As an author, I am the resultant force of the books I read. As a woman, I am the resultant force of the women who influenced my life – my mother, my grandmothers, my daughter, my girl friends, my female role models. As a human being, I am one of the forces shaping my children’s future; albeit a tiny one, I can point forward and upwards. Scientia potetia est.
It was an honor to have my article on Why We Need Contemporary War Fiction Written by Women published on Books By Women:
At some stage during my adult life, and this will astound my history teacher if she’d discover, I found myself fascinated by the thought of writing fiction inspired by contemporary events.
A thread that brought me here might have been reading Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” in my teens; another one, witnessing the terrorist attack on World Trade Center on Live TV while pregnant with my daughter. A definite thread, silky and alluring, came from enjoying historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon. While the most recent one, still carding itself, draws from my son’s keen interest in war computer games and my own, in military working dogs.
Contemporary war fiction penned by
women pales in comparison to the amount of books written by men. Be it
in poetry or prose, throughout the centuries an author, not an
authoress, depicted more often the combat male protagonist. As Homer put
it in his Iliad, “war will be men’s business”.
Why so, since countless notable women
were not afraid of fighting battles? The Greek goddess Athena is shown
as a warrior, the patron of justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, and
arts. The Celtic goddess Brigid is the patron of poetry and smithcraft.
Scathach is an Irish Goddess who taught the martial arts. The Amazons
were fierce warrior women and there were even gladiator women,
gladiatrices, although Juvenal, the Roman poet of those times, depicted
them as a mere novelty. History is splattered with the blood of
innumerable women warriors: Hatshepsut, Queen Boudicca, Queen Samsi of
Arabia, the Trung Sisters from Vietnam, Empress Theodora of Byzantium,
Olga of Russia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary I and Elizabeth I of
History also showed us that women who
took to war were willingly followed by an army of men and women and
that they won their battles much to their opponent’s dismay. Is it the
fact that women can stand up for themselves in times of political
upheaval what worries men or the fact that women could, eventually,
With such role models, although nowadays women have changed spear for pen, where has history brought us?
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“Since 2002, soldiers and dogs from Oketz have been able to prevent at least 200 suicide attacks in the central region”
Israeli officer says.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why don’t you follow my blog or subscribe to my newsletter – and never miss a post or a book special.
Two of my books focus on dogs and their adventures during the war.
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 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.
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.
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.
British allies were the first to use parachuting dogs with their army’s newly formed SAS forces in North Africa and France.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
The first US K-9 Corps unit assigned to a tactical operation went to the Pacific
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:
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, is a work of fiction about the Military Working Dogs and the amazing Marines and local people caught in the War in Afghanistan.
Take home an unbelievable and humorous true story of an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling, Joyful Trouble.
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.