The Dogs of War: A Memorial Day Tribute

“The first to sense the hostility of a suspect. The first to react to protect his master. The first to enter where danger lurks. The first to detect the hidden intruder. The first to take action against violence. The first to sense his master’s joy. The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear. The first to give his life in defense of his master. The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him. They know him as a “partner”, not just an animal.” – Author unknown

Not only can dogs play fetch, they can also track down enemies, rescue their human comrades, and earn war medals. Humans all over the world have been enlisting dogs into their armies since 18th century B.C. They’ve been used to serve in the first line of attack, pull carts, sniff out the wounded to drag them to safety, collect information via video cameras and microphones, detect mines, and protect camps and bases.

Many Americans don’t realize that war dogs play a huge part in the reason that we have freedom. Today, while we celebrate the men and women who have served our country, let’s take a moment to remember all the heroic war dogs, as well.

No matter the country, every single dog that has fought in any war in history is a hero. Here are a few remarkable war dogs all over the world:

Chips: Chips, a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky mix, is the most decorated U.S. war dog from World War II. In 1943, Chips and his handler came under fire by the Italian army during the invasion of Sicily. Chips broke free from his handler and managed to attack the Italian gunners, who were forced to surrender. Chips was severely injured, and the U.S. awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart. Although he survived the injuries and retired in 1945, he was later stripped of his awards when the army decided not to commend animals. In 1990, Disney felt that Chips deserved some recognition, so they made a movie about him: Chips the War Dog.

Bamse: When World War II started, Bamse, a St. Bernard, was drafted into the Norwegian Navy, where he served as an official crew member. He would stand on the front gun tower of the boat, looking over his fellow crew members. Not only did Bamse help out the crew every day, he also saved a few crewmen’s lives. One day, a man attacked a young lieutenant commander with a knife, and the St. Bernard pushed him into the sea. Bamse also dragged back to shore a sailor who had fallen overboard. In July 1944, Bamse died from heart failure. He was given a full military funeral, which was attended by hundreds of Norwegian sailors, Allied servicemen, schoolchildren, and townfolk. The Royal Norwegian Navy holds a commemorative ceremony in his honor every 10 years.

Sarbi: If dogs could talk, Sarbi would have a very interesting tale to tell. Sarbi, a female black Labrador, served in the Australian special forces as a explosives detection dog. She was brought to Afghanistan with the Australian army to detect improvised explosive devices. In September 2008, when Sarbi was serving her second tour of duty in Afghanistan, up to 200 Taliban fighters ambushed Australian, American, and Afghan patrol vehicles. When a rocket exploded near Sarbi, she went missing. Despite repeated attempts by the Special Operations Task Group, no one could figure out what happened to the black Labrador and officially declared her MIA. Fourteen months later, an American soldier named John found a local man with a black Labrador. Through the use of some voice commands, he confirmed his suspicion that the dog was indeed Sarbi. She was returned to the Australian special forces, who were elated to have her back and, last year, honored her with an RSPCA Purple Cross Award.

Many more canines have devoted time and sometimes their lives to their own countries. In honor of all of our fallen war dogs, you can view the K9 Wall of Honor.

In 2000, the government started allowing civilians to adopt retired war dogs. If you’re interested, you can check out the official adoption website of the DoD military working dogs.

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