We could not have done it without them. Those canine heroes who served their country as bomb sniffers, search and rescue aids, and frontline combatants. War dogs need to be able to handle noise, people, and extreme climate conditions. Here are just five of the many deserving war dogs who have earned their place in history.
Sergeant StubbyServing as a search and rescue dog in World War I, This amazing pit bull terrier is the most decorated dog in U.S. history. As noted on a canine tribute page, Stubby was right in the action, surviving German poison gas attack before the days of protection gear for dogs. He would just run and duck for cover as the human soldiers donned their facemasks. Stubby had the gift of supersonic hearing, which saved countless lives as he alerted troops to incoming attacks. He also used his finely tuned senses to save many during search and rescue missions. Sgt. Stubby was wounded in action by a German grenade in April 1918. Later that same year, Stubby captured a German spy and when the allies had him in hand, they took away the German's Iron Cross and pinned it on Sgt. Stubby's jacket! This was one of the many decorations he received, besides the Purple Heart.
A "Dog Hero Gold Medal" was personally pinned on Stubby's military jacket by General "Black Jack" Pershing. Sgt. Stubby's taxidermy likeness is on display in the Smithsonian Museum, although it's clear his soul is enjoying a good dog's life in heaven.
ChipsDuring World War II, a family in Pleasantville, New York donated their german shepherd to the army to help the war effort. Chips served honorably as a tank guard dog in General Patton's Seventh Division and performed many heroic acts. According to Military.com, when Italians were lying in wait in a "pillbox" style hideout, Chips literally launched himself into the bunker and several Italian soldiers quickly surrendered with Chips at their heels. Wounded in that plucky action, Chips was hurt but not defeated as he went out on patrol that same night and helped capture the rest of that Italian unit.
Chips was awarded the Silver Star for Valor and The Purple Heart. Unfortunately, some of the disgruntled public did not agree with Chips being awarded honors reserved for humans and went on to petition the War Department and President Roosevelt. As a result, Chips was stripped of his honors and dogs were reclassified as "equipment" after World War II. After returning home from his tour of duty, Chips continued to receive publicity and notoriety and even served as the inspiration for the film Chips the War Dog, based on his heroic service.
JudyDuring World War II, conditions in Japanese POW camps were brutal for humans, and also for dogs. Judy, a purebred pointed, not only survived the conditions herself but helped the friend she met in August 1941, Frank Wiliams, to persevere through starvation, torpedo attacks, and inhuman treatment in captivity.
According to a New York Post article, The POWs were often shipped from place to place on Japanese "hellships." Frank was trying to survive himself, but seeing Judy starved broke his heart. When he first approached her, she made it clear she didn't just want a food handout, she also wanted some company, and they became fast friends. Through daring escape attempts and recapture, Frank was finally released in 1945 and smuggled Judy onto his rescue ship so they could remain together. Author Robert Weintraub wrote the book No Better Friend about their journey.
KaiserSome dogs gave their lives on the battlefield, like Kaiser, a sturdy German Shepherd who was killed in the Vietnam War. Kaiser was the partner dog of Marine Lance Corporal Alfredo Salazar, and carried out over 30 combat patrols and other missions, according to K-9 Heroes Remembered. Kaiser is famous not only for his heroic deeds but for being the first scout canine killed in the line of duty while helping his handler lead a patrol. Kaiser was killed by an assault of automatic fire and grenades fired at the troops. Cpl. Salazar recalls how Kaiser tried to lick his hand right before he died. Camp Kaiser, a kennel training area near DeNang, was named for this canine hero.
LexDuring Operation Iraqi Freedom, dogs, along with their handlers, put their lives on the line. This was true for Cpl. Dustin Lee and Lex, his trusty bomb-sniffing companion. According to a CNN article, Lex was at Cpl. Lee's side in 2007 when he sustained fatal wounds. Lex was also wounded during the event, and had to be taken from Cpl. Lee's side so medics could try to treat him. With shrapnel still in his body, Lex was sent to Marines' Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia, for reassignment.
When Cpl. Lee's body was returned home for burial, Lex stood proudly while hundreds lined the streets to say farewell to the fallen hero. Cpl. Lee's family lost their loved one, but they adopted Lex after they requested Lex be given "early retirement." To learn more about Lex's brave handler and friend, Cpl. Dustin Lee, please visit his tribute page at Military Times.
Nathaniel Berman is Managing Editor of Puppytoob