At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I came to an end. One of the deadliest conflicts in history, Armistice Day was commemorated to honor World War I veterans who had died in service. Years later The Second Great War was fought, and the annual November 11th Armistice Day celebration was expanded to celebrate all U.S. military veterans. As America celebrates the service of its military personnel this Veterans Day, let’s also remember the military dogs who have been by their side.
War dogs can be seen in murals dating back to ancient Egypt and Greece. In fact, there is evidence of their use in nearly every ancient city-state including Attila the Hun, William the Conqueror, the Spanish conquistadors, and Napoleon. In WWI, the Germans used almost 30,000 dogs in their war effort as sentries, scouts, ammunition carriers, and messengers. The dogs were often referred to as “canine Red Cross workers” because of their training to find the wounded on the battlefield, bring them supplies to ease their suffering, and lead their handlers to the sites of fallen soldiers who needed to be recovered.
The United States did not have a canine training program during WWI but worked with the English and French with their established programs. By WWII, they were making efforts to include dogs in U.S. military strategies and those efforts significantly increased with the Vietnam War. At the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the U.S. military had approximately 2,500 military working dogs in service. Today, Military Working Dogs are most often used in detection work but also serve as sentries, trackers, and in search and rescue efforts.
Thank you to all who have served your countries so bravely, dogs and humans alike.