Humans weren’t the only members of military units during World War II—animal mascots often were part of them too. The mascots served as emblems and good-luck charms for the unit and boosted troops’ morale.
Animals became part of a unit in different ways: some were pets brought from home under special circumstances, while other animals were adopted once the soldiers arrived in a foreign country. Dogs were the most common mascots, but there were also cats, donkeys, goats, rabbits, chickens, pumas, and bears, as well as others.
One famous Norwegian World War II mascot was a St. Bernard named Bamse. A crew member of the costal patrol (and later minesweeping) ship Thorodd, Bamse was known for his ability to round up crew members on shore leave. According to the story, when it was time for the crew’s curfew, Bamse would get on a bus unaccompanied and travel to the soldiers’ favorite local bar. He would get off the bus, round up the men, and go with them back to the ship. If Bamse couldn’t find the crew, he would get back on the bus by himself and go back to port.
Horrie, an Egyptian terrier, was adopted by a soldier stationed in Egypt during the Second World War. Horrie traveled with a machine gun battalion throughout Egypt, Greece, Crete, Palestine, and Syria. He served as a guard dog, survived the sinking of a ship, and was wounded by a bomb.
There are countless other stories about animal mascots, some of whom performed daring feats or saved their owners lives. But most just served the essential function of providing friendship and companionship to troops a long way from home.
The following are a few photographs of the countless animal mascots that served with the U.S. Air Force during World War II: