While we honor and appreciate our vets this Veteran’s Day, there’s an often overlooked group that we’d like to acknowledge today. Dogs have also fought and sacrificed for our country and we want to highlight some famous K9 Veterans.
One of the most decorated war dogs from World War II, Chips was a German-Shepard-Collie-Siberian Husky mix. In 1942 he began his training to become a sentry dog at the War Dog Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia. One of his more memorable acts on the battlefield came when his handler was pinned down by an Italian machine gun team. Chip broke free from his handler and attacked the gunners causing the four Italian crewmen to leave their cover and surrender to US troops. That same day he also helped US troops take 10 additional prisoners. By the time he was discharged in December of 1945 his actions had earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart. His story proved so inspirational that the Disney movie Chips: The War Dog was based on his military service.
During the Vietnam War, Kaiser, a German Shepard, participated in 12 major military operations and over 30 combat patrols with his handler Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar. The two joined “D” Company and while out on a search-and-destroy mission, they were ambushed. Unfortunately, Kaiser was fatally wounded during the ambush and died while trying to lick Salazar’s hand. He was the first war dog killed in action during the Vietnam War. “Camp Kaiser” was named in his honor.
Another German Shepard to serve in the Vietnam War, Nemo served on an airbase with his handler Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg. During a patrol near the airbase they came under enemy fire resulting in Nemo getting shot in the eye and Thorneburg taking a bullet to his shoulder. This didn’t stop Nemo from attacking the guerrillas, allowing Thorneburg enough time to call for reinforcements before falling unconscious. Nemo protected Thorneburg by crawling atop his body to protect him from further harm. When reinforcements did arrive, Nemo still didn’t let anyone touch his handler until a veterinarian was called in. Both Nemo and Thorneburg eventually made full recoveries from their wounds and Nemo was allowed to retire soon after.
Perhaps one of the cutest war dogs, Smoky was a Yorkshire Terrier that served in the Pacific during World War II after being found abandoned in a foxhole in New Guinea. Smoke used her hearing to warn troops of incoming artillery shells and survived over a dozen combat missions and 150 air raids. Her most famous story happened at an airstrip in the Philippines when she pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70 foot pipe, saving construction time and keeping the engineers safe from enemy fire. She eventually died of old age in 1957 but the story of her time in the service was preserved in a booked titled Yorkie Doodle Dandy which was written by her adoptive owner William A. Wynne.
The only dog ever to be given the rank of Sergeant, Stubby, an American Pitbull Terrier, is perhaps the most famous war dog. He was found as a stray in 1917 during World War I and eventually participated in 17 battles, four offenses and improved troop morale wherever he went. Using his incredible senses, Stubby was able to warn his unit of poison gas attacks, warn them about incoming artillery fire, and helped located downed soldiers on the battlefield. The Stubby Award for Canine Heroism is named in his honor.