It would be one thing to send you son or husband off to war, but an entirely different thing to send off Fido the family dog—am I right?! Well during World War II that’s exactly what many American’s did. I have the current issue of Marie Claire to thank for this nugget of information that makes causes me to love dogs even more (as if that’s really even possible! Ha!)
With the issue of horses and mules rapidly on the decline from military involvement, the desperate times called for untried measures the use of dogs for military purposes. Dogs are awesome creatures their great characteristic include acuteness of senses, docility, and affection for people, watchfulness, and speed enable; all of which could be of great value for military purposes someone figured out.
Dogs had been previously used during war times in small roles:
“Prior to the introduction of gunpowder, dogs usually took an active part in combat. The early Greek and Roman soldiers made use of large dogs by equipping them with spike collars and sending them forward to attack the enemy. During the Middle Ages, war dogs were outfitted with armor and frequently were used to defend caravans. The North American Indians developed the dog for pack and draft work as well as for sentry duty. By the early part of the twentieth century most European countries were utilizing dogs in their armies. Russia used ambulance dogs during the Russo-Japanese War. The Bulgarians and Italians employed dogs as sentries in the Balkans and in Tripoli, as did the British on the Abor Expedition in the Himalayas. During the long drawn-out Spanish-Morocco War the Riffs camouflaged the animals in garments to make them indistinguishable from their owners in the hazy desert visibility and trained them to run along the front lines and draw the fire of the Spaniards, thus revealing gun positions.”
Other countries used many dogs during World War I (particularly Germans, French, and Belgians) with great success in areas of messenger, ambulance, and draft work.
What I found to be most interesting was that as World War II started in Europe, and the U.S. Army began to prepare, they made an estimate that 200 dogs might be needed and that the “first effort to procure and train dogs for the U.S. military was based on volunteers. A civilian organization, “Dogs for Defense, Inc.” was formed in January 1942 to work with qualified civilian trainers, who offered their services without pay, to train duty”
On the Radar author Susan Orleans, author of the new book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, described that during her book research she learned that families that donated their pets frequency called in to check on them—like family members! Sending letters and postcards with words of encouragement! (how cute!!)
In other news the German shepherd featured in Orleans’s book, was once so famous and popular he was the only dog in Los Angeles to be listed in the telephone directory.
Lee Duncan, an American solider serving in France during World War I, is said to have discovered a German shepherd and her litter of puppies (one of which he would name Rin Tin Tin) on a bloody battlefield in the Meuse Valley in 1918.
And so began the epic tale of one man’s devotion to his dog. Soonafter his film debut, Rinty, as he became known, was a superstar. Duncan and Rinty traveled the country, making personal appearances at dog shows and other venues. Soon, everyone wanted an autographed photo of the canine star signed “Most Faithfully, Rin-Tin-Tin.”
- Life of Canine Star Rin Tin Tin an Engrossing Tale (abcnews.go.com)