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The Homefront, Then and Now

Four-legged Heroes Join the Fight

United Stated Marine Corps Devil Doberman pinschers training to disembark from a landing craft in 1943.
When Hiram Springs grocer Jacob Hermann gave Schnoz to the K-9 Corps in Not to be Forgiven, his action was echoed by thousands of his countrymen. They had perhaps a less intense need to demonstrate their patriotism than Jacob, but all wanted to give their quickly mobilizing country another weapon to use against the Axis.

Just weeks after Pearl Harbor, the American Kennel Assoc. teamed with a group called Dogs for Defense and called for the country’s dog owners to donate quality animals to the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. There had been dogs used in the trenches of World War I, but post-war the program had been discontinued. On March 13, 1942, the Secretary of War authorized the Quartermaster General to induct dogs into the new war effort. In August, thousands of dogs arrived, all shapes and sizes, at the first War Dog Reception and Training Center in Front Royal, VA. Dog owners from every state in the nation gave up their pets: civilian trainers volunteered their services. That fall, a K-9 Quartermaster Corps training center was established at Fort Robinson, Nebr.

At first, 30 breeds were accepted; later that was narrowed to five: German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers. Farm Collies, and Giant Schnauzers. Quartermaster Corps instructors trained dog handlers, mostly quartermaster troops, and basic training included exposure to gun muzzles, gas masks, gunfire and riding in vehicles. Once dogs mastered the basics they were chosen for specialized training for duty as sentry, scout/patrol, messenger or mine-detector dogs. Seven platoons of 18 dogs served in Europe and eight in the Pacific.
The dogs provided excellent service. Patrols led by scout dogs were never fired upon without warning.

A German Shepherd named Chips, who became famous, began his service in North Africa with the 3rd Infantry. Later, in the battle for Italy, he broke away from his handler to attack a German machine gun nest. Although wounded, he continued his attack, forcing the entire crew to surrender. He briefly held the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart, but the medals were revoked because of military policy against decorating animals.

Dogs continue to serve with American Special Operations Forces (SOF) today. Over 2,000 serve around the world, 600 in combat. In 1994, a war dog memorial was erected in the War Dog Cemetery on Guam to honor dogs who fought in the South Pacific. In 2013, a life-size bronze statue of a service dog was dedicated to honor all SOF dogs in service. It stands, surrounded by pavers engraved with information about each dog that gave its life while serving, at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, hear Fort Bragg.
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