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Military Heroes - Pet Version

Able Seacat Simon is buried at Ilford Animal Cemetery in London.
Mike McBey
Able Seacat Simon is buried at Ilford Animal Cemetery in London.

This is Memorial Day weekend so, it seems fitting to talk about four-footed military heroes. 

Military dogs are highly trained and come equipped with special abilities, such as their keen sense of hearing that is better than a human’s, and their sense of smell that allows them to detect bombs and drugs.  But dogs are not the only military “pets” to serve. 

For centuries, cats were prized aboard ships for their ability to catch and kill rodents that might infest the foot supply.  They were practically crew members aboard British and American Navy ships.  In fact, during the world wars, their ability to hear the high-pitched whine of an incoming aircraft engine saved lives.

Some cats were even awarded medals for their military service.  One such cat was Princess Papule, or “Pooli”, for short.  Born on July 4, 1944 at the Navy yard at Pearl Harbor, she was brought onboard the USS Fremont by crewman James Lynch.  The Fremont was an attack transport that was involved in several battles, including Iwo Jima.  Pooli is one of the most highly decorated cats, earning three service ribbons and four battle stars.  She managed to survive the war, then went home with Lynch to live out her life in retirement.

     Another highly decorated cat was Simon, who was smuggled aboard the British ship, the HMS Amethyst, after World War II.  He was a good “mouser”, killing one particularly large rat and protecting the food supply - and he was good for morale among the crew.  They named him “Able Seacat Simon”, the first military title given to a cat.  He received three medals, and had several books written about him including a children’s book.

     So, as you are celebrating Memorial Day, and as you honor those who have given their lives in service to our country, remember that alongside those heroes were some brave four-footed friends, when you’re speaking of pets.


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