Dogs have been a part of warfare for centuries, being scouts, trackers, guards, and messengers, and even fighting along side their handlers. Their heightened sense of smell and hearing make them fantastic additions to the military, as well as other traits like their fierce loyalty. Below are a few highlighted canine heroes of American history.
Sallie was the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania during the Civil War. A stranger brought her to the captain when she was just a pup, and that’s where she stayed. Sallie trained with the men, recognized reveille and showed up first for roll call, and at night she did an inspection before going to sleep. She was very protective of her men and was always weaving through the front lines during battle, barking relentlessly at the enemy. At the Battle of Gettysburg, Sallie got lost, or so the soldiers thought. After the fighting was over, the men found her standing guard over a few dead men of the 11th Pennsylvania. Sallie met her death at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run when she was shot through the head and killed instantly. Despite the rapid fire blazing all around them, a few men stopped their attack to bury her.
Smoky (nicknamed Yorkie Doodle Dandy) was a four-pound, seven-inch Yorkie, that was found in a foxhole in New Guinea and then sold to settle a poker debt for $6.44 to William A. Wynne. Wynne shared his rations with her and his tent. Since Smoky wasn’t an official war dog, she didn’t receive the benefits of being one, so Wynne did his best to take care of her. And despite not receiving the nutritious diet and medicine that the other dogs did, Smoky thrived in her war surroundings. She had her own personalized parachute that she jumped with and warned her handler of incoming shells. Smoky’s most well-known achievement was when she helped build a telegraph wire for an airbase. The pipe that would house the wire was 70 feet long and partially filled with dirt and mold. Smoky was small enough to fit in the eight-inch wide pipe and still pass through the partially soil-blocked segments. Her success saved the US from putting numerous men in danger in order to build the base, not to mention wasting a lot of hours.
Find out more about Smoky here.
Nemo A534 is famous for defending his handler to the point of nearly sacrificing his own life. In 1966, during the Vietnam War, Robert A. Throneburg and Nemo were stationed in Tan Son Nhut Air Base when they were attacked by the Viet Cong. Throneburg was wounded by enemy fire and passed out. Meanwhile Nemo had lost an eye and almost his nose from the attack, but he managed to find his handler. Nemo crawled on top of Throneburg to protect him until help arrived. Because of his injuries, Nemo was sent back to the United States to spend the rest of his days in retirement.
Sinbad was an official member of the US Coast Guard, complete with uniform and paperwork. He adopted the sailor life with the rest of the men, drinking coffee, whiskey, and beer, and even having his own quarters. He served for about eleven years and was honorably discharged on 21 September 1948. During his service, Sinbad fought his fair share of battles with the Nazis and became a celebrity thanks to his biography Sinbad of the Coast Guard (he even went on a book signing tour). Sinbad spent his last three years of retirement visiting a local pub for an occasional beer.
Chips was the most decorated dog of WWII. He started off as an ordinary house pet belonging to the Wren family. Once Pearl Harbor was attacked, the United States began a program called Dogs for Defense, which requested citizens to donate their dogs to the war effort. Chips was lent to the program and became a hero before being returned to his peaceful life in Pleasantville, NY. Chips’s most heroic act took place during the invasion of Sicily while he and his handler, John P. Rowell, were caught under fire by a well-disguised pillbox full of Italian soldiers. Chips broke free from Rowell and darted towards the enemy fire. Minutes later, Chips emerged along with the four gunners, who had bites all over them.
Rags was found in Paris, France, by James Donovan during WWI and became the mascot for the 1st Division. He became skilled in running messages between lines as well as listening and showing warning signs of attack before any of the men. He earned his biggest fame when his handler and the other men in his unit were dangerously surrounded by Germans. Rags was sent out with a message and returned with reinforcements, saving the 43 infantrymen. Later on in his duties, Rags and his handler were severely wounded in an attack on 9 October 1918 when they fell under shellfire and gas. Donovan’s injuries were worse than Rags’s, and he passed away soon after returning to the United States. Rags spent the rest of his days at Fort Sheridan until he died in 1936.
Find out more about Rags here.
Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated dog of WWI, who was simply found on the training ground in New Haven, Connecticut by Robert Conroy. Conroy developed a strong attachment to Stubby and smuggled him off to the war. One of Stubby’s most useful talents was detecting the slightest hints of gas. Because Stubby had suffered a poison gas attack, he became very sensitive to it and could easily warn the servicemen when it was coming. Like Smoky and Rags, Stubby could hear incoming shells before the men could as well and gave warning of enemy fire. Stubby is also credited for once catching a German spy all on his own. When the war ended, Conroy smuggled Stubby back home. Upon return to the US, Stubby participated in parades, met several presidents, and enjoyed the many perks of being a celebrity. He died in 1926, and his remains were preserved and are now on display at the Smithsonian.