U.S. Marine Ron Aiello, President of the non-profit United States War Dogs Association, sites that in Vietnam dogs saved 10,000 lives, and are saving lives to this day in Iraq and Afghanistan, deploying as sentries, mine detection, patrol, and casualty recovery.
Dogs have fought alongside men for as long as dogs and people have lived together. History is rife with ancient armies bolstering their defenses with dogs and sewing confusion and destruction upon enemy soldiers with dogs. By the end of the first century The Romans army had a group of trained attack dogs in each legion. Sometimes Roman attack dogs would rush into enemy formations adorned with spikes and chain-mail.
An oft-quoted fact from a single blog indicates that in 385 BC during the Siege of Mantineia attack dogs stopped reinforcements in the supply line from helping Thebans. In 1525 Henry VIII sent 400 mastiff fighting dogs to his Spanish allies. In 1580 Queen Elizabeth the 1st sent 800 fighting dogs to support the Desmond Rebellions. It goes on and on.
The Germans had over 30,000 dogs play vital roles during WW I. The US was slow to take to dogs. By the time WWII began, the US was employing dogs ars sled dogs, but that’s about it. By the end of WWII the US had trained 10,425 dogs. Most of these were German shepherds of Labradors or Dobermans. Today most US war dogs are trained in Texas at the USAF Security Police Dog Training School in lackland, south of San Antonio.
Andrews Air Force Base employs a very large canine sentry contingent and almost 40 contractor dog teams are in Afghanistan and Iraq. 11 war dogs have died since 2001 in combat.
In a story from Iraq, we see how important dogs are to Americans in the field.
“Former Air Force Tech Sgt. Harvey Holt and his dog, Jackson (officially it’s “Jjackson,” with the double “J” signifying that he was bred by the Defense Department), were pinned down by sniper fire in 2006 while on patrol outside Baquba, north of Baghdad. During a break in the fire, he took his dog, a Belgian Malinois, through the field to find the sniper. Jackson picked up a scent, sprinted toward a bale of hay, jumped in head first and pulled the sniper out by his calf, Holt said.”
Another issue that is arising is the psychological stress on dogs as well as soldiers. One handler reports a guard dog having a nightmare.
“It was almost like he was having a seizure in his sleep,” Evans said. “This was not like he was chasing a little bunny rabbit. He was kicking the . . . kennel down. . . . When I got him out of it, he’d have that bewildered look, and it would take him a minute to know where he was. Then he’d fall back asleep, and it would happen again and again.”
The Soviet Union trained dogs to carry mines under Panzer tanks during the invasion of the Soviet Union. It is said that 16 dogs destroyed 12 German tanks during the Battle of Kursk. But there was a problem. First of all the antitank dog mine consists of approximately 12.0 kg of TNT carried in two canvas pouches, one strapped on each side of a dog. The dogs are kept hungry and trained to find food under tanks. When the dog carries a mine under a tank, the lever on the dog’s back moves and sets off the warhead which blows blows the tank’s tracks out. Well they trained with Soviet tanks that use petrol while German tanks used diesel. A few times the Russian anti tank laden dog became confused and ran under the Russian tanks.
They were later taken out of the field.
I adore dogs. My Dad met a guy named George who used to adopt trained guard dogs from Warner Robbins and Dobbyns Air Force bases in GA and then sell them to other folks. After about three years the training wears off and it’s easier to just get a new dog than retrain the old dog. We bought Dino, a Great Dane with a cropped tail ( so no one could bring him down with it) and he lived with us for about a decade. He was a badass, just like my Dad – and he was devoted to my brother Harvey, a US Army veteran.
True story. When Harvey was stationed at Ft. Gordon in Augusta, GA, he would come in from time to time on a two day leave. He made it in for the Shabbos dinner usually with a buddy also far from home. One Friday about 4 PM, Dino started going nuts. He was barking excitedly and we were looking around trying to find out what was spooking him. There was no one around. No mail men or garbage men or delivery people. No one over the back fence, and the house next door was in between neighbors. It was my turn to feed and run him, so I undid his chain and he ran to the fence on the east side of the house as if someone was coming down the driveway. Around 6, Harvey showed up in his Vermillion red Ford Maverick. Harvey got a pass at the last minute and didn’t call to tell Mom he was coming. Augusta is two hours away. So Dino must have known that Harvey was coming in the very moment he left.
Dogs, in my opinion are better than people. They are more loyal and more capable and part of me wishes that we would leave them out of our conflicts. But then, if I were in a fox hole, I would be so happy to have a loyal friend, like a Doberman with a bad attitude and a training regimen to listen to my commands.
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