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.
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