Known as war dogs, military working dogs have been employed by the U.S. Armed Forces since World War I. Originally, the breeds used were the German shepherd and the Doberman pinscher, which was eventually replaced by the Labrador retriever. Other breeds have performed duties as military working dogs as well. Military working dogs were, and continue to be, trained for sentry and messenger duty, scouting/patrols and as detector dogs. Here is a look at four of America’s canine heroes.
Stubby. A bull terrier named Stubby is credited with being the first U.S. war dog. Stubby “adopted” a group of soldiers during World War I while they were training in New Haven, Conn. Cpl. Robert Conroy smuggled Stubby aboard their troop ship, and the military’s first war dog was headed overseas. In France, Stubby proved his mettle, using his canine senses to react quickly to the whine of incoming artillery and alerting his unit to danger. He even captured a German spy one night, and soon his heroism was known throughout the military forces.
The Marine Corps bestowed upon Stubby the honorary rank of sergeant. He met with presidents Wilson, Coolidge and Harding, and after the war, his popularity continued. Stubby participated in parades and received a special commendation from the American Expeditionary Forces and the Humane Society. He became Georgetown University’s football mascot in 1921 and held that honor until dying of old age in 1926.
Chips. Chips, a German shepherd/husky/collie mix, served the U.S. during World War II, having trained at Front Royal, Va. In 1942, he was one of the first military working dogs sent overseas into action. Chips served with the third infantry in France, Germany, Italy and North Africa. As a sentry dog, he completed several assignments, including serving sentry duty during the infamous 1943 conference of world leaders Roosevelt and Churchill. In 1990, Disney produced the television movie Chips, the War Dog, celebrating the dog’s life.
Kaiser. According to MilitaryWorkingDog.com, about 4,000 dogs were military dogs during the Vietnam War, and 281 were killed in action. In 1966, Kaiser was the first war dog killed in action during the Vietnam War. Kaiser, a German shepherd, and his handler, Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar, trained at Fort Benning, Ga., with the Army’s 26th Scout Dog Platoon. After a stint at Camp Pendleton in California, the duo was sent to Vietnam. Kaiser and Salazar completed more than 30 combat patrols. While leading a patrol, Kaiser was hit by enemy fire and killed. The brave dog was buried at the unit’s campsite, which the soldiers christened “Camp Kaiser” in honor of their fallen comrade.
Jupiter. A total of 118 military working dogs were deployed during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Jupiter, a German shepherd, was paired with handler SSG James Leach. During Desert Storm, military dogs trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. First trained as a patrol dog, Jupiter was then certified as a detector dog. He served his country alongside Leach in Saudi Arabia, searching vehicles and buildings for explosives.