War Dogs History after WW2 to the Fall of Berlin Wall

War Dogs History, WW2 to the Fall of Berlin Wall

Dogs have been man’s best friend from prehistorical times and they might have even helped the human brain evolve. Dogs joined kings in battles, proving indispensable so, one day, rigorous dog training began. Our beloved canines were amazing during WW1 in trenches, as ambulance and messenger dogs, and even as sled dogs. Lest we forget the amazing stories they were involved in during WW1, as cute mascots, military dogs made it into WW2 helping out the British, the Americans, with the first K-9 unit, and, with their unprejudiced hearts, the Germans and the Japanese. Did someone said paradogs? They are the flying dogs, indispensable during WW2.

After a military history that seemed to have snowballed between the Great War and the Second World War, what happened to these specially trained canine soldiers once dust settled over the Paris Peace Treaties?

Military Dogs during the Korean War

As there were still U.S. Army troops that remained in Korea after the end of WW2, due to the Cold War, they stayed put in the south after the Communist government was established in North Korea. Therefore more than one hundred U.S. military dogs were already stationed in Seoul at the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950.

Korean War - military dog and vet
Korean war – military dog and vet

The sentry dogs were quickly trained for combat situations. The the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon was the U.S. dog sent unit to fight in Korea. Back home, the dogs were trained at the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson

“The 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon is cited for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in direct support of combat operations in Korea during the period 12 June 1951 to 15 January 1953.

Korean War, General Orders Citation
Paradogs, parachuting dogs, Korean War
Paradogs, parachuting dogs, Korean War

Thoughts on deactivating the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson, in 1957:

“While fighting in Korea I was attacked and one of these dogs took over my attacker and I was able to recover my footing and escaped. Please reconsider.”

Frank Conanno, 1470 Third Street, West Babylon, N. Y.

“I am in the Army and was put into the scout dog platoon and trained dogs for nine months in the States and have had the same dog all the times. This dog STAR has saved my life and about twelve other men’s lives. I would like to know if there is any way that I could have him discharged the same time that I am. I would gladly pay the Government for the dog and take all the responsibility for him.
“I would appreciate it very much if you could help me in any way so I could take him home with me. This dog is not dangerous and would be suitable to civilian life.”

Cpl, Max Meyers, 26th Infantry, Scout Dog Platoon, APO #60 San Francisco, Calif.

At the end of he Korean War, some scout dogs were put on sentry duty at various Dog Platoons in the U.S.

Laika, first dog in space, 1957

Laika in training for Sputnik 2 mission. Source NASA
Laika in training for Sputnik 2 mission

Laika was he first dog in space, November 1957, on board of Sputnik 2, the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit by the Soviet Union. Sadly, Laika survived for several orbits but died a few hours after the launch.
Laika was part husky or other Nordic breed, part terrier, once again proving that a brave heart is worth more than a pedigree.

The American press dubbed Laika Muttnik: mutt + suffix -nik

Military dogs during the Vietnam War

Below: two sniffer dogs that served in the Vietnam War, 1967, South Vietnam, with the 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin is left, and Cassius is right, pictured here with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board.

Two sniffer dogs, 1967, South Vietnam, 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin, left, and Cassius,right, with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board. Source Foreign Policy.
Two sniffer dogs, 1967, South Vietnam, 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin, left, and Cassius,right, with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board.

In Vietnam there was a specialized requirement for tunnel dogs to detect and explore the tunnels exploited by the Vietnam Cong (National Liberation Front). The tunnel dwellers feared the U.S. dogs and used tactics to confuse them. For example they washed with GI soap and covered air vents with shirts taken from Americans so the dogs’ sense of smell would not be alerted.

A solder looking distraught though while holding his puppy dearly. Source: history collection
1968, a soldier and his beloved pet.

Sadly, the war dogs deployed to Vietnam during that conflict, 1955 – 1975, were classified as “surplus equipment” and left behind, no matter what their human handler and buddies believed. When U.S. troops withdrew in 1973, most of the 4,000 U.S. military dogs on the ground there were deemed “surplus equipment,” and left behind. Some were given to South Vietnamese forces, while others were euthanized.

Vietnam - Memorial Honoring the War Dogs who served in the Vietnam Nam War. Many lost their lives. Many had to be left behind. Source Imgur
Vietnam – Memorial Honoring the War Dogs who served in the Vietnam War. Many lost their lives. Many had to be left behind.

The Prison Riot of 1996 and the first dog body armor

The Winnipeg prison riot of 1996 might not have made the international news, but the two days of horror have been enough for Jim Slater, a former dog handler for the Winnipeg police department, who adjusted a human flak jacket on his canine partner Olaf.

“He was out working ahead of our lines,” he says. “I realized it would be a bad way for him to go down, stabbed with a screwdriver.”

Jim Slater for Money.com

Orders for more bullet proof jackets for dogs soon began to pour from fellow canine officers.

Olaf with his human handler and friend, Jim Slater, who fashioned the first dog bullet-proof vest. Source Winnipeg Free Press
Olaf with his human handler and friend, Jim Slater, who fashioned the first dog bullet-proof vest. Source Winnipeg Free Press

Military Working Dogs in the Israeli Special Forces

Founded in 1939 as Hagana ( when canines were used for the security of Jewish villages threatened by their Arab neighbors), the Oketz Unit (Oketz is Hebrew for “sting”) is the independent canine special forces (sayeret) unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Initially, Oketz trained dogs to attack kidnappers, but today their dogs undergo specialized training: attack, tracking, sniffer dogs (especially ammunition and hidden explosives) and finding people in collapsed buildings.

Israel_Defense Forces -Oketz Unit Soldier Source Wikipedia
Israel_Defense Forces -Oketz Unit Soldier

The Oketz military base has a pet cemetery, the final resting place of over 60 four-legged recruits. A testimony to the increasingly significant role that dogs have come to play in the ranks of the military and of the never ending bond that forms between them and their human handlers.

IDF K-9 (Oketz) Fighting Dogs Cemetery
IDF K-9 (Oketz) Fighting Dogs Cemetery

Fighting terrorists or taking part in the Gaza-Israel conflict, when a Israeli military dog happens to be torn apart by a land mine he is officially registered as missing in combat. “Our troops train as one – man and dog... It’s less about you and more about you and the dog together, what you can do together.”

Israel - Fighters of Oketz Unit train with their four paw comrades  Source: Censor.net.ua
Israel – Fighters of Oketz Unit train with their four paw comrades Source: Censor.net.ua

“Since 2002, soldiers and dogs from Oketz have been able to prevent at least 200 suicide attacks in the central region”

Israeli officer says.
“Oketz” is a special forces unit where man and his best friend serve together.
“Oketz” is a special forces unit where man and his best friend serve together.

Unlike other combat troops in the IDF, Oketz soldiers carry three liters of water on them during operations – 1.5 liters for themselves and 1.5 liters for the dogs. (Source: The Jerusalem Post)

In 2017, India announced that it had bought 30 Oketz attack dogs, bomb sniffers and chasers from Israel because “the new four-legged recruits to the Special Protection Group are considered the best in the world in sniffing out explosive booby-traps.”

The Jerusalem Post

Bosnian War

“On numerous occasions and on numerous deployments I have seen battle-hardened men pouring affection on stray dogs that happen to frequent their bases, and often try to adopt them. I remember in Bosnia, in the deep snow of Mrkonič Grad where we were holed-up in an old, windy bus depot, there was a huge mongrel, clearly the alpha male, that used to lay in the snow permanently surveying his empire, confident that as each unit passed through on its 6-month rotation, someone would make sure that he was well looked after.”

Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman, British Army Blog

1989, the Berlin Wall comes down

Before 9 November  1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, the East German Communist Government used over 6000 dogs for patrol along the wall, known as “Wall Dogs”. A special breed was raised for this reason alone, DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) Shepherd: dogs that excelled in tracking, were athletic, tough, had excellent climbing abilities, and could withstand extreme physical conditions and demands.

A Wall Dog at the Berlin Wall
A Wall Dog at the Berlin Wall

These dogs were tied to a 5m long chain attached to a steel cable that ran approximately 100m in length along the Berlin Wall. Their life was tough, were treated with extreme cruelty. Barely fed every two days, they went through a (short) life with barely any human contact. They soon developed the “wall syndrome”: barking incessantly even when they could hardly stand. Some were killed when they could no longer perform their guard duty, some strangled themselves when their own leads got tangled.

Berlin Wall, guard dogs kept on wires. Source: Historic Approaches to Sonic Encounter at the Berlin Wall Memorial
Berlin Wall, guard dogs kept on wires, running within the “death strip”. Source: Historic Approaches to Sonic Encounter at the Berlin Wall Memorial

After the Wall came down and these guard dogs were no longer needed, they were mostly abandoned. The German Association for the Protection of Animals did everything they could to save as many Wall dogs as possible. Some say that the adopted Wall dogs, when approaching the area where the wall once stood, would

“move as if tethered to an unseen leash, with absolute certainty, following the old border along its zigzags through the city”.

Is one happy ending enough?

Between the Wall Dogs, whose difficult reputation made it difficult for them to be adopted, two German Shepherds, Juro and Betty, and a Schnauzer called Valco, were adopted in March 1990 by a family in Mallorca, Spain.

Wall Dogs adopted: Juro, left, is one of the Wall dogs rescued by a family from Mallorca. Source: Mallorca Magazin.
Wall Dogs adopted: Juro, left, is one of the Wall dogs rescued by a family from Mallorca. Source: Mallorca Magazin.

The history of Military Working Dogs, or War Dogs, is long and sad. Have humankind learned anything from these amazing souls, who give unconditionally, forget and always offer second chances?

Next post: MWDs encountered in the Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Do return for some amazing images and more canine history.

Russet Leaves and Sweet Pears in Autumn

autumn russet and a pear @PatFurstenberg

He didn’t care that the leaves had turned. All he cared about was his friend, missing.
School had started.
So he let himself drop among the russet, carmine and maroon leaves, and became one with Autumn.

Russet apples and a pear at sunset
Russet apples and a pear at sunset

A game of words to feast one’s senses.
Just like the 13th century French word meaning reddish-brown, RUSSET brought us the homely feeling of a COARSE, homespun fabric. Plain, from the back country where rough skinned fruits with a tint of copper grow.
Russet apples & pears.

Russet pears in a dream. @PatFurstenberg. Image @marcosecchi free Unsplash
Russet pears in a dream. @PatFurstenberg. Image @marcosecchi free Unsplash

I’ve been day dreaming of Russet pears.
Their balmy aroma and textured skin paired with a surprisingly elegant neck.
Creamy white flesh, a match for the rusty strikes on their skin.
Soft and grainy, like a pear should be. Officially, Golden Russet Bosc. My childhood’s fruit.

I blink the brick wall away, my eyes intent on the piling of russet leaves. Their growing height sets my autumn days on fire. I hide from the gardener.
‘Set them alight today, Miss?’
He doesn’t know. Each evening I frolic in their reddish-brown crackle, a childhood whisper.

Do return for more autumn and dog – related posts.
What do YOU like about Autumn?

Autumn’s crimson battle and a Ferrari

Autumn. crimson leaves and a shaggy happy dog - quote @PatFurstenberg.jpg

It has been a long, crimson battle for the shaggy warrior, but he won it. Nevertheless, the carmine bodies of his opponents, the Autumn’s subjects, littered the ground.

autumn crimson art of napping @PatFurstenberg.jpg

Drenched in memories of bloody battlefields, sentencing childbirths and sin, Crimson sank at Autumn’s feet. Hand picked by Her and entrusted with her most prized possession, her leaves, Crimson now looks up, in the symphony of life.

crimson trees

Never have the carmine or crimson colors been happier as this Autumn!

autumn happy crimsone and charmine @PatFurstenberg

Above, russet leaves, hushed tones, their veins facing the road, trembling in anticipation. In a tornado of horse power and diesel a Ferrari flashed by, crimson, as if pulled by the ray of sun caught in its glass.
And leaves, like paparazzi, followed.

And leaves, like paparazzi, followed the Ferrari @PatFurstenberg

Dating back to Roman times and the Middle Ages when it was accepted as payment, the crimson or carmine dye was first made from the body of the female kermes (Atabic qirmiz), a tiny red insect.

Carmine pigment is not very stable unless it is stored in dry place and it fades even under incandescent illumination.

Kermes (carmine) is mentioned in the Old Testament and it was used in the Americas for dyeing textiles as early as 700 B.C.

Example of carmine used in art:

Titian, ‘Noli me Tangere‘, ca 1514
Titian, ‘Noli me Tangere‘, ca 1514 – “let no one touch me.”

Titian depicts the biblical scene (John 20:17) where Mary Magdalene recognizes Christ after his Resurrection. Christ comforts Magdalen but asks her not to touch him as he will ascend to Heaven soon. Noli me tangere is Latin for “let no one touch me.”

Do return to my blog for more colors and seasons. You can subscribe to my newsletter and never miss a post.

Read the opening pages of Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

The simplest way to enjoy coffee? Pair it with an interesting book.

‘Although this is a work of fiction there are truths to it that will tug at your heart. For anyone who has not read one of Patricia’s books then I would recommend this one. ‘ Mandie Griffiths, Book Reviewer

‘Wisdom is threaded throughout Silent Heroes. This novel is an intense, evocative and heart-wrenching narrative of destruction and hope. There is a philosophical exploration of the fragility of human life and the consequences of power struggles.’ Amazon Reader

‘I recommend that if you are unfamiliar with why and how the young men and women of our armies are involved in this conflict, that you read Silent Heroes.’ Sally Cronin, Author, Goodreads Review

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For, is the new novel by Patricia Furstenberg, the author of Amazon Bestseller Joyful Trouble.

How far would you go to save strangers in need? Military Dogs risk their life for their humans in a heartbeat, but can soldiers do the same when personal struggles and global affairs defy humanity?
When Taliban raids an Afghan village and discovers that girls can read, a woman accepts the blame to save the community. Her teenage daughter witnesses the sacrifice swearing revenge, her own life and that of her brother becoming intertwined with those of the Marines serving at a nearby military base.
Led by Captain Marcos who conceals, under a cool appearance, a lifelong disability, the solid team of soldiers is faced with the trauma of losing platoon-mates, both human and canine, with PTSD and with becoming estranged from families left behind.
When the Marines are instructed to accept a mysterious young Afghan as their guide the humanity of local population they come in contact with raises questions about the necessity of war. It is a race against time, fending off the Taliban lurking at the ancient Qala-e-Bost fortress and defending Bost Airport, a vital strategic point for the allies, while saving the kidnapped civilians at the same time.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For – read the opening lines

“‘They’re coming!’ were the words synonym with death for the few wretched souls still calling Nauzad Village home.

The far distance war cry, still a rumble clouded in dust, swept along the eastern snowy slope of the Hindu Kush Mountains in an avalanche of hoofs. As it neared the hamlet it expanded and conquered its deserted streets, amplified by dark, bearded men waving Kalashnikovs above their heads, thirsty for blood.

Those who have heard it before knew it brought terror and death. Those who have met them before remembered the reek of slaughter that seeped through their long robes, the wild beards that swelled from underneath their flat hats, pakols, revealing gap-toothed jaws. Even those too young to comprehend, the tots born after the last grown men of our village left for war, shrank from their sight.

They were the Taliban soldiers who dwelled in our mountains.

Their sulphur stench yanked us, women and children, from behind the fake safety of mud walls. It was execution time again.

A young woman stood in the door frame of a modest hut, holding herself tall in an attempt to shield her young brother who, transfixed, watched as a cloud of menacing smoke tumbled along the mountain slope, thundering and calling ‘Allāhu akbar’, ‘Allah is great.’ The same praise women sang, with tear-stained eyes, whenever a healthy new-born arrived into the world.

Her mother still called her ‘girl’, although she had already passed the threshold to womanhood. But a girl would still fit in her mother’s arms where she would be protected. A girl would not be expected to obey and cover herself with a burqa and a girl would not be forced to cease her learning because she is over a certain age.

A second woman, with eagle eyes and a guarded attitude, materialized behind her. Adjusting her hijab over her head, she kept to the shadows, yanking the young one inside. Only her hooded, dark brown eyes spoke. There was distress in them and a prophecy, words to be whispered, but words no one else was allowed to hear.

Between their skirts, a skinny boy of eight moved along. The girl, Emma Dil, meaning ‘Dil ki khawahish’, ‘Heart’s Wish’, was thus named to illustrate her father’s pride in having a girl as their firstborn, instead of a boy. His heart’s wish. The same honour had glinted in their mother’s eyes the night their father joined the fight against the Afghan insurgents in the never-ending war versus the Taliban; knowing it might cost them his life.

‘Come inside, my heart. It must be done. We must hurry, hurry,’ the second woman said, her voice in check, yet Emma Dil’s strung nerves picked the rise in pitch, its agony and anguish. The mother pulled Emma indoors and bolted the door, sealing out most of the light. A gleam of steel in the mother’s right hand caught the last rays of the sun. Hugging her daughter one last time the mother pulled the little boy between them, her free hand soft and warm on Emma’s wet cheek. The girl filled her lungs with the familiar scent of faded rose petals she had associated with love and safety all her life, knowing it was the last time she would. The three of them lingered in their embrace, the girl holding her breath, willing time to stop. Yet, three heartbeats later, the mother pulled away.

‘Rafik, my clever boy, my pride, take your flying legs and run like the wind to the neighbouring village. Warn them.’ Her eyes urged him. ‘They’ve come again,’ she added. Her work-worn hand lingered on his face, cupping his childish cheek one more time. His eyes gleamed, his body wired up, ready to please. However his mother’s hand stayed on his face, drawing him closer for one more kiss. The woman pulled him near her chest while urging him to g0. ‘Run, child, run!’

Once he was out through the back door, the woman turned towards the girl with dead eyes and scissors at the ready. ‘Swear, my girl. No one must ever find out.’

~~~

As a culmination of each one of their raids, the Taliban troops would round us all in the dusty centre of the village. My brother and I would always try to obstruct our mother’s presence. But today it was only me so I tried to square my shoulders.

My aunt and her three daughters nestled themselves against us, eyes cast down, and the young ones shaking like leaves, counting their heartbeats. ‘One – alive. Two – alive. Three – alive.’ The small one wet herself.

I never understood why we were held at gunpoint by men speaking the same language, only crazed for power, thirsty to kill in the name of Islam. Throwing menacing looks their black eyes, creased, glare from behind filthy headdresses they yanked over their faces as soon as they stormed into a village.

Mother said such questions were not to be uttered, but maybe – just maybe – raised in the back of my mind when I was alone in our bedchamber.

Then their leader would arrive, dressed in black pants and a black, long shirt, the traditional shalwar kameez. Wickedness personified.

‘Allah is great!’ They’d all yell. ‘May Allah give Davron a long life!’ They’d welcome him. It was a call for joy. It was also a call to sentence us – innocent or not.

This time, they found enough proof to kill another one of us, all in the name of Islam. A child or a woman had broken a law. Their bloodlust and fanaticism in reinforcing their dominance over us knew no limits. To them, self-imposed soldiers of the religious police, the Islam law stood above human life.

In the middle of the dirt and in front of us all, landed a tattered book. A small cloud of dust rose as the book touched the ground. Its pages opened by themselves to the part most enjoyed – a line drawing of a world map. In its middle, someone had penned, in blue ink, a little star. It marks Afghanistan’s place on the map. The small star on a two-page chart showed how big it is, this world we are all a part of. Such a promising world, a world I often dreamed of. A world that knows nothing of us.

The man dressed in black, the one they call Commander Davron, had a scar along his left cheek.

Once I asked mom if she thinks he was chosen as their leader because he is the ugliest man on earth. She watched me, amazed, and then laughed so hard as I’ve never seen her laugh before. When she was done she wiped her eyes, hugged me, and asked me to never say those words again. But that she thinks I was right and that I had a brilliant intellect, and I must never forget that.

Their leader kicked the book with the tip of his stained shoe then tramped past us all, hands behind his back, his eyes boring into our souls even as we stare at our feet. The stench surrounding him like an aura of death turned my stomach. I swallowed hard.

From the corner of my eye I watched the book flying like a wounded bird, and crash-landing face down, a few feet away. A page was bent and my book-lover self winced.

He strode back, his black robe swaying with every step like a death flag, his beard nodding disapprovingly like it’s got a mind of its own. Halting near us he smacked his lips and bent, twisting his head sideways, listening, and making a show out of it.

A trickle of water echoed nearby. To the right, my little niece has wetted herself again. Commander Davron’s mouth twisted in a smile, yet his eyes remained menacing. He bent forward, his beard almost touching her rosy cheek, hot and wet with tears, lined with dust. Her small hands were pressed against her mouth in a desperate attempt to keep any noise inside. I froze. There was an ink stain on her index finger. The bearded leader pretended not to notice, but as he turned towards the rest of us his hand, as sharp as an eagle’s beak, fastened on the girl’s fragile wrist yanking it forward. She collapsed near the book, her knees scraping the dust, her shoulder nearly dislocated. Only a sharp scream escaped her, his grip steady,crushing her wrist.

‘Proof! Again!’ He bellowed. ‘Islam’s sacred law had been broken! AGAIN! Girls, that read AND write?’

Should his shouts be visible, they would be a whip reaching each one of us, extracting any hope out of our hearts.

I grabbed my mother’s hand, willing her to stand behind. Too late. She would never witness one of the girls tortured. I felt my heart ripped from my chest as my mother threw herself in the dirt, at the feet of Commander Davron, her arm embracing the broken girl.

‘Please!’ She sobbed through her burqa. ‘Let her go. In the name of Allah, it is my fault, only mine.’

His tongue slithered over his bottom lip like a snake pushing out of his hideout and he dropped the girl’s wrist turning towards my mother, greed swimming in his eyes.

‘Take off your burqa,’ he ordered her.

All the women gasped. The law of Islam ordered women to stay covered in front of any men outside their immediate family.

‘I wish to know who broke Islam’s holy law.’

If she shows her face, she will break a law; a different law, by Taliban’s standards.

My ears rang and tears burned my eyes, yet I dug my nails into my wrists, behind my back. I promised mother not to tell.

Not to tell a soul.

My knees shook underneath my father’s dark robe and a trickle of sweat rolled down my neck, escaping my short hair and my manly headdress, also my father’s. The tiny hairs that stuck to my neck after mom’s hasty haircut itched, but not as much as my tongue. I craved to yell the truth, but I promised.

The dark Commander’s index, lined with grime, singled me out.

‘You have a boy, I see. Almost a man. He doesn’t need his mother anymore. Take off your burqa.’

A guttural wail escaped my mother as she removed her headdress and face covers in front of Commander Davron and his army.

She had just sentenced herself.

They cheered in the name of Allah, crazed at the thought of another kill.

‘This woman broke two of His sacred laws!’ Davron bellowed. ‘No girl over the age of eight is to learn to read or write, yet this woman taught reading and writing. And she has removed her face cover in the absence of her husband and in front of strange men! If you want lessons to learn, I’ll teach you lessons.’

His army cheered and they emptied their guns towards the Heavens.

By the time he was done speaking our brave mother laid dead in the dirt, a bullet through her brain. Her open eyes were fixed on the book, yet she couldn’t see it anymore. Her life sacrificed because she’d been willing to pay the ultimate price. To save us.

Her face was as beautiful as ever and I felt a sudden surge to kneel and cradle her, but I could not, I was a boy now and I promised not to tell.

Perched on a nearby eave, a purple sunbird watched us and my heart warmed to her. Its lapis lazuli plumage was my mother’s favourite colour. I remembered mother telling us an old Egyptian belief. Whenever a person died, a bird was sent from the Heavens to escort its spirit home.” (Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg)

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for

Buy Silent Heroes from Amazon, available in Kindle format, paperback and large print.

Silent Heroes

Buy Silent Heroes in Large Print too: Amazon UK , Amazon US , Amazon Canada

Silent Heroes, Large Print Edition
Silent Heroes, Large Print Edition

The Soviet Union, German and Japanese War Dogs of WW2

I realized that I focused so much on American Dogs of WW2, British Dogs of WW2, dog mascots of the Allies, and true stories of WW1 dogs, but what about the rest of the dogs that took part in world wars?

Red Army Dogs of WW2

The Red Army began WW2 with 50 000 dogs already trained. Most dogs were white Samoyeds trained to find and help wounded soldiers lost in the snow.

Rex and LloydVonSickel. Rex was one of the Samoyeds volunteered for service in the U.S. Army. Several dogs were trained to parachute from small aircraft for remote rescue missions. Source Tahoe Weekly
Rex and Lloyd VonSickel. Rex was one of the Samoyeds volunteered for service in the U.S. Army. Several dogs were trained to parachute from small aircraft for remote rescue missions. Source Tahoe Weekly

But the soviets were unscrupulous; they also trained their dogs to fight tanks, sniff mines and as spies (diversion service).

Russian military trained half-starved dogs to run underneath tanks and armored vehicles in search for food, while explosives were strapped to their bodies. The detonator was a rod which extended upwards from the explosive pouch the dogs wore. When they ducked under tanks the rod would hit the hull of the vehicle, detonating bomb and dog.

1945, Russia, a puppy sleeping between two soldiers
1945, Russia, a puppy sleeping between two soldiers

Luckily, the anti-tank dogs had mixed success as the dogs, trained to run under stationery, non-firing tanks, often retreated at the sound of enemy gunfire, returning to the Soviet trenches, exploding and taking their comrades with them.

The mechanism behind a bomb detonating dog - source WW2 Film Inspector
The mechanism behind a bomb detonating dog

German War Dogs during WW2

It is worth noticing the German’s cunning strategy. As the WWI Versailles Treaty limited Germany’s army to 100,000 members, German dog training school began operating under the disguised training of German civil and railroad policemen to not arouse the Western Powers.

A German soldier feeds a puppy-History Collection.jpg
A German soldier feeds a puppy

But Germany had a secret pact with Russia. They would train Russian officers in the art of warfare in exchange for a military facility, in Russia.

In conclusion, Germany began WW2 with 200 000 trained dogs and ten years K-9 experience. A vast majority of these dogs, forming the German Civil Police K-9 Unit, were sadly used to assist in the capturing and deportation of Jewish citizens to Nazi concentration and work camps.

Germany trained white dogs to point at the enemy. The Allies reported quite a few sightings of white dogs in North Africa. It was later concluded that the Germans trained some of their dogs to sniff the enemy (the Allies) and just point at them, standing perfectly still, and then returning to the German snipers.

Sadly, in the rushed withdrawal of Axis forces from North Africa so many dogs from the K-9 units were left behind that there was hardly any breeding stock left in the entire Germany.

Japanese War Dogs during WW2

Out of their 200 000 dogs secretly trained for ten years, the Germans gifted 25 000 to the Japanese to be used as patrols, scouts, and guards. But the Japanese trained their own suicide commandos dogs.

Japanese_dogs_WW2 propaganda. Source WW2 Film Inspector
Japanese Dogs – WW2 propaganda

The Japanese dogs were trained to pull small carts until close enough to the enemy, the Americans. Each cart was loaded with fifty pound bombs that were then exploded.

1945, Japan, Okinawa. A soldier and his pet dog.
1945, Japan, Okinawa. A soldier and his pet dog.

The Japanese also trained their own pointer dogs. Small sized dogs were trained to find the American troops and then run back to the Japanese. On timing the dogs and noticing the direction of their trajectory, the Japanese would approximate the location of the American troops. This tactic did not work for long as the Americans soon begun to follow the small dogs back to the Japanese.

Cheering for the dogs!

Next we will look at what happened to these amazing war dogs once WW2 was over and then at the fate of military dogs past WW2 to present times.

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Two of my books focus on dogs and their adventures during the war.

Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy
The simplest way to enjoy coffee? Pair it with an interesting book. Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
The simplest way to enjoy coffee? Pair it with an interesting book.

Paradogs, the Flying Dogs of War

Paradogs of WW2

No matter what you were told as a child, dogs do fly and they did so since 1920. Paradogs, “parachuting dogs”, are the brave military dogs trained to jump off planes with the aid of a parachute. These dogs were specifically trained to perform tasks such as locating mines, keeping watch and warning about enemies.

The first Paradog recorded in history

 Jeff, the mascot of the 120th Colorado Air National Guard, the first dog to jump with a parachute. Source History Daily.
Jeff, the mascot of the 120th Colorado Air National Guard, the first dog to jump with a parachute

Jeff was the mascot of the 120th Colorado Air National Guard, US, and the first dog to jump with a parachute that we know of. He made twelve successful jumps in 1920s.

Parachuting dogs of the British Army during WW2

Believe it or not, British army dogs trained to sniff mines dropped from the skies on D-Day. They were the dogs of the 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion.

Bing, the Alsatian and Collie cross originally named Brian, was an army dog with the 13th Parachute Battalion, part of the 6th Airborne Division, parachuted over Normandy on D-Day on 6 June 1944 - source DailyMail
Bing, the Alsatian and Collie cross originally named Brian, was an army dog with the 13th Parachute Battalion, part of the 6th Airborne Division, parachuted over Normandy on D-Day on 6 June 1944

One such dog was Bing, a 2 year old Alsatian-Collie cross donated to the army.

Unlike the dogs trained during WW1, these dogs were first conditioned to the loud noises made by aircrafts and guns, then the actual parachuting training begun.

Lance Cpl. Ken Bailey, in charge with training the paradogs, wrote:

“After my chute developed, I turned to face the line of flight; the dog was 30 yards away and slightly above. I called out and she immediately turned in my direction and wagged her tail vigorously. The dog touched down 80 feet before I landed. She was completely relaxed, making no attempt to anticipate or resist the landing, rolled over once, scrambled to her feet and stood looking round. I landed 40 feet from her and immediately ran to her, released her and gave her the feed.”

Lance Cpl. Ken Bailey

It is worth remembering that during parachuting training Bailey would carry a 2-pound piece of meat during each jump, as a treat for the dog he trained.

Save a life and you (unknowingly) save countless more.

Antis was an abandoned puppy rescued by two Allied pilots who happened to crash in no-man’s land in January 1940. In only a few months Antis and his rescuer, Václav Robert Bozděch, had become inseparable. Antis soon proved his special gift, his acute hearing sense, the German Shepherd being able to signal enemy aircraft approaching before the air-raid siren even went off.

Antis and Bozděch in front of their bomber - source Aviation Outlet
Antis and Bozděch in front of their bomber – source Aviation Outlet

But it wasn’t until June 1941, when Bozděch did not return from an air bombing mission, that everyone understood the depth of Antis’ attachment for his human friend. The dog refused all food and shelter, not budging from his sentry spot where he was awaiting the return of Bozděch’ fighter plane. Luckily Bozděch returned from the hospital just in time and Antis soon regain his strength.

Antis, Colonel Bozdech and No. 311 Squadron RAF - Source Aviation Outlet
Antis, Colonel Bozdech and No. 311 Squadron RAF.jpg

British allies were the first to use parachuting dogs with their army’s newly formed SAS forces in North Africa and France.

A parachuting dog of WW2 - source Spiegel
A parachuting dog of WW2

The U.S. Army Air Corp also parachuted dogs

The US Army Air Corp began training in Alaska by parachute directly to crash scenes in emergency situations.   Here the Army parachute dogs wore a coat like harness, lined with sheep skin.

US - The Army parachute dogs wore a coat like harness, lined with sheep skin. Source History Daily
US training in Alaska – The Army parachute dogs had a harness, lined with sheep skin

Why do dogs jump from planes? Surely not for the fun of it or for the two pound meat they receive as a reward – but because of the emotional connection they have with their handler. It is this bond that makes them put their handler’s wishes before their own. This everlasting bond that gets them going, even if that means behind enemy lines.

Paradogs are still used today, especially in war combat zones such as Afghanistan, as we will see in a future blog post.

In my latest book, Silent Heroes, I write about the incredible bond between military working dogs, MWD, and their Marine handlers.

Silent Heroes

Do you know an stories about military dogs? Let me know in comment below and subscribe to my newsletter, never miss a post or a book update – subscription link in the side bar.

American Dogs of WW2, the History of the First K9 Unit, Cappy, Chips and Daisy

US-Marine-Private-John-Drugan-and-his-war-dog-Okinawa-Japan-May-1945-source-ww2dbase

Dogs, with their cute faces, were extensively used during the Great War and their help proved invaluable on so many levels. But do you know that, throughout the centuries, the canines joined kings in battles and that during WW2 the British began relying on dogs quite late (after the Germans)?

What happened across the Pond, in the United States?

Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor the US citizens were not interested in joining the war in Europe, but the US Marines knew that one day soon they will have to fight the Japanese (remember the “island-hopping” in the Pacific) and so they began training military dogs.

“Dogs for Defense” – the US Military Dogs

After the December 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the US declaring war on Japan on 8 December 1941, followed closely by Germany and Italy declaring war on the United States, “Dogs for Defense” was formed and dogs were formally trained for the military for the first time in the US history.

Dogs For Defense was the appointed agency for canine recruitment and training. They started with 200 dogs… and soon became the nick-name of the military dog training operation in the US became K-9 Corps.

Dogs for Defense. Source, ww2dbase
Dogs for Defense. Source, ww2dbase

In July 1942 the Secretary of War specifically asked Digs for Defense to include training of dogs in the following categories: sentry dogs, patrol dogs, messengers, and mine detection dogs. But very soon the Navy, the Coast Guard and Marine Corp became training their own military canines…

The US Marines were some of the first to show interest in training war dogs as they had experienced losing ground against enemy using sentry dogs in Haiti and other “Banana Wars” in Central America during 1914 – 1934.

US Marine Private John Drugan and his war dog in Okinawa, Japan, May 1945. Source: ww2dbase
US Marine Private John Drugan and his war dog in Okinawa, Japan, May 1945. Source: ww2dbase

The Devildogs – the US Marines’ dogs

The dogs trained by the US Marines were soon nicknamed “Devil Dogs” a nick name the Marines earned during WWI while fighting against the Germans. However, Dobermans weren’t the only breed that the US Marines used, but since the DPCA (Doberman Pinscher Club of America) was the one organization recruiting canines for the Marines, the initial emphasis was placed on this breed…

An US Marin Corps combat soldier with his K9 and buddy Doberman. Image by Peter Gumaer, Ogden
An US Marin Corps combat soldier with his K9 and buddy Doberman. Image by Peter Gumaer, Ogden

The first US K-9 Corps unit assigned to a tactical operation went to the Pacific

The First US K-9 Tactical Detachment. Source ww2dbase
The First US K-9 Tactical Detachment. Source ww2dbase

So a few War Dog Platoons soon appeared. Eight war dogs, six scouts and two messenger dogs were part of the first K-9 Corps unit.  A report on their activities read:

“Patrol led by the dogs were never ambushed and suffered no casualties.”

The scout dogs were very good at alerting the Allies of incoming Japanese or spy local warriors and at guarding during the night. The messenger dogs were not disturbed in the bit by the local flora, so different in size and scents from what they knew from home, during training. The messenger dogs proved invaluable at keeping contact especially during heavy rain when electronic communication was cut off.

The dogs were held in such high regard, that they were allowed to travel in the officer’s plane, from one island to another. It is said that during a turbulent landing two dogs started a fight soon followed by the officers’ evacuation of the plane in a hurry, through the escape hatch.

Indeed, the War Dog Platoons proved invaluable to the US Marines during the Battle of Guam in July of 1944. See landing image below:

US Marines and War Dog Patrol landing on Guam Island
US Marines and War Dog Patrol landing on Guam Island

Looks familiar?

"Into the Jaws of Death" - the Normany Landing, Source: Wikipedia
“Into the Jaws of Death” – the Normany Landing, Source: Wikipedia

Three War Dog Platoons worked alongside US Marines on Guam Island. Here, the war dogs guarded the US  camps, rescued wounded Marines, delivered messages, searched through caves for Japanese soldiers in hiding and alerted the Marines to the presence of landmines or booby traps set by Japanese.

Cappy, one of the Devil Dogs of the Marine Corps, Source historydaily.
Cappy, one of the Devil Dogs of the Marine Corps, Source historydaily.

A true story: Cappy and his handler, PFC Allen Jacobson

One night Cappy alerted 250 sleeping Marines of a vast force of advancing Japanese, saving their lives. Sadly, both Cappy and his handler, PFC Allen Jacobson, were injured in the battle that followed. True to his partner, Jacobson refused to leave the battle area and receive treatment until Cappy had also been evacuated.

Next, the US K-9 unit fought in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and on the beaches of Cape Gloucester, supporting either the Australian or British Marines against the Japanese forces.

A Marine dog handler and his Doberman war dog on the island of Saipan, 1944. Source: historydaily
A Marine dog handler and his Doberman war dog on the island of Saipan, 1944. Source: historydaily

The Doberman War Dogs could eventually outrank their handlers.

While training to become War Dogs, the Dobermans began their training as Privates and were promoted based on the length of service. Thus, after three months the Dobermans became a Private First Class, after one year a Corporal, after two years a Sergeant, after three years a Platoon Sergeant, after four years a Gunner Sergeant, and after five years a Master Gunner Sergeant.

Is it good for a Military Dog to outrank its human handler?

Today, this is often a custom that ensures the handler treats the Military Working Dog with the respect it deserves, while still giving it some freedom to behave like a dog if they ever disobey an order.

The first US K-9 patrol to help in Europe

Six Members Of The 33rd QMC Patrol, , assigned to the 6th South African Armored Division in Italy, the first US K-9 patrol to help in Europe.
Six Members Of The 33rd QMC Patrol, , assigned to the 6th South African Armored Division in Italy, the first US K-9 patrol to help in Europe.

Again, even through deep snow,, the dogs proved to be of invaluable assistance, and not only military. In March 1945, when communication was cut off, the messenger dogs kept the information going until another canine member carried a telephone on his back to the isolated unit.

True stories: Chip’s independent spirit and Daisy’s loyalty

Chips, one of the first US dogs to serve in Sicily with 3rd Division of General Patton's Seventh Army, visiting the unit's doughnut tent.
Chips, one of the first US dogs to serve in Sicily with 3rd Division of Gen. Patton’s Seventh Army, visiting the unit’s doughnut tent.

Chips was a dog with a great personality and an even bigger heart who saved many lives during WW2. Perhaps it was his mixed blood, Chips being part shepherd, part collie, part husky, that gave him a keen sense of smell and hearing. Perhaps it was his love for humans that got him to show great bravery in battle… What is certain is that the more he ventured, the more his nonconformist spirit didn’t go well with his superiors… We need to remember that canine psychology was not so well understood back then.

For example, while his division – exhausted and soaked after pulling ashore on the seemingly deserted beaches of Sicily – retrieved behind an abandoned outpost to regroup, Chips chose to dash over No Man’s Land…

Typical canine behavior, right? Not quite.

Soon after a machine gun was heard, then a crippling silence embraced Chips’ division. Of course, they dashed over to investigate. They discovered Chips holding tight onto the throat of a German gunner, while five other German soldiers had already surrendered to the brave military dog.

Had Chips sniffed the gunpowder? The uniforms? Had he heard whisper or the click of the machine guns? What is sure is that he saved the lives of the men in his division. Yet he did not escaped unharmed; he received a wound to the scalp and burns to his mouth and left eye.

A friendly smile from Chips! Just look at this clever boy!
A friendly smile from Chips! Just look at this clever boy!

Although he showed his bravery many times, Chips was never decorated because of his tendency to act on his own, thus breaking the rules, and because, sigh, he was “only a dog”. Nevertheless, his comrades presented Chips with a Theater Ribbon. On the ribbon were an arrowhead for the assault landing at Sicily and a star for each of the eight campaigns during which Chips served.

Bronze Arrowhead. Army & USAF participation in parachute, glider & amphibious assault or landing.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The arrowhead would denote participation in amphibious landing in Chips’ case. It would have looked something like the ribbon above, but with eight stars.

Eventually, Chips received the Silver Star in 1943 for bravery in combat and in 2018 Chips was awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest honor for wartime bravery by an animal.

The Silver Star, US Military
The Silver Star, US Military

True story: Daisy’s loyalty, even in frigid waters

Daisy was a golden retriever and the mascot of a Norwegian merchant ship that in 1944 was accidentally (or not) torpedoed in the North Atlantic. During WW2 the Nortraship (The Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission) operated some 1,000 vessels and was the largest shipping company in the world, operating outside German-controlled areas. Nortraship made a major contribution to the Allied war effort.

After the torpedo sank Daisy’s ship, all throughout that night Daisy swam from one survivor to another, licking their faces, warming up their noses with her breath, in a desperate attempt to keep them awake – and alive – in the icy waters of the North Atlantic until help arrived, the following day.

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.

Milan Kundera

I hope that you enjoy dipping into past history with me, as we looked at the roles dogs played during long-ago battles, during WW1 or WW2 (the British canines).

Next time we will look at the Soviet Union, German and Japanese War Dogs of WW2 and then at Para-dogs of WW2, but until then you can browse some of my books – and see if you can identify their common denominator…

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values are Worth Fighting for

Silent Heroes, is a work of fiction about the Military Working Dogs and the amazing Marines and local people caught in the War in Afghanistan.

Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy
Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy

Take home an unbelievable and humorous true story of an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling, Joyful Trouble.

As Good as Gold, A Dog's Life in Poems
As Good as Gold, A Dog’s Life in Poems

Celebrating the simple things in life as seen through the eyes of our old time favorite furry friends, “As Good as Gold” is a volume of poetry revealing the talent and humor we always knew our dogs possessed.