A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany
US Canines In Combat
Featuring The History of The United States and Great Britain!
The Training Is Done ...Now The Test Begins!
The first K-9 Corps unit assigned to a tactical operation, was in the Pacific theater, was an experimental detachment requested by the headquarters of Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, supreme Allied commander-in-chief for that theater.
There were eight war dogs in the first K-9 tactical unit, not even enough for a platoon, only a detachment. Six were scouts, two messengers, all German and Belgian Shepherds. Five would die on duty and three, just before they were to be sent home, were found to be infected with typhus and had to be destroyed.
Whether war dogs would be used in the Pacific or anywhere else, virtually rested on their performance.
Trained at Beltsville, Maryland, the unit was headed by 2nd Lt. Robert Johnson, of Winchester, Massachusetts. Their odyssey began June 14, 1943, when they shipped out from Fort Mason, San Francisco, on board a freighter bound for Australia. Once there, they were transferred to another ship for Port Moresby, New Guinea, arriving there on July 29th.
The First K-9 Tactical Detachment War Bound!
At first, the detachment was assigned to a staging area for reconditioning after the cramped quarters of ship life and for advance combat training.
Late in August, the unit received orders to join the Australian Corps of the Allied New Guinea force, then operating near Nadzab. The Austies, were part of a force driving the Japs back through the Markham and Ramu valleys.
The K-9's spearheaded the reconnaissance patrols pushing through the jungles. The scout dogs repeatly spotted Japs or groups of natives not known to be in the vicinity; and the messenger dogs, plungig through streams or shouldering a path through six foot Kunai grass, kept contact with troops following the advance.
A report on the drive reads as would others to follow: "Patrol led by the dogs were never ambushed and suffered no casualties." The dogs' service could have no greater tribute!
By the time the detachment was reassigned to the Marine Raider Regiment of the 6th Army for the New Britain campaign, the dogs had made such a reputation, that they were given air transportation in a plane with a group of staff officers. All went well, until a rough landing jounced one dog into another's private niche - on top of its occupant. What started, was a dog fight of such far ranging fury, that the "brass" had to make a hasty exit from the plane by the escape hatch.
In the Cape Gloucester attack on December 26th, the dogs went ashore with the first wave. While the Marines held on and consolidated the beachheads, the dogs stood guard at night, giving warning of Jap attempts to infiltrate. The K-9 Casual Detachment led the advance up the coast from the cape. They were a huge success, the scout dogs constantly alerted to the Japs, from single stragglers to full platoons.
And the messenger dogs, came through, when torrential rains poured down, blanking out the walkie talkie radio sets.
In a period of 53 days on New Britain, the dogs patrolled 48, up until March 1944. The War Department officially credited the dogs with leading patrols, that killed 180 Japs and capturing 20 prisoners. And the number of Marine lives saved by the Army K-9 detachment, small as it was, many times more!
The test was a success!
EUROPEAN THEATRE OF OPERATION
Twelve months before Normandy, Allied troops had crossed from North Africa and invaded Sicily; now six months later they were on the Italy mainland, and some troops had landed at Anzio, just thirty miles south of Rome. It was a hard campaign ...they were facing some of the best, that Germany had.
Seven Quartermaster Corps War Dog Platoons, in mid 1944, were deployed to the European Theatre of Operation; the 33rd thru the 38th plus the 42nd. All were scout dog platoons with the exception of the 36th QMC War Dog Platoon, it consisted solely of mine detecting dogs.
Conditions in Italy were generally unfavorable to wide spread use of dogs. Scout dogs in two platoons operating with the Fifth Army in Italy in the autumn of 1944 were reported to have been extremely gun shy under artillery fire. This was a major weakness of most of the dogs assigned to the early platoons as they were trained to become accustomed only to the firing of small arms.
The 36th QMC Mine War Dog Platoon, 1945
Later, the training program was adjusted to over come this failing; but it was never found particularly advantageous to use the animals in heavy combat. More and more, their activities were restricted to duty with reconnaissance patrols.
Other reports from Italy stated that in open country the scout dogs were so conspicuous that the enemy discovered them before they could alert.
Also, in the mountains, in which so much of the fighting was waged, soft, deep snow and steep slippery trails prevented the dogs from working satisfactorily.
Likewise, the animals were found to be of little use in heavy rains and deep mud. But on a static front, when the weather was clear with no snow or mud on the ground, or when there was a firm crust on the snow, the army scout dogs could be employed advantageously.
Sgt Horner & Nick, Of The 38th QMC
33rd QMC War Dog Platoon
The 33rd, commanded by Lt. Austin A. Risse, was the first dog platoon to see action in Europe, arriving in Italy during August 1944.
Assigned to the 6th South African Armored Division, it led forty- one scouting and recon patrols against the enemy, before hip deep snow kept it out of the action temporary.
When the weather cleared, the QMC 33rd was back in action, making another twenty-five patrols in enemy territory with the infantry regiments of the 34th Division. That brought the unit's total sorties to sixty-six, not including messenger dog runs.
Even with the combat and weather problems, the 33rd scout dogs did however perform valuable service, having exposed a number of enemy ambushes, thus saving many American lives!
Six Members Of The 33rd QMC Going Over!
On the night of December 20, 1944, a small reconnaissance patrol led by one of the dogs of the platoon and his handler, Cpl. Robert Bennet, left a forward outpost to search a village approximately a mile inside enemy territory.
A few hundred yards into the enemy territory, the dog halted suddenly. Not yet sure of the scent, he advanced a few steps, then halted again, this time every hair bristling, with his nose pointed straight ahead. The patrol leader crept very cautiously forward alone and not more than 200 yards away discovered a large group of German soldiers in ambush. With this valuable information, the patrol returned to their outpost where they called for motar fire to wipe out the enemy position.
Another scout dog, called Chub, led a small party safely behind the Italian German's lines to a deserted farm house, that was to be used as an observation post. During the night, two 33rd messenger dogs, Aufra and Muffy, working alternately, carried over seven messages back to the command post about the enemy's positions.
150th Infantry, Northern Italy, 1944.
Other messenger dogs, saved the day, during a heavy tank action on March 18th, 1945, when the lines of communications were cut. Finally one of the dogs helped to reestablsh wire communications by carrying a telephone, strapped to his back to the isolated company.
The platoon was serving with recon troops of the 88th Division when warfare opened up in April; and the American advance became so rapid, that it out speeded the K-9's. But the dogs of the 33rd were shifted to another useful role, helping the MP's guard the many German and Italian POW's.
The 33rd was returned to the United States in October, 1945, for demobilization, along with the 34th, 37th and 38th Infantry Dog Platoons.
Rin Tin Tin II, Of The 37th QMC Platoon On Board The SS James Monroe.
37th QMC War Dog Platoon
The 37th was acitivated on May 5, 1944, at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, under the command of 1st Lt. Archer Ackers.
They shipped out to Italy aboard the Liberty Ship SS James Monroe on August 22th. Arriving in Italy twenty-nine days later; after three months they were finally assigned to the 87th Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, from Camp Hale, Nebraska. At first their performance was satisfactory, some very routine patrols, where no enemy contact was made.
Unfortunately that wasn't to last...as everything that could go wrong...did. The officers that they were assigned to, had no idea on how to use the dogs effectively; so the next few assignments were disasters. The K-9 teams weren't brief on one; the other was an attack, under heavy artillery, where the handlers were killed and the dogs wounded; on another recon patrol, the dogs alerted, but the patrols withdrew without first checking the alerts.
On February 25, 1944 - Cpl. C. Brown and his dog Buddy, a german shepherd, led a patrol of seven men from E Company, 87th Regiment. In an area of Rocco Coroneta, Italy, Buddy alerted and a patrol member went forward to investigate. A German sentry challenged the man, who spoke the enemy's language fluently. But the sentry soon became suspicious and began firing. A firefight followed and Brown caught a fragment from an enemy grenade. The patrol retired under heavy enemy machine gun fire with no further casualties. Buddy made no sound at all during this time, and when Brown crawled, Buddy would crawl automatically without command.
By the end of February 1945, all the handlers and dogs were bivouacked between the frontlines and their own artillery near Vidiciatico; none were being used...not until March 20th, when Sgt. Severance and his dog, Peefke went out on a patrol of several small villages. As the patrol approached one building, a German sentry opened up with automatic rifle fire. The sentry then threw a grenade, that killed the dog.
No one could understand, why Peefke didn't alert, his handler thought it might had been because the patrol was a long one and that the dog might have tired and stopped working. Still, members of the patrol on which he was killed commended him highly.
Prior to Peefke death on this patrol, he had performed faithful service throughout his tour of duty; on one patrol he had even discovered a wire and alerted Sgt. Severance, who upon close examination of the wire, found three enemy "S" mines, which were then neutralized. These mines, had they not been found, would have caused grave damage to the patrol.
The United States' Army Airborne War Dogs!
Note The US Flag Paratrooper Insignia OnThe Dog's Side!
During World War II, our British allies were the first to use parachuting dogs with their army's newly formed airborne regiments; their special SAS forces, also used them as well behind enemy's lines in both North Africa and France.
United States Airborne K-9, WW II
The search and rescue sections of the No. Atlantic Transport Command, U.S. Army Air Corp began its own experimenting in 1942, with the dropping of dogs, their sleds, and a flight surgeon by parachute directly to crash scene in the frozen north; where a quick response could mean the difference in the survival of an injured flier or crew.
Special Parachute Harness From the QMC. He Doesn't Look To Comfortable!
The Army parachute dogs wore a coat like harness, lined with sheep skin, developed by the QMC. It was found, that two dogs could be dropped together with a twenty-eight ft. chute, while one could land safely with the regulation twenty-four foot chute.
Most of the experimentation was conducted at Fort Nelson, British Columbia, under the direction of a Major Joseph F. Westover. The knowledge that was learnt there, was to enable scout dogs to be used by the U.S. Army Airborne troops in Europe.
Airborne with Jaint de Mortimormey Airborne Scout Dog, Europe, 1944.
The war dog, Jaint de Mortimormey reputedly made more jumps during World War II than any man. Although no training was ever formally adopted for parachuting dogs, they were used quite extenively during the war.
Fur Flies Over Central Europe! What Does A Dog Yell When 'Jumping?'
France, Post D-Day!
There's a story told about a poor doberman, who was unceremoniously kicked out the door of a plane, with a special parachute attached to a static line. Part of a special airborne unit, the dog shortly after landing, started to growled, and sure enough, coming over a rise were four germans, who never made it back to the fatherland.
United States 120th Air Observation Sq., 1920
Was World War II the first use of parachuting dogs?
Surprisely...no...although they weren't part of any formal program or even an official outfit, there were some mascot dogs, like Jeff pictured above, who were parachuting with their masters, as early as 1920, shortly after the Great War. Jeff alone made thirteen jumps, twelve successfully, he was the mascot of the 120th Colorado Air National Guard.
K-9 Patrol Somewhere In The ETO
After the final offensive against Germany began, the extremely rapid movement of troops and the occasionally intense gunfire made the utilization of dogs for scouting impractical and they were used instead as sentries for air fields, etc and to guard prisoners.
The Pacific Was Ideal...
The dogs though were particularly effected in the Islands of the Pacific, as noted previously! Dense vegetation and continuous semi darkness of the jungles afforded opportunities for the Japanese to infiltrate the American lines, Scout dogs were instrumental in taking this advantage away from the enemy, as we'll see in the next section about the Marines in the Pacific Theater of Operation.
Recognition of War Dogs
A number of dogs trained by the Corp established outstanding records in combat overseas. At least one dog was awarded combat medals by an overseas command. These were later revoked since it was contrary to Army policy to present these decorations to animals.
In January 1944, the War Dept. relaxed these restrictions and allowed the publication of commendations in the individual unit General Orders. This practice continued for the war dogs that served in Korea and later in Vietnam.
We should note, that England's war dogs also returned to their homes but as heroes receiving the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the British Victoria Cross. Each honorary medal, donated by the People's Royal Dispensary for Sick Animals, was engraved with the words, "For gallantry, we also serve."
Later the Quartermaster Corps issued two paper certificates honoring war dogs.
One was called the Certificate of Merit; it was given to owners of dogs killed in action.
The other was a Discharge Certificate for canines mustered out of the service.
The first Merit Certificates issued were in recognition of the eight dogs that were members of the first experimental War Dog unit in the Pacific Theatre.
Outstanding US War Dogs!
In 1941, the nation was drowning in its anger after the day of infamy, December 7th, and, in waves of patriotism, people hurled themselves full force into the war effort - even sending their dogs to do battle.
'Mr. Chips, To You...'
One of the first dogs to be shipped overseas was Chips, the son of a part-shepherd, part-collie father and a northern sled-dog mother. Chips was donated by Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York, and was trained at Front Royal, Virginia in 1942.
Chips first served in General Patton's brutal Africa campaign, then waded ashore with the 3rd Division of Patton's Seventh Army as it was swept into battle in Sicily. Chips was very popular with his buddies. Affectionate and with particularly keen senses of smell and hearing, he was also a nonconformist who would break rules when he felt danger, oblivious to what every soldier knows: breaking rules for any reason does not endear one to field commanders and high-ranking brass. Chips would later discover this and while he wouldn't care, his comrades would.
Shortly after Chips and the men had made their way ashore and established a beachhead on Sicily, the soldiers, thinking they were momentarily out of danger, slowly inched their way to an abandoned pillbox where they decided to take a short rest. Tired and weary, Chips, however, could not relax. His senses told him there was danger nearby and suddenly he broke away from his handler - violating a sacred rule - dashed across a stretch of No Man's Land. A bullet pierced his body, but he ignored the pain and threw himself into an enemy machine gun nest. The firing stopped. There was deadly silence, and for a moment Chips was not seen or heard. When his comrades got to the scene, they saw Chips holding onto the throat of the enemy gunner, and five other terrified men with their arms raised in surrender.
Chips' Visit To The Unit's Donut Tent Was An Award He Could Understand!
In tribute to Chips, the men he had saved were determined to honor him. Lieutenant Lucian Truscott, who later became a general, recommended Chips for the Silver Star and Purple Heart, citing how "his courageous action in single-handedly eliminating a dangerous machine-gun nest and causing the surrender of its crew had prevented injury and death to his men."
Chips would have been the most highly decorated dog in history, but he was denied medals because he had broken away from his handler, and because the Army's top brass stated that the Silver Star and Purple Heart were for men, not dogs. Following this refusal, the soldiers suggested Chips be given the Quartermaster General's Certificate of Citation, the supreme honor for a war dog, but again Chips was passed by.
If Chips had been a person and motivated by thoughts of glory and medals he might have been bitter, but he didn't need an award to validate his heroism. Nonetheless, medals were certainly appropriate for Chips. So, his friends took matters in hand and bestowed a theater ribbon on their pal. On the ribbon was an arrowhead for the assault landing at Sicily and a battle star for each of the eight bitter campaigns in which Chips served.
Chips Meets And Bites Ike, But What Would You Expect Of Dog Who Worked For Patton!
During the war, Chips also served away from the battlefields and he added to his legend when he acted as a sentry for President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at their historic conference in Casablanca in 1943. About this time it was also revealed that Chips, unimpressed with rank, had taken a nip at General Eisenhower.
After the war Chips was assigned to a soldier who escorted him across the Atlantic and then to Fort Royal, Virginia, for discharge. First, Chips accompanied the soldier as he went through being discharged, and as a result they were late showing up at the "K-9" center in Virginia where a surly guard unceremoniously tried to turn them away. Glaring at the soldier and exercising his new civilian status, Chips escort shouted, "Pumpkin head, this is Chips, Mr. Chips to you." The Army quickly rolled out the red carpet, welcomed Chips home and saw to it that he was prepared for discharge.
Chips went home to Pleasantville, New York, where he adapted to civilian life with ease. A photograph taken shortly after his return shows him happily pulling his master's young son through the snow on a sled. But Chip's happiness was short-lived. He died seven months after coming home, according to the hospital, from complications from war injuries. He was only six years old.
Mobile K-9 Sentry Patrol, France, 1944
Brand number Z303, Bobo and his handler, Sgt. John Coleman, led a reconnaissance patrol safely into German held territory.
Their missision accomplished the patrol started back to their own lines. Scarcely a hudred yards from the outpost, Bobo alerted sharply and definitely straight ahead, then to the left, then to the right.
A German patrol was in the act of surrounding the outpost, so a scout was sent on to warn the men who were holding it. The enemy was dispersed and the patrol proceeded back to headquarters.
Wolf, No. T121, was committed to combat with the 27th Infantry battling through the Corabello Mountains in Northern Luzon, Italy, toward the strategic Balate Pass.
While leading an Infantry Patrol, he scented the presence of the enemy entrenched on a hillside about 150 yards distant in time to allow the members of the patrol to take favorable cover and resist the attack that was imminent.
During the ensuing fire fight, Wolf received shrapnel wounds. Showing no sign of pain and determined at all costs to remain silent, the wound was not detected by surrounding personnel.
Greatly out numbered and partly encircled by the enemy, the patrol decided to withdraw to insure the delivery to headquarters of the vital information the had gained.
Wolf on the point of the patrol, suceeded on three different occasions in alerlting the patrol, enabling them to bypass the enemy and return to their camp without a single casualty.
In spite of expert medical care and an emergency operation, the 25th Division's casualty list included among others: Wolf, US Army War Dog, T121, Died of Wounds, Wounded in action.
Daisy, the mascot of a Norwegian merchant ship torpedoed in the North Atlantic,went into the icy sea with the surviving crewmen and throughout the night swam from man to man, licking their faces and giving them comfort and encouragement until they were rescued the following morning.
But They're Not Pets!*
Experience in the theaters of operations with war dogs have shown them to be valuable equipment. The problem of their maintenance is a small one. They are able to subsist on what ever food is available to their handler, whether it be steaks or C rations. They sleep wherever their master sleeps.
GI Joe's universal love for the dog as a pet has caused some difficulty though. War dogs are trained to trust and take orders from one man, his handler. The basis of all training and performance is that relationship between the dog and his trained handler. Thus, when other men try to make a pet of him, his performance suffers. Men in units where war dogs are attached, must be impressed with the fact that war dogs are not pets!
Taken from the Quartermaster Training Service Journal, July 7, 1944.
NEXT: COMBAT - SOVIETS & AXIS POWERS!
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