In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to honor our K-9 Heroes as well. Here are just a few, there are many more. For more dog heroes and info you can visit K-9 Heroes Remembered, War Dog History and U.S. War Dog Memorial.There were many breeds used as military dogs, bull terriers were among them.
Sgt. Stubby, a Bull Terrier mix, was picked up as a stray in 1917, by Private J. Robert Conroy when the homeless dog appeared at the training camp of the 102nd Infantry at Yale University. Conroy and buddies kept Stubby with them through all their drills and training and, in July 1917, when it came time to ship out for France, they smuggled Stubby aboard ship. He became a folk hero, in demand for parades, war bond rallies, hospital visits, and press interviews.
From 1914 to 1917 the French, Germans and others struggled with each other for control of France and Europe. In April of 1917 America entered the war. Stubby did his part by providing morale-lifting visits up and down the line and occasional early warning about gas attacks or by waking a sleeping sentry to alert him to a German attack. Stubby was a hero of 17 battles and the most decorated dog of World War I. He met three presidents of the United States Wilson, Harding and Coolidge and was a lifetime member of the Red Cross and YMCA.
- 3 Service Stripes
- Yankee Division YD Patch
- French Medal Battle of Verdun
- 1st Annual American Legion Convention Medal Minneapolis, Minnesota Nov 1919
- New Haven WW1 Veterans Medal
- Republic of France Grande War Medal
- St Mihiel Campaign Medal
- Purple Heart
- Chateau Thierry Campaign Medal
- 6th Annual American Legion Convention
In 1926 Stubby finally passed on. His obituary in the New York Times was three columns wide by Half a page long. Considerably more than many notables of his day.
He was eulogized by many from “Machinegun Parker” his old regimental commander to Clarence Edwards the wartime commander of the 26th Division. They all mourned his passing. His remains were preserved and presented for display purposes to the Smithsonian.
Although Sgt. Stubby is widely regarded as the Grandfather of the American War Dog he was not the first by any means. Dogs were commonplace during the Civil War as companions for the soldiers and during the Spanish-American War, Jack Brutus became the official mascot of Company K, First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Old Jack, as he was known, was considerably bigger than Stubby and the Connecticut soldiers never got the chance to try to smuggle him anywhere since they basically spent the War encamped at various places here in the states providing coastal defense from Maine to Virginia. “Old Jack” died of spinal troubles and constipation in 1898.
Probably the most famous War Dog was Chips. Chips was donated by Edward J. Wren of
Pleasantville, New York, was trained at Front Royal , Virginia in 1942, and was among the first dogs to be shipped overseas. His assignments included sentry duty at the Roosevelt-Churchill conference in Casablanca in January 1943. Although trained as a sentry dog, Chips was reported on one occasion by members of Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment, to have broken away from his handler and attacked a pillbox containing an enemy machine gun crew in Sicily. He seized one man and forced the entire crew to surrender. He was also credited by the units to which he was assigned as having been directly responsible for capture of many enemies by alerting to their presence. In recognition of his service Chips was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, both were later revoked. In 1993 Disney produced a TV movie about Chips called “Chips the War Dog”.
One of the most famous dogs of all time is Rin Tin Tin. He was the puppy of German war dogs, found in Lorraine, France on 15 September 1918 by Captain Lee Duncan, in an abandoned German war dog station. After the war, Duncan developed Rin Tin Tin, or “Rinty” into the first animal actor to achieve wide public acclaim. He made his film debut in 1922 starring in the silent film “The Man from Hell’s River.” For the next 10 years he was one of the top stars of Warner Bros. and his descendants kept the film dynasty going for many decades. At the time Rin Tin Tin came to the U.S. the German Shepherd breed was not well-known, but now it is one of the most popular breeds and dominates the field of Military Working Dogs.
General George S. Patton, Jr. was an animal lover with a particular attraction to bull terriers. He bought his first one, called Tank, just after World War I. During World War II, on 4 March 1944 at the height of Patton’s fame, he purchased the famous white Bull Terrier named Willie, short for “William the Conqueror.” For the rest of Patton’s life, Willie and General Patton went everywhere together.
Willie had his own set of “dog tags,” and had a reputation with the “lady” dogs. Gen. Patton doted on the dog and even hosted a birthday party for him. On 9 December 1945, Gen. Patton suffered injuries as the result of an automobile accident and died 12 days later, on 21 December 1945. Willie, Patton’s constant companion during the war, was sent to the United States, and lived out the rest of his life with the General’s wife and daughters. A twelve-foot-high bronze statue of Patton and Willie has been erected at the General Patton Memorial Museum, off Interstate 10 in Chiriaco Summit, CA.
Vietnam War Dogs
Kaiser was the first Marine Scout Dog Killed in action in the Republic of Vietnam, 6 July 1966. He was with D Company, First Marines, 3d Marine Division. Lance Corporal Alfredo Salazar was his handler.
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 working at a CONUS Strategic Air Command base, but was transferred to Vietnam in 1966. On 4 December 1966 Tan Son Nhut Air Base was attacked by a large force of Viet Cong commando raiders some of whom evaded detection and remained on base into the next night when his handler Airman Robert A. Thorneburg and Nemo were posted. Nemo detected the lurking VC, alerted and was released to attack. Both Thorneburg and Nemo were wounded, but not before killing at least one VC. Despite his injuries, including loss of an eye, 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. His permanent retirement kennel was located at the Department of Defense Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas until his death from natural causes in December 1972.
Sirius was the only dog to lose his life in the harrowing search and rescue work after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Sirius, who was attached to the Port Authority Police Department, was interred at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery with their 2002 War Dog Memorial Celebration.
Robby, the inspiration for the first War Dog Retirement Law, was laid to rest at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery after the 2001 War Dog Memorial Celebration. Robby symbolized those dogs who served this nation honorably only to be euthanized and disposed of by the military. The new law makes it possible for former handlers to adopt their former service canines and bring them into civilian life.