Man’s Greatest Ally It is not a new idea to use dogs in combat; for thousands of years dogs have been used in war. Almost all of the greatest civilizations that have ruled have used dogs as key component in their military tactics. Historical records have shown that dogs were used as watch guards for the Egyptians during periods of war (specifically during the Middle Kingdom) and that the Romans made entire attack formations of dogs to help with their various land conquering campaigns. These dogs were bred for combat and were often given armor and spiked collars to make them more lethal in combat.
In more recent years, dogs are used in other combat situations. In 1988, Israeli Special Forces used dogs as an attack force against a terrorist organization in Lebanon. In America, dogs have been used in combat for well over 180 years. Though the canine’s military missions and methods have changed since that 1830’s, their importance in combat remains just as critical. However, the public in general does not realize the significance of dogs in warfare as well as in homeland security. In America, the first recorded use of dogs by the military was during the Second Seminole War in 1835.The military had hired five dog handlers and 33 bloodhounds to help track and detain the Seminoles and runaway slaves that were hiding in the swamps of Florida and Louisiana.
Several states (New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Indiana) protested the use of dogs by the military and sent several petitions to Congress. Most of these protesters were Quakers that believed it was wrong to make these dogs hunt like savages. Though many petitions were sent, Congress dismissed all of the protests and allowed the military to use the dogs in combat. Dogs were not used by the military for another 20 years.During the Civil War both the Union and the Confederate Armies recorded the use of dogs a mascots, sentries, and guards. Interestingly, the dogs were not supposed to assume these roles, originally their masters brought them into the military as a source of companionship, not protection.
One of the most recognizable dogs during the Civil War was Sallie, a brindle bull terrier. Sallie joined the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry Unit at the beginning of the war as a pup and served the unit as source comfort, inspiration, and loyalty to their cause.In the heat of battle Sallie would bark and intimidate Confederate soldiers and lick the wounds of her fallen comrades. Sallie survived such battles as Gettysburg and Oak Ridge.
Sallie met her untimely death at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia by a bullet to the head. Her unit cared about her so much that they buried her immediately, even though the battle was still raging on. There were several other dog mascots in the Civil War, though none matched the popularity of Sallie. The use of dogs changed during the Spanish-American War from a relatively docile role to a more militarily useful function.It was recorded by Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders”, that dogs were scouts that helped navigate the dense jungle terrain in Cuba and patrols for the horses.
This is also the first time in American military history that the dogs used were actually trained in navigation and protection tactics. Dogs were again used as mascots during the Spanish-American War for the military. In an old photograph, taken in 1900, the USS Texas (a vessel used during the war) depicted fellow crewman with their mascots–a cat and a dog (both unnamed).The role of the dog expanded even more during the Great War.
During this time period a vast amount of dogs were employed as: sentries, messengers, ammunition & food carriers, scouts, sled dogs, draught dogs (water carriers), guard dogs, Red Cross casualty dogs (carrying med packs), and even cigarette dogs. The German armies had a total of 30,000 dogs in service during the war, France had over 20,000, and Italy supplied the Allies with 3,000 dogs. Americans did not have any organized dog units and ended up borrowing several dog units from France and Britain during the war.There were over ten different breeds of dogs that were used during WWI; each breed was used for different tasks. The most popular group of dogs was the Red Cross Causality dogs (A. K. A. mercy dogs).
These dogs were first trained by the Germans to carry medical supplies and seek out wounded soldiers. If a soldier was clearly dying the mercy dog would lie down next to him and provide the soldier comfort as he died. These dogs have been credited to saving a numerous amount of lives during the war by being able to reach wounded soldiers with med packs at lightning speeds.The Red Cross dog method was quickly copied by the Ally troops.
During the war both the Allies and the Germans began searching for the perfect breed of dog (specifically the best Red Cross dogs). They wanted a dog that was black or gray in color, one with a good sense of smell and sight, and medium in build. The people working on this project also realized that mixed breeds performed better than purebred dogs and began to focus on crossbreeding.
The use of Red Cross dogs died along with the use of trench warfare.Messenger dogs were major contributors to the war effort on both sides of the conflict. These dogs were trained to send messages between the front lines and command headquarters when the phone lines were down.
The messenger dogs have often been attributed for circuitously saving the lives of many soldiers by providing vital information to them when their main source of communication (phones) was shut down. By WWII, Germany again had the largest number of dogs used in combat (an estimated over 200,000 dogs).This time however, America had finally established a military program called the K-9 Corp in 1942. After the Pearl Harbor attack and the declaration of war by America’s government, the American Kennel Club began a program called “Dogs for Defense”. This program requested all dog owners in America to donate quality dogs to the Quartermaster Corps for the K-9 program. The “Dogs for Defense” program was able to receive over 19,000 dogs and over thirty different breeds of dog.
When these dogs entered the canine program 45% of them were sent back and considered unfit for military training.The breed of dogs chosen after this period was shrunk down to five (Dobermans, German Shepherds, Belgium Sheep Dogs, Farm Collies, and Giant Schnauzers). Originally these dogs were to be used mainly to protect civilian war plants (arsenal factories) however, there became a growing need for sentry dogs for the soldiers overseas. Basic training for a dog would last eight to twelve weeks and they would be trained to wear gas masks, muzzles, ride vehicles, and remain calm under gunfire. The dogs were also trained in basic commands (sit, roll over, stay, etc.
).After basic training, the dogs were then instructed in one of four specialized jobs: sentry, patrol, messenger, and mine detection. The only new job for dogs was mine detection, which consisted of detecting booby traps, trip wires, metallic and non-metallic mines.
This program was not largely successful because the dogs had a hard time detecting these traps in combat. Alene Erlanger, a civilian consultant of the Quartermaster General, wrote a report on the misconceptions of the use of dogs in the military. She stated the public considered military dogs to be vicious killers and this view was completely false.Erlanger described the dogs as protectors of soldiers through their different combat roles such as delivering messages under fire and detecting enemy positions.
Erlanger urged the readers change their skewed view of military dogs and acknowledge these heroes for their role in saving thousands of American lives in combat. When the war was over, all the donated dogs were were returned to their original owners; however, before being returned the dogs were trained to readjust to a civilian lifestyle. Sadly, some of these dogs (suffering from doggy PTSD) were unable to assimilate back in with society and were put down.
After WWII the US lost interest in the War Dog programs, they closed most of all but one program, transferred dog training to the Military Police Corp, and moved the remaining 26th Scout Dog Program to Fort Carson, Colorado. The 26th platoon served in the Korean War for two years (1951 – 1953) and was very successful, receiving three silver stars, six bronze stars for valor, and thirty-six bronze stars for meritorious service. After being in Fort Carson for six years the 26th Scout Dog Platoon, along with the War Dog Training Center was moved to Fort Benning, Georgia.Another change that occurred was that the Air Force became the primary service to use the dogs. During the late fifties and early sixties, the Air Force developed expensive aircrafts and housed state-of-the-art weaponry, thus increasing the requirement for more sentry dogs to protect these valuable assets. Consequently, the Air Force established another War Dog Training Center in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. At the commencement of the Vietnam War, dogs were not immediately placed in the combat zone. However, by 1960, the United States Air Force K-9 Corp stationed teams in Vietnam primarily for dog sentry research.
It wasn’t until 1965 when the military finally allowed dogs to participate in the war; by the end of the year 100 dogs were in Vietnam. The combat role of these dogs differed from the canine missions in WWII and the Korean War. These dogs were trained to track Viet-Cong trails and to detect the hidden booby traps placed in the jungles. Again the majority of dogs were sentry dogs, however, with the primary mission to detect the deadly sapper teams that attacked base camps at night. The military dogs were largely successful and in an article written during the Vietnam War they were described as “our enemies worst enemy”.This article, written by SP4 Wain Rubenstein, described the rigorous training the sentry dog underwent to prepare for Vietnam. He detailed the working conditions of the dogs, the long night hours they remained alert to protect the base from any intruders, and the critical need for their acute olfactory senses to detect the faintest odor of a near by trap or Viet-Cong.
Rubenstein also acknowledged the handlers (the dog’s master) needed to be as proficient as the dogs, in terms of physically fitness, mentally capacity, and their ability to establish a bond with the dog.Without these qualities the dog would not live up to its full potential. By the end of the Vietnam War, 4000 American dogs were sent to Vietnam and they were accredited with saving over 10,000 lives in the process of 10 years. Unfortunately, of those 4000 dogs, only 200 returned home. In an article written by CNN, the surviving handlers of the Vietnam War discussed their memories of the war and their dogs. All expressed sorrow for the dogs they left buried in the Vietnam soil. The article clearly demonstrated the handler’s strong emotional bond with their respective dogs, a connection that they still remember almost a half century later.After the Vietnam War the role of dogs in the military was reduced to a division of the military police unit.
In 1967 the military established the Air Force Security Police Dog Training School which was school that trained dogs to work security with officers. The school, which still stands today, trains dogs to remain clam when approached by unfamiliar people, to discriminate between a threatening gesture and an accepting gesture; to remain alert; to willingly enter vehicles with other people and dogs without becoming hostile; and to be obedient both with or without a leash.The dogs are trained to enter empty buildings to search for hidden intruders and to examine areas to find lost or concealed objects. The dogs are taught to aggressively attack an enemy with a simple command of the handler and just as quickly stop when commanded by the handler. I personally witnessed this training when interviewing a dog handler on Peterson Air Force K-9 Unit; Ssgt. Chris Kench demonstrated a routine training scenario with his dog Gina. The exercises commenced with a simple work out course that incorporated running, jumping, climbing, and crawling for a total of fifteen minutes.
Next, Ssgt Kench demonstrated the four commands with Gina. The first command was to attack a person (in this case a person in a protective suit) that is running away from the handler, the next command was when the handler instructed the dog to stop her attack, and the third command was when the handler commanded the dog to attack, but then commanded the dog to heel before actually touching the suspect. The last command isn’t really a command, but an instinct, which was when the handler was attacked, the dog attacked the enemy without consent from his handler.Upon further discussion with Ssgt. Kench I discovered that Peterson Air Force Base has the second largest K-9 unit with seventeen dogs.
The only post that exceeds this number is Andrews AFB, MD, which is the post that provides security dogs for the president. Ssgt. Kench also stated that the breed of dogs currently used in the Air Force have shrunk to two (the German Shepard and the Belgium Malinois). Both of these were chosen because of their quick maneuverability and their exceptional detection skills.Ssgt Kench went on to say that these dogs only last nine to twelve years before retiring due to old age, hip displacement, and disease. When the dogs retire they are often adopted by their last handlers and spend the reminder of their lives as civilians. Dogs have been an invaluable resource to the US military for well over 180 years. Whether as messengers, patrollers, or just as simple mascots, they have provided America with a sense of comfort and protection.
Many of these dogs have directly contributed to saving thousands of lives and they deserve recognition for work they have done.Military dogs have been in almost every war that America has participated in and their roles and missions have continued to evolve with each conflict. Yet throughout history they have continually received little if any acknowledgment by the public for their efforts and were almost eradicated after the Korean War. It is important that we as a country recognize these small heroes for their critical role in the history of our country and appreciate that they are mans greatest ally. Mans Greatest Ally: Dog Contributions the US Military Victor Jacoby APUSH Per.
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