky Mix.
12. Chips the Sentry
Chips was owned by Edward J. Wren who lived in Pleasantville, New York. During Word War II, private citizens were allowed to donate their dogs for duty, which prompted Wren to ship out Chips to the War Dog Training Center in 1942 as a sentry dog. Chips served for the Roosevelt-Churchill Conference in 1943 with his handler Private John P. Rowell.
11. Action Around the Globe
A cross-country traveler, Chip saw action in Germany, France, North Africa and Sicily serving with the 3rdInfantry Division. While he had many heroic exploits, his most famous was his assault on an Italian machine-gun nest, where he assisted in taking ten enemy soldiers captive.
10. Awards for Loyalty
Thanks to his actions and contributions during the war, Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and a Purple Heart. Unfortunately, due to Army policies preventing official commendation of animals, the rewards were revoked. However, his unit awarded him a theater ribbon and eight battle stars for each of the campaigns he assisted with.
9. Honorably Discharged
In December, 1945 Chips was officially discharged as a War Dog and return home to the Wren family in Pennsylvania. Over 45 years later, his legacy continued to live on when Disney produced a TV movie about his heroic travels titled Chips, The War Dog.
8. Smoky Reporting for Duty
Another furry-friend that would go on to be known for her bravery was Smoky, a Yorkshire Terrier who was found in 1944 in an abandoned foxhole in New Guinea. Smoky ended up adopted into the troop who found her and participated in a dozen combat missions and lived through over 150 air raids. One of Smokey’s talents was her sensitive hearing, which allowed her to warn the troops of incoming artillery shells.
7. Keeping the Engineers Safe
Smoky’s most famous mission was at an air strip on the Island of Luzon in the Philippines. She was able to pull a telegraph wire through a 70-foot pope, saving time on construction and keeping the engineers safe from enemy fire.
6. Yorkie Doodle Dandy
During her downtime, Smoky would perform tricks for the troops, as well as other self-taught antics to keep their spirits up during the long war torn nights. Smoky would live until the old age of 15, dying on February 21, 1957. Her adoptive owner, William Wynne, went on to write a book about her daring antics titled Yorkie Doodle Dandy.
5. Kaiser Takes on Vietnam
In the late 1960’s, the Vietnam War was at its peak. One war dog who’s remembered for his bravery is Kaiser, a German Shepherd that served with his handler Marine Lance Corporal Alfredo Salazar. Together, they participated in over 30 combat patrols and 12 major operations.
4. One Final Mission
Kaiser’s final mission took place after he and Salazar joined the D-Company on a search-and-destroy mission where they were ambushed by enemy forces. Unfortunately, Kaiser was hit during the initial ambush while on patrol. He died trying to lick Salazar’s hand. He is known for being the first war dog during Vietnam to be killed in action.
3. Finding Nemo
Another dog that served during the Vietnam War was Nemo, a German Shepherd that served with the United States Air Force. His handler was Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg and he served with him for years until he was wounded in an ambush.
2. Taking One for the Team
Nemo’s most notable mission was when he and his handler came under fire while patrolling the company’s airbase in Vietnam. Nemo took a round to the eye and was able to protect Throneburg after he was shot twice by the Viet Cong. During the scuffle, Nemo attacked two of the men, giving his handler time to call in reinforcements.
1. Nemo’s Legacy
After the attack, Nemo was permanently retired so he could recover from his wounds. He returned to the United States and continued to serve at the Lackland Air Force Base working as a recruiting dog. Nemo died at the age of 11 in December 1972. His memorial kennel and stone continue to stand to this day in his honor.