The U.S. Military has been using Working Dogs since World War I. At that time, selfless American families donated their pets to the wartime efforts. These days, military dogs and their volunteer handlers are trained as sentry, trackers, scouts, mine/booby-trap/tunnel and water detection of enemy forces. These amazing animals were used in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. War Dogs website estimates that these courageous canine heroes saved more than 10,000 lives during the Vietnam conflict.
The website goes on to say that today, all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces are using Military Patrol Dogs who specialize in drug and bomb/explosive detection. At this time, there are roughly 600-700 military dogs in the Middle East in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. These valiant canines are patrolling air bases, ammunition depots, military compounds and military check points.
And it all started with a stray, mixed breed mutt named Stubby. Where he came from is a mystery; one day in 1917 Stubby just showed up at Yale Field in New Haven, Connecticut. At the time, soldiers were running drills and the pup playfully joined the ranks. All the soldiers were happy for the company but one soldier in particular, Corporal Robert Conroy, formed a swift and strong bond with the dog.
Conroy quickly noted Stubby’s intelligence. Without much effort, he taught Stubby to shake hands. Once Stubby mastered that trick, Conroy decided to teach him to raise his paw a little higher when he was given the order to ‘salute’.
The night before Conroy’s troops were due to sail to France, he went down to the ship, the S.S. Minnesota, and introduced Stubby to the officer on duty. According to Conroy, the officer was delighted with Stubby’s military salute and allowed Conroy to sneak Stubby onboard the next day.
On another occasion, the Americans were asleep when German soldiers silently rolled in chlorine gas bombs. The Americans continued to sleep but the smell roused Stubby and he began to bark and pace. Stubby’s commotion awakened Conroy, who immediately put on his gas mask. Stubby and Conroy woke the other men. All of the Americans were able to reach their gas masks in time, but there was no mask for Stubby. Conroy was able to quickly gather his beloved dog in his arms and carry him to a temporary Red Cross field hospital. Oxygen was administered, Stubby bounced back, and man and dog returned to their unit.
Stories of Stubby’s courage, determination and heroic war acts abound. This untrained stray served 18 months in the war and took part in seventeen battles. Not only did he save his regiment from mustard gas attacks, he located and comforted wounded soldiers and it’s said he once caught a German spy by the britches.
|Stubby's brick at the WWI Memorial|
To learn more about military war dogs, visit the United States War Dogs Association website and this war dog tribute page.
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell