During World War II, family dogs served in the war

News of dogs serving in a war is nothing new. It’s a practice that’s been practiced for decades; The United States began using dogs constantly for combat and training purposes during World War II. As a new program, however, there was not a wide range of dogs. Dog handlers had to train dogs, and getting them wasn’t exactly easy.

Prior to this effort, sled dogs were the only military use of dogs in certain arctic regions.

A boy named Clyde donates his dog Junior to World War II efforts through Dogs for Defense. (Photo by the National Archives)

Initially, all dogs were inducted into military ranks through a coalition called Dogs for Defense, Inc. (DFD). Any breed, as long as the owner was willing to part with it, was allowed to try its hand at military operations. Donation centers were opened where anyone could donate their dog to help the war effort. The goal was for dogs to patrol borders, beaches, etc., and not only intimidate wrongdoers, but also notice anything out of the ordinary.

At a time when patriotism was key and one of the primary responsibilities of civilians back home was to support their country, many Americans felt the need to help by donating their dog to help. The dogs were promised to be “deprogrammed” and returned after World War II ended.

Most of the time, that meant a family dog ​​was donated to the war. In total, more than 20,000 people were taken in to help in World War II. Just like soldiers, dogs were medically examined; those who failed were sent back home. The remaining dogs were then put through a training test to ensure they could perform specific tasks.

It soon became clear that breed played a role when it came to training and enforcing operations, as the Army accepted few different dog breeds for combat. (The Army was the first military department to accept dogs into its ranks.)

Approved breeds included:

  • German shepherd dog
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Belgian shepherd
  • collie
  • Siberian husky
  • malamute
  • Eskimo Dog

These dogs were selected for their ability to learn, their willingness to work, their ability to carry out the tasks assigned to them and their ability to withstand various weather conditions.

While this move produced dogs that were better trained and more productive, it also made dogs much more difficult to find. Now there wasn’t an unlimited number of dogs that could be donated to the cause, only a few types of breeds.

PFC Rez P. Hester of the US Marine Corps’ 7th War Dog Platoon on Iwo Jima takes a nap while Butch stands guard. (Photo from the National Archives).

Another thing that became clear was that dogs had to trust their handler. The best way to gain that trust was to have them train with their assigned soldier. In some cases, and for soldiers who had a specific breed of dog, this in turn meant taking the family dog ​​to basic training.

Today it is a scenario that we can hardly imagine. A mass shedding of dogs who, in one way or another, should learn to fight—a far cry from a life of stick-chewing and begging at the dinner table. Additionally, dog training is now a rigorous and effective program that dogs participate in from a young age. So they can be smart and effective soldiers even as puppies.

Like any military intelligence agency, it soon became apparent that there were better ways to improve the program, such as: B. Restricting breeds and training with a single soldier for each dog. These adaptations allowed more dogs to join the military and be successful. In addition, it allowed the military branches to achieve more with the help of dogs or friends.

More articles from We Are the Mighty:

5 of the worst misconceptions about joining the military

This British aircraft carrier served in the US Navy

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

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