THE U.S. ARMY K-9 CORPS
Dogs were employed by the military as far back as the Civil War, but it wasn’t until World War II that an official K-9 Corps was created by the U.S. Army.
“In January 1942, members of the American Kennel Club and other dog lovers formed a civilian organization called Dogs for Defense. They intended to train dogs to perform sentry duty for the army along the coast of the United States. Aware of this effort, Lieutenant Colonel Clifford C. Smith, chief of the Plant Protection Branch, Inspection Division, Quartermaster Corps, met with his commander, Major General Edmund B. Gregory, and suggested that the Army use the sentry dogs at supply depots. Gregory gave his approval to an experimental program, and on March 13, 1942, Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson approved Gregory’s application and created the K-9 Corps.” – Dr. Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., U. S. Army Military History Institute
Dogs For Defense immediately began a movement to mobilize dog owners to donate healthy and capable animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. Patriotic Americans heeded the call and training commenced. By fall the QMC was given the task of training dogs for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well.
A NATIONAL DAY OF REMEMBRANCE
In 2009, retired military working dog trainer Joseph White originated the idea of dedicating a national day of remembrance for the thousands of canines who have served our country. Thanks to his thinking, National K9 Veterans Day is celebrated on March 13th, this year marking the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Army K-9 Corps.
TRAITS AND TASKS
Most of us think of German Shepherds and Dobermann Pinschers as the ultimate war dogs. Valued for their loyalty and their unmatched strength and courage against the enemy, these well-rounded breeds were highly valued in both WWII and Viet Nam. There are numerous military operations in wartime, however, and a variety of breeds have been successfully utilized to perform specific tasks.
Small dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers are easy to transport and are notably quick and agile runners which makes them ideal as messengers. They have even been known to pull critical wire through narrow pipes.
Rags, a Cairn Terrier mix (pictured to the right with handler James Donovan) exhibited his greatest moment of heroism during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in 1918, when he ran a vital message through falling bombs.
Boxers, Rottweilers, Bulldogs, Airedales, and many Mixed Breeds (to name a few) have all performed heroic feats alongside their soldier handlers as well. Trained to take direction and stay on task, K-9 warriors have held positions as guards, messengers and pack-carriers, and have become proficient in detecting explosives and poisonous gas, alerting troops of incoming artillery, locating wounded soldiers, and assisting with air and sea rescues.
TODAY AND TOMORROW
There are many heartwarming stories of war dogs, their bravery and the unconditional love they shared with their handlers. These can be found in libraries and on the internet and we encourage those interested to read more about these selfless heroes. In addition, there are many organizations which preserve historical military data, ones that care for retired and/or wounded doggies, and many that are raising funds for memorial projects that could use our support.
Locally, War Dog Colorado is dedicated to building a memorial that will honor the dogs that have served and continue to serve protecting our troops, country and freedoms both domestically and overseas. The project is progressing but still needs more funding to make the memorial a reality. If you would like to help with a donation or the purchase of a t-shirt, visit War Dog Colorado.