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World War I’s Famous War Dog: Rags the Terrier

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. Although the great battles and generals of the War are still known today, some of the most famous “fighters” to those who lived through it were animals. Millions of dogs, camels, horses and other animals served in the Great War, 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 in the war effort. 

Take the example of Rags, a stray dog who turned into a famous member of the First Division American Expeditionary Forces. 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. 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.

Many animals did actual work during the war. Some were responsible for providing transportation, or hauling cargo. Others were able to relay messages. Still others were good at finding mines before they could hurt anyone. Now the National Archives has digitized thousands of photographs from WWI, including years worth of forgotten images from the U.S. Red Cross and the Army Signal Corps, as well as other departments of war.

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