initiation of the War Dog program so much has been said, written, filmed, and
even sung about it that War Dogs are now firmly established in the public mind
as an integral part of our armed forces. Unfortunately, however, lack of
information has led to a number of popular misconceptions in regard to the role
that dogs play in the Army. Contrary to general belief, War Dogs are not trained
to single out aliens (or even renegade American citizens) and tear them to bits;
they never learn to make out morning reports; they do not operate P-38's,
bailing out to set up machine guns, the parts of which are conveniently carried
on their persons; they never become expert in the use of small arms, or in
operating motor vehicles; they do not become proficient is mess sergeants; and
finally-and this is the greatest debunker of all-they do not relieve twelve
men for combat duty.
But what they actually do makes all these claims seem unimportant and
For dogs do save lives.
They also safeguard property and further the work of the military service
by the utilization of powers that humans do not possess to the same degree as
dogs; and, although they do not take the place of twelve sentries, they render
the sentries to whom they are assigned more effective. Thus, in actual practice,
there is a resultant saving of manpower. Dogs carry messages under fire; they
detect enemy presence at a distance far greater than that at which it could be
detected by human senses; discover casualties that have been overlooked by
collecting units; and, in addition, are now being trained and used for
classified purposes. Although the use of dogs for combat duty is so recent that
the first reports from the front are just coming in, these reports are so
enthusiastic that we feel justified in making the claims set forth in the
Here are extracts from the first report received from the field. The dogs
referred to accompanied the Second Marine Raider Regiment in its landing on
Bouganiville Island. Caesar and Jack and their masters were trained by the
"The Dog Platoon has proven itself to be an unqualified success and
the use of dogs in combat was on trial. This first Marine Dog Platoon was
admittedly an experimental unit and minor defects were found that need to be
remedied. But the latent possibilities of combat dog units proved itself beyond
any doubt. To prove this only a few of the feats of the dogs need be cited:
(1) On D Day, Andy (a
Doberman pinscher) led M Company all the way to the road block. He alerted
scattered sniper opposition and undoubtedly was the means of preventing loss of
(2) On D Day, Caesar (a
German shepherd) was the only means of communication between M Company and
Second Battalion C.P., carrying messages, overlays, and captured Jap papers. On
D plus 1, M Company's telephone lines were cut, and Caesar was again the only
means of communication. Caesar was wounded on the morning of D plus 2 and had to
be carried back to Regimental C.P. on a stretcher, but he had already
established himself as a hero. While with M Company he made nine official runs
between company and battalion C.P., and on at least two of these runs he was
(3) Otto (a Doberman
pinscher) on D plus 1, while working ahead of the point of reconnaissance
patrol, alerted the position of a machine gun nest and the patrol had time to
take cover, with no casualties when the machine gun began firing. Otto alerted
the position at least one hundred yards away.
(4) On D plus 6, Jack (a
German shepherd) was shot in the back but, even though wounded, carried the
message back from the company on the road block that the Japs had struck and
sent stretcher bearers immediately. This was a vital message because the
telephone lines had been cut. One of Jack's handlers, Wortman, was wounded at
the same time and thus Jack was the means of bringing help to his master.
(5) On the night of D plus
7, Rex (a Doberman pinscher) alerted the presence of Japs in the vicinity. At
daybreak of D plus 8 the Japs attacked. This was not a surprise attack, however,
because the dog had already warned of their presence.
(6) During the night of D
plus 7, Jack (a Doberman pinscher) frequently alerted a tree near M Company
C.P. When it became light enough in the morning, Jack's handler pointed out
the tree to a B.A.R man near him. A Jap sniper was shot down out of the tree.
This sniper was in a position to do real damage in the company C.P., but, due to
Jack, the sniper was eliminated.
(7) Night security is an
intangible. Dogs on night security have less chance to show spectacularly how
they may be the means of saving life. One fact stands out, and that is that the
troops have confidence in the dogs.
(8) From D Day until the
Second and Third Battalions were relieved from front line duty on D plus 8,
there were dog squads with every company on the front line.''
"More instances could be cited but this should suffice to show
that the dogs have proven themselves as message carriers, scouts, and vital
night security, and were constantly employed during the operation of securing
and extending the beachhead.
"The dogs have been no added trouble. They lived in crates on board
ship for more than three weeks, yet they were kept in excellent physical
condition in spite of lack of exercise.
"Feeding is no problem because it has been found that the dogs do
very well on C rations. So long as troops can be supplied with rations the dogs
will also have rations."
Considering, therefore, the flood of misinformation about War Dogs which
has been loosed on a sentimental public, we are delighted to have the
of writing the facts of the case for The Quartermaster Review.
Dogs were first officially inducted into the Army on March 13, 1942, when
the Under Secretary of War, The Honorable Robert P. Patterson, signed a letter
of authorization following the application of The Quartermaster General. This
was the first recognition of the dog as a factor in the war effort, for up to
that time dogs were known to the Army as pets or mascots only. The next three
months were devoted to intensive surveys and studies of the situation. By dint
of hard and efficient work these were completed in record time.
In July 1942 the Remount Branch of the Quartermaster Corps formally
took over the War Dog activities and established the first War Dog Reception
and Training Center at the Quartermaster Remount Depot, Front Royal, Va.
Subsequently new centers were opened, and dogs and men for war purposes are now
being trained at Fort Robinson, Nebraska; Camp Rimini, Helena, Montana; San
Carlos, California; and Cat Island, Gulfport, Mississippi.
Of these War Dog reception and training centers those at San Carlos, Cat
Island, and Camp Rimini are posts independent of other remount activities. The
Front Royal and Fort Robinson centers have been set up in established remount
horse and mule depots. At Camp Rimini, arctic dogs for sledge and pack work are
received, conditioned, and trained for use with northern troops; for, although
the airplane has superseded the dog team as a means of arctic transportation,
there is no known replacement for sledge dogs as crash teams. The Mississippi
installation is used to condition and train dogs for use in tropical and semitropical
Another popular impression has been that War Dogs must be of aggressive
disposition and imposing stature. This was generally true at the beginning of
the program, largely because, at first, all requirement were for sentry dogs. At
present, dogs (with the exception of sledge dogs and pack dogs) are divided into
two groups -- dogs for interior guard and dogs for tactical use. The first group
included the sentry dog and the police dog. The sentry dog patrols with
he alerts by growling or barking, giving notice of anything strange or
unfamiliar on his post. He alerts when he detects fire as well as when he
discovers lurking marauders. The police dog (formerly classed as the attack dog)
can be used as a member of a man-dog unit or in connection with, or to
supplement the use of, the sentry dog. In modern warfare his use is limited to
the Military Police.
Dogs for tactical use include the silent scout dog the messenger dog, the
casualty dog, and the classified dog.
The silent scout dog is really a super sentry dog. He is used by
reconnaissance patrols to discover whether an area is free of hostile presence,
thus enabling the patrol to advance with a reasonable degree of safety. Scout
dogs have been known to give warning of an enemy concealed at a distance of five
hundred yards. When it is remembered that twenty-five yards is a long throw for
a hand grenade, the value of this dog in actual saving of human life can be
The messenger dog should be used instead of a man wherever the use of a
runner is indicated. He is surer and faster; he can find his way in daylight or
darkness, in any kind of weather, over rough or smooth terrain, open or jungle
country, at high or low altitude, and in cold, or snow. He can carry a message
for short distances at great speed. He is a difficult target because of his
size, speed, and natural ability to take advantage of cover. The use of
messenger do in place of runners not only insures a more rapid and; reliable
means of communication but also saves life and limb. These dogs are used in
connection with scout dogs on reconnaissance patrols, combat patrols outposts,
static security activities, or lines of observation. In addition, they are used
to establish communication between two fixed centers, between a fix and a moving
center, or between two moving centers, for packing limited emergency supplies;
and as a; quick means of laying wires over short distances Pigeons, inclosed in
special carriers, may be transported by messenger dogs.
The casualty dog is trained and used to aid the Medical Corps in locating
wounded on battlefields an in other areas. Before losing consciousness injured
soldiers may crawl for safety to hiding-places that may be easily overlooked by
collecting units; they may be buried in debris caused by bombings
It is obvious that many lives can be saved by prompt treatment,
especially in cases of shock or hemorrhage. The casualty dog saves vital minutes
by discovering such injured, reporting his discovery to his master, and leading
help to the casualty.
These are the classes of dogs being trained at Quartermaster War Dog
reception and training centers. Under the supervision of The Quartermaster
General, the highly specialized program for men and dogs has grown rapidly. The
course of training includes basic training for all men an dog's and one branch
of specialized training for each, according to his natural aptitude. Upon
completing the three months' course, the trainee is graduated with the dog that
he has trained. Together they are a team-a soldier and a
Dog. Together they proceed to the post to which they are assigned, there to play
their part in this conflict.
How well they are fulfilling their missions is set forth in the Marine
report from the field, quoted earlier in these pages. Further evidence of their
use may be gathered from this report from the Army Air Forces:
"The following extracts from official report received from the Army
Air Forces Pilot School, Stuttgart, Arkansas, are furnished for your
'On 6 October 1943, Jack 96E8. alerted and gave the alarm when 'a fire
broke out in the post guardhouse. This dog undoubtedly saved the lives of some
of the men who were in said guardhouse.
'On 8 October 1943, Danny 73E1 discovered and gave warning of a fire in
the lumber pile approximately one hundred feet from his post, saving the
government some valuable lumber.'
It seems safe to assume that much loss through fire could be prevented by
the more widespread use of sentry dogs.
Anyone who has read this story so far knows now what War Dogs can do and what they can't do. As their use becomes widespread and more reports of their heroic deeds are received, it will be easier to evaluate the merits of this new special weapon, sponsored and developed by the Quartermaster Corps.
since 24 March 2001