Monday, March 13, 2017 was National K9 Veterans Day. March 13 is also the official birthday of the US Army K9 Corps (aka, War Dog Program), which was formed in 1942.
But war dogs have been participating in warfare throughout world history. Indeed, Wikipedia identified
The earliest use of war dogs in a battle recorded in classical sources was by Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 BC. The Lydian dogs killed some invaders and routed others.
Most people have never heard about the first war dog in our military: Stubby,. His actions during World War I were almost unbelievable. Here is a short summary:
The four-legged trailblazer earned fame for his battlefield heroism while attached to the Army’s 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th (Yankee) Division, during World War I. A stray at the time, Stubby met his best friend and handler, Cpl. Robert Conroy, during training in Virginia. Smuggling Stubby aboard the SS Minnesota in October 1917, the two set sail for France.
On the battlefield, Stubby distinguished himself with the uncanny ability to detect incoming artillery, mustard gas, and even enemy soldiers. The war dog once latched onto a German infiltrator that was dressed as an American soldier. He was battle tested, even sustaining injuries in combat, but it was Stubby’s friendly demeanor among his fellow soldiers that endeared him to his unit.
And war dogs were widely used during World War II:
The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps began the first war dog training for American forces during World War II. By 1945 they had trained almost 10,000 war dogs for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Fifteen War Dog platoons served overseas in World War II, with seven serving in Europe and eight in the Pacific.
And, of course, our soldiers depend on their current use in Iraq and Afghanistan wars primarily for detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
So what are the most common breeds of dogs used in our military? The five are the Yorkshire Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, German Shepherd Dog, and Boxer
The U.S. Army writes:
March 13 was designated National K9 Veterans Day in appreciation of the military dogs who serve side by side with Soldiers, and members of the 503rd Military Working Dog Detachment.
But an internet search suggests National K9 Veterans Day specifically honors just war dogs. However, the National K9 Veterans Day Facebook page indicates otherwise: “Honoring all K9s who protect and serve”.
Here are two other resources on the history of war dogs:
A 52-page white paper entitled “Dogs and National Defense” by Anna M. Waller, was printed by the Department of the Army Office of the Quartermaster General in 1958. It’s a study on the history of War Dog training and utilization during and after World War II.
And a more extensive history of Stubby is here.
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