Memorial Day is a time we remember and a time to celebrate all Americans who have served in the military. On March 13th, 1942, a new division of the military was created — The U.S. K9 Corps. In celebration of Memorial Day, here are five dogs who bravely served their country through battles and wars. We should not forget their acts of heroism.
During World War II, many citizens donated their dogs for war duty such as sentries and attack dogs. One such dog was Chips, a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky mix owned by Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York.
Chips began training as a sentry dog in 1942 at the War Dog Training Center, Front Royal, Virginia. After leaving the center, Chips served as a sentry dog for the Roosevelt and Churchhill conference in 1943. Later in 1943 while in Sicily during the invasion, he and his handler were pinned down by the beach by an Italian machine-gun team. Breaking free, Chips charged the machine-gun team and leaping into the pillbox attacking the gunners. The four gunners in the pillbox were forced to flee and surrendered to US troops. In the same day, Chips helped to take ten more Italians prisoners.
Chips became the most decorated war dog in World War II — being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart. Unfortunately due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals, these awards were later revoked. In December 1945, Chips was discharged and went home back to the Wren family. In 1990, Disney made a TV movie based on his life, entitled Chips, the War Dog.
Kaiser was a German Shepherd (one of 4000 dogs) who served in the Vietnam War. Marine Lance Corporal Alfredo Salazar was paired up with Kaiser and the two quickly formed a close bond. According to Salazar, “He came to me and licked my hand. From then on we were a team.”
Kaiser and Salazar did more than 30 combat patrols and participated in 12 major operations together. After the pair joined “D” Company for a search-and-destroy mission, they were ambushed by enemy forces while on patrol in 1966. Kaiser was hit in the initial barrage. As the patrol moved in to attack the enemy, Salazar knelt next to his dog. Kaiser tried to lick his handler’s hand one last time right before he died. Kaiser was the first war dog killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Kaiser was carried back to the camp and buried next to a tree near the tents. As a tribute to their fallen comrade, the men named their camp Camp Kaiser. A sign was posted on the site which read “This camp is named in honor of Kaiser a scout dog who gave his life for his country on 6 July 1966 while leading a night combat patrol in Vietnam.” After Kaiser’s death, Salazar felt he lost “one of the closest friends he ever had.”
Nemo (or Nemo A534) was a German Shepherd who served during the Vietnam War with the United States Air Force. On December 4, 1966, Nemo and Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg were on patrol at a cemetery near the companys airbase in Vietnam. The two came under enemy fire: and the German Shepherd took a round to his eye, and Thorneburg was shot in the shoulder after killing two Viet Cong guerrillas. That might of been the end of the story. But Nemo refused to give in without a fight. Ignoring his serious head wound, the 85 pound dog threw himself at the Vietcong guerrillas who had opened fire. Nemo’s ferocious attack brought Thorneburg the time he needed to call in backup forces. Although severely wounded, Nemo crawled to his master and covered him with his body. Even after help arrived Nemo would not allow anyone to touch Thorneburg until a veterinarian separated them. Finally separated, both were taken back to the base for medical attention. They both recovered from their wounds.
On June 23, 1967, Air Force Headquarters directed that Nemo be returned to the United States with honors, as the first sentry dog to be officially retired from active service. Due to his heroic actions, after receiving his injuries Nemo was returned to Lackland Air Force Base in the United States where he was given a permanent retirement kennel. He continued working as a recruiting dog and died at 11 years old in December 1972 at Lackland where his memorial kennels and stone stand today in his honor.
The only dog to be given the rank of sergeant, Sergeant Stubby (an American Pit Bull Terrier) has been hailed as the most decorated dog of World War I. Stubby started off as a stray on Yale campus in 1917 and was smuggled by his adoptive owner, Cpl. John Robert Conroy to France.
During his time during the war (18 months), Stubby heroic acts included participating in 17 battles on the western front, four offenses, and improving troop morale as the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 26th (Yankee) Division. Some of his accomplishments includes saving his regiment from a surprised mustard attack, helping locate downed soldiers and comfort wounded soldiers and even caught a German spy (by the seat of his pants!), holding him in place until backup came.
Sergeant Stubby is remembered today through the Pit Bull-centric website, StubbyDog.org, as well as the Stubby Award for Canine Heroism. For release in April 2018, he is the subject of an upcoming animated film.
Smokey was a Yorkshire Terrier who served during World War II in the Pacific. Weighing only 4 pounds and 7 inches tall`, she was found abandoned in the jungle of New Guinea in a foxhole. During her time during the war, Smokey was involved in over a dozen various combat missions and survived more than 150 air raids — using her sense of hearing to warn of incoming attacks.
One of Smokey’s most heroic acts was at an airstrip on Luzon (a Philippine Island) where seed pulled telegraph wire (through a narrow 70 foot pipe) – thus saving crucial construction time but even more importantly keeping the engineers and other workers from enemy fire. Not only did she save live during her time in the war, but Smokey also entertained the troops with a wide variety of tricks.
At the age of 14, Smokey passed away on February 21, 1957. Many of Smokey’s exploits and accomplishments are chronicled in the book Yorkie Doodle Dandy, written by her adoptive owner William A. Wynne. Smokey is also credited with beginning a renewal of interest in the once obscure Yorkshire Terrier breed.