Our Forgotten Heroes: Soldier Dogs

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Did you know that dogs have helped our soldiers in many ways? Here are some lesser known veterans you might be surprised to learn about.

Sgt. Stubby, Hero of World War I

Stubby, a Bull Terrier mix, was the most decorated war dog in U.S. history. He was picked up as a stray in 1917, by Private J. Robert Conroy. In July 1917, when it came time to ship out for France, he smuggled Stubby aboard the ship. Stubby participated in 17 engagements in four WWI offensives.

There are many stories of heroic deeds by Stubby as well as anecdotes like his ability to salute by putting one paw over his eye. Most of these cannot be confirmed, but nonetheless Stubby became a folk hero. Stubby was rewarded for his service with the NCO rank of Sergeant and multiple medals.

Chips, World War II

Chips was a German Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix that was donated by Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, NY, trained at Front Royal, VA in 1942, one of the first dogs to serve overseas in WWII.

His assignments included sentry duty, tank guard dog, POW guard, and patrol with the infantry. He served in eight separate campaigns across Europe.

After landing in Sicily in July 1943, Chips attacked a concealed German pillbox housing a machine gun, capturing four enemy soldiers and saving his handler and other Americans. That same night he helped capture another 10 enemy soldiers. Chips was also credited for alerting his American handlers to an enemy presence on a number of other occasions.

After the action, Major General Lucian Truscott, commander of the American 3rd Infantry Division, awarded Chips the Silver Star for bravery, and the Purple Heart for wounds received in action.

Smoky, World War II

Smoky, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier, was found in a foxhole in the New Guinea jungle, filthy and starving. Smoky became a war dog in January 1945 when a taxi-strip had to be crossed by a communications cable, requiring a culvert to be dug. That three-day job would put the strip out of action, exposing planes to Japanese bombing. Smoky solved the problem by pulling a string with wires attached through an eight-inch pipe under the runway, climbing through piles of sand accumulated along the 70 foot length.

Vietnam Dog Heroes

The public distaste for the Vietnam War prevented the kind of hero status that dogs of earlier wars gained. But for those who served with the dogs, the age old warrior bond of trust and affection was the same. Estimates say that over 250 handlers and about 500 dogs were killed in action in Vietnam, while saving the lives of thousands. Here are a few of the many Military Working Dogs of the Vietnam War, some whose names have been preserved and some who are remembered only by their handlers and unit buddies.

  • Kaiser was the first Marine Scout Dog Killed in action in the Republic of Vietnam, July 1966. He was with D Company, First Marines, 3rd Marine Division.
  • Kelly served and died in Vietnam in 1971. As a loyal and dedicated member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, 39th Scout Dog Platoon, U.S. Army, Kelly saved many soldiers from injury and death before he was lost.
  • Nemo A534 was initially trained as a USAF sentry dog, but was transferred to Vietnam in 1966. Despite being injured, Nemo was credited with saving his handler’s life and preventing further destruction of life and property. On 23 June 1967, Nemo was returned to the United States as the first sentry dog officially retired from active service.

There are many other notable canine heroes, too many to include here, Thank you to all our veterans, human and canine.

Jodi G. Thomson was born and raised in Seattle WA, she and her husband relocated to Houston TX in 2010. She enjoys writing and spending time with her husband and their pets.

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