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History of War Dogs
History of War Dogs
Although dogs were associated with military units throughout history there was little formal use of them for military duty before the early 20th Century. In the First World War, they were known as 'Red Cross Dogs' because of service finding casualties, bringing medical supplies, and carrying messages between medical units. During World War I, large numbers of dogs were valuable to the armies of Germany, France, and Belgium. The Germans alone reported use of over 30,000 dogs as messenger and ambulance dogs during WW I. Still, at the time of Pearl Harbor, the sled dog was the only working type in the U.S. military.
The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps began the first war dog training for American forces during World War II. By 1945 they had trained almost 10,000 war dogs for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Fifteen War Dog platoons served overseas in World War II, with seven serving in Europe and eight in the Pacific.
Most war dogs trained for World War II were German shepherds or Labrador retrievers (for their superior noses), but the 3rd War Dog Platoon consisted of all Dobermans. They took on duty as scouts, sentries, messengers, and many other roles. In the battle of Guam, a Doberman named Kurt saved the lives of 250 Marines when he warned them of Japanese troops ahead. Kurt is honored by a life-sized bronze and granite at the War Dog Memorial on Guam. Carved into the stone are names of 25 other Dobermans who gave their lives there.
In 1951 the responsibility for training military dogs was transferred to the Military Police Corps and dogs served with distinction in Korea. During Vietnam, the United States War Dogs Association estimates that war dogs and their handlers saved more than 10,000 lives. In 1967, while the Vietnam War continued, the Air Force approved a formal patrol dog training program to be established at Lackland AFB as part of the USAF Security Police Dog Training School. That program evolved into the Lackland Training Detachment, now responsible for virtually all military working dog training for the U.S. Armed Forces.
In recent decades dogs have continued to serve with the military in Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq and many smaller operations. They have a vital role in the War on Terrorism, in the military, among civilian first responders, and with the Border Patrol and drug control operations.
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