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Remembering Military (War) Dogs

NOAA Photo Library [Flickr]

A military or war dog can be a soldier's greatest asset and the enemy's worst nightmare.  They are loyal, intelligent,  and they have an average accuracy rate of 98% in sniffing out bombs, gas, drugs and enemy forces.   It's no wonder that most of them are adopted by former handlers when they retire!


In the Battle of Guam in World War II, Marines used working dogs as messengers, scouts and sentries. Kurt, a Doberman, was the first of 25 dogs that lost their lives during that battle.

In the 1980’s, the military veterinarian who had served as commander of the War Dog Platoon, returned to Guam to establish the National War Dog Cemetery on the island, and worked to raise funds for a monument in honor of the animals who lost their lives liberating Guam. The sculpture, named “Always Faithful”, depicts Kurt the Doberman. One of the other castings of the monument can be found at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Auburn, Alabama.

Military dogs, also called War Dogs, have fought beside American soldiers in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War, but they were not officially recognized until World War II.

One of the most famous was Stubby, a pit bull who started life as a stray. During World War I, a soldier smuggled him into battle where the dog used his sensitive nose to save the company from a gas attack. Sergeant Stubby, as he became known, fought in several campaigns, alerting the troops when enemies were near, locating wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and being wounded twice. He became the most decorated War Dog in history and you can still view his remains at the Smithsonian.

You may rememberRin Tin Tin, the famous German Shepherd from the movies. Originally he was a German war dog. An American soldier rescued him from the battlefield and brought him back to America where he became a cinema star.

There are about 2,500 military dogs, or war dogs, in service today. They may work for eight or nine years before retiring, and often put their expertise to work in law enforcement after that. Many are adopted by their former handlers.

This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, and honor those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces, pause for a moment and remember the four-legged heroes who have given their lives to help keep their fellow human soldiers (and all of us) safe, when we’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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