Tagged: “military animals”

War heroes with four legs

War heroes with four legs

Ever read the book “Yorkie Doodle Dandy”? Ever hear of it? Me neither until I did a google search on animal war heroes. There are more of them than you would think but actually that shouldn’t be a surprise given that animals have accompanied us into battle since we first started domesticating them.
Smoky, a little Yorkie served in the Pacific during WWII. She warned the troops of incoming artillery shells (dogs can hear them coming much sooner than we can) thus saving many lives. She also was useful in pulling telegraph wire through tunnels (advantages of being a small dog). Her cute tricks entertained the troops and just her presence was a soothing influence during hard times. Her handler wrote a book about Smokey’s adventures called “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” to honor his little brave companion.

Smoky isn’t the only animal that has been honored for their service. Chips, a Shepherd Mix, was the most decorated animal in WWII having been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his actions. Stubby, a pit-bull, is the most well-known service dog from WWI and has the Stubby Award for Animal Heroism named after him. He is also preserved and on display with his medals at the Smithsonian Institute.

There have been statues, books and movies made about animals that served during wars. The most recent is “War Horse” a movie about a single horse used during WWI and his unique bond with the boy who raised him – but it’s really a salute to all the equines used during war. “The Invincible Sgt. Bill” is a true story that was made into a short movie about a goat that served during WWI and saved many soldiers’ lives. He was stuffed and is still preserved in Saskatchewan, where the real Bill came from.

We usually think about dogs and horses when we think of military animals but, in fact, every kind of animal has been used at some point. Dolphins, elephants, camels, pigs, pigeons, cats and even slugs! Who knew (except the scientist studying them) that they could detect mustard gas in the air at much lower particles than we could and therefore warn soldiers when they needed to put their masks on? How do you pin a medal on a slug?!

This Memorial Day, when we pause to remember all those who have served and died for our freedoms, let’s remember those with four legs (or no legs, like slugs) that have also served. They didn’t have a choice and often died doing what we bid them to do. They are heroes too and deserve to be honored as such.

Memorial Day is for Military Animals too

Memorial Day is for Military Animals too

Memorial Day is a time to reflect and remember those who have given their lives in military service. Since the beginning of time, animals have been used in military service in a wide variety of ways. Perhaps we could take a couple of minutes out of the 24 hours of Memorial Day to reflect on their service as well.

When you think of animals in the military, the first image is probably either that of a horse or a German shepherd dog. Certainly, horses have a long history of service – going back centuries and have been used in almost every part of the world. We all watched movies of the Native Americans or Crusaders racing on horseback to battle. Horses not only were ridden by warriors but were used as pack animals to carry supplies and to pull heavy equipment. Along with horses were used mules, and depending on the part of the world, oxen, camels and elephants. It is estimated more than 8 million horses died in WWI alone. Can you imagine!

Dogs have an equally long history of being involved with military efforts. Not only are they efficient guards – alerting their handlers to lurking danger, but their keen senses made them valuable at detecting bombs. And they were often trained as attack animals. The four breeds that dominate the American military are the Labrador retriever, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd and Belgian Malinois. There are a few monuments built to honor the service of these dogs around the world, but aside from the recent movie “War Horse” there is not much out there, media-wise, bringing their efforts to the public’s attention.

There are lots of other ways animals have been forced into service for the military. Pigeons, of course, were used to send messages during WWI, and birds of all types were used to detect deadly gases. The variety of animals we’ve used as living bombs is amazing. Everything from cats and dogs to bats and dolphins have had explosives strapped on and been released into enemy territory. Dolphins have been used to track and find missing submarines and explosives in the water.

We use animals to study how to best treat soldiers with wounds. Animals were exposed to hydrogen bombs to see what the effects would be before we dropped it on Japan (yet we did it anyway!). More recently, dogs have been used to help soldiers recovering from PTSD and other injuries. Their ability to calm and heal is well documented and one of the more positive roles that animals in the military can play.

This Memorial Day, when you reflect and honor those who willingly sacrificed themselves for our freedom, please keep in mind those who also gave the ultimate sacrifice yet didn’t have a choice.