US Army Quartermaster Foundation
Fort Lee, Virginia



The Truth About War Dogs  
Alene Erlanger
The Quartermaster Review  
March-April 1944
 

Since the initiation of the War Dog program so much has been said, written, filmed, and even sung about it that War Dogs are now firmly established in the public mind as an integral part of our armed forces. Unfortunately, however, lack of authentic information has led to a number of popular misconceptions in regard to the role that dogs play in the Army. Contrary to general belief, War Dogs are not trained to single out aliens (or even renegade American citizens) and tear them to bits; they never learn to make out morning reports; they do not operate P-38's, bailing out to set up machine guns, the parts of which are conveniently carried on their persons; they never become expert in the use of small arms, or in operating motor vehicles; they do not become proficient is mess sergeants; and finally-and this is the greatest debunker of all-they do not relieve twelve men for combat duty.  

But what they actually do makes all these claims seem unimportant and insignificant.  

For dogs do save lives.  

They also safeguard property and further the work of the military service by the utilization of powers that humans do not possess to the same degree as dogs; and, although they do not take the place of twelve sentries, they render the sentries to whom they are assigned more effective. Thus, in actual practice, there is a resultant saving of manpower. Dogs carry messages under fire; they detect enemy presence at a distance far greater than that at which it could be detected by human senses; discover casualties that have been overlooked by collecting units; and, in addition, are now being trained and used for classified purposes. Although the use of dogs for combat duty is so recent that the first reports from the front are just coming in, these reports are so enthusiastic that we feel justified in making the claims set forth in the foregoing paragraph.  

Here are extracts from the first report received from the field. The dogs referred to accompanied the Second Marine Raider Regiment in its landing on Bouganiville Island. Caesar and Jack and their mas­ters were trained by the Quartermaster Corps.  

"The Dog Platoon has proven itself to be an unqualified success and the use of dogs in combat was on trial. This first Marine Dog Platoon was admittedly an experimental unit and minor defects were found that need to be remedied. But the latent possibilities of combat dog units proved itself beyond any doubt. To prove this only a few of the feats of the dogs need be cited:  

(1)  On D Day, Andy (a Doberman pinscher) led M Company all the way to the road block. He alerted scattered sniper opposition and undoubtedly was the means of preventing loss of life.  

(2)  On D Day, Caesar (a German shepherd) was the only means of communication between M Company and Second Battalion C.P., carrying messages, overlays, and captured Jap papers. On D plus 1, M Company's telephone lines were cut, and Caesar was again the only means of communication. Caesar was wounded on the morning of D plus 2 and had to be carried back to Regimental C.P. on a stretcher, but he had already established himself as a hero. While with M Company he made nine official runs between company and battalion C.P., and on at least two of these runs he was under fire.  

(3)  Otto (a Doberman pinscher) on D plus 1, while working ahead of the point of reconnaissance patrol, alerted the position of a machine gun nest and the patrol had time to take cover, with no casualties when the machine gun began firing. Otto alerted the position at least one hundred yards away.  

(4)  On D plus 6, Jack (a German shepherd) was shot in the back but, even though wounded, carried the message back from the company on the road block that the Japs had struck and sent stretcher bearers immediately. This was a vital message because the telephone lines had been cut. One of Jack's handlers, Wortman, was wounded at the same time and thus Jack was the means of bringing help to his master.  

(5)  On the night of D plus 7, Rex (a Doberman pinscher) alerted the presence of Japs in the vicinity. At daybreak of D plus 8 the Japs attacked. This was not a surprise attack, however, because the dog had already warned of their presence.  

(6)  During the night of D plus 7, Jack (a Doberman pinscher) frequently alerted a tree near M Company C.P. When it became light enough in the morning, Jack's handler pointed out the tree to a B.A.R man near him. A Jap sniper was shot down out of the tree. This sniper was in a position to do real damage in the company C.P., but, due to Jack, the sniper was eliminated.  

(7)  Night security is an intangible. Dogs on night security have less chance to show spectacularly how they may be the means of saving life. One fact stands out, and that is that the troops have confidence in the dogs.  

(8)  From D Day until the Second and Third Bat­talions were relieved from front line duty on D plus 8, there were dog squads with every company on the front line.''  

"More instances could be cited but this should suffice to show that the dogs have proven themselves as message carriers, scouts, and vital night security, and were constantly employed during the operation of securing and extending the beachhead.  

"The dogs have been no added trouble. They lived in crates on board ship for more than three weeks, yet they were kept in excellent physical condition in spite of lack of exercise.  

"Feeding is no problem because it has been found that the dogs do very well on C rations. So long as troops can be supplied with rations the dogs will also have rations."  

Considering, therefore, the flood of misinformation about War Dogs which has been loosed on a sentimental public, we are delighted to have the opportunity of writing the facts of the case for The Quartermaster Review.  

Dogs were first officially inducted into the Army on March 13, 1942, when the Under Secretary of War, The Honorable Robert P. Patterson, signed a letter of authorization following the application of The Quartermaster General. This was the first recognition of the dog as a factor in the war effort, for up to that time dogs were known to the Army as pets or mascots only. The next three months were devoted to intensive surveys and studies of the situation. By dint of hard and efficient work these were completed in record time.  

In July 1942 the Remount Branch of the Quartermaster Corps formally took over the War Dog activities and established the first War Dog Reception and Training Center at the Quartermaster Remount Depot, Front Royal, Va. Subsequently new centers were opened, and dogs and men for war purposes are now being trained at Fort Robinson, Nebraska; Camp Rimini, Helena, Montana; San Carlos, California; and Cat Island, Gulfport, Mississippi.  

Of these War Dog reception and training centers those at San Carlos, Cat Island, and Camp Rimini are posts independent of other remount activities. The Front Royal and Fort Robinson centers have been set up in established remount horse and mule depots. At Camp Rimini, arctic dogs for sledge and pack work are received, conditioned, and trained for use with northern troops; for, although the airplane has superseded the dog team as a means of arctic transportation, there is no known replacement for sledge dogs as crash teams. The Mississippi installation is used to condition and train dogs for use in tropical and semi­tropical theatres.

Another popular impression has been that War Dogs must be of aggressive disposition and imposing stature. This was generally true at the beginning of the program, largely because, at first, all requirement were for sentry dogs. At present, dogs (with the exception of sledge dogs and pack dogs) are divided into two groups -- dogs for interior guard and dogs for tactical use. The first group included the sentry dog and the police dog. The sentry dog patrols with sentries; he alerts by growling or barking, giving notice of anything strange or unfamiliar on his post. He alerts when he detects fire as well as when he discovers lurking marauders. The police dog (formerly classed as the attack dog) can be used as a member of a man-dog unit or in connection with, or to supplement the use of, the sentry dog. In modern warfare his use is limited to the Military Police.  

Dogs for tactical use include the silent scout dog the messenger dog, the casualty dog, and the classified dog.  

The silent scout dog is really a super sentry dog. He is used by reconnaissance patrols to discover whether an area is free of hostile presence, thus enabling the patrol to advance with a reasonable degree of safety. Scout dogs have been known to give warning of an enemy concealed at a distance of five hundred yards. When it is remembered that twenty-five yards is a long throw for a hand grenade, the value of this dog in actual saving of human life can be estimated.  

The messenger dog should be used instead of a man wherever the use of a runner is indicated. He is surer and faster; he can find his way in daylight or dark­ness, in any kind of weather, over rough or smooth terrain, open or jungle country, at high or low altitude, and in cold, or snow. He can carry a message for short distances at great speed. He is a difficult target because of his size, speed, and natural ability to take advantage of cover. The use of messenger do in place of runners not only insures a more rapid and; reliable means of communication but also saves life and limb. These dogs are used in connection with scout dogs on reconnaissance patrols, combat patrols outposts, static security activities, or lines of observation. In addition, they are used to establish communication between two fixed centers, between a fix and a moving center, or between two moving centers, for packing limited emergency supplies; and as a; quick means of laying wires over short distances Pigeons, inclosed in special carriers, may be transported by messenger dogs.  

The casualty dog is trained and used to aid the Medical Corps in locating wounded on battlefields an in other areas. Before losing consciousness injured soldiers may crawl for safety to hiding-places that may be easily overlooked by collecting units; they may be buried in debris caused by bombings  It is obvious that many lives can be saved by prompt treatment, especially in cases of shock or hemorrhage. The casualty dog saves vital minutes by discovering such injured, reporting his discovery to his master, and leading help to the casualty.  

These are the classes of dogs being trained at Quartermaster War Dog reception and training centers. Under the supervision of The Quartermaster General, the highly specialized program for men and dogs has grown rapidly. The course of training includes basic training for all men an dog's and one branch of specialized training for each, according to his natural aptitude. Upon completing the three months' course, the trainee is graduated with the dog that he has trained. Together they are a team-a soldier and a War Dog. Together they proceed to the post to which they are assigned, there to play their part in this conflict.  

How well they are fulfilling their missions is set forth in the Marine report from the field, quoted earlier in these pages. Further evidence of their use may be gathered from this report from the Army Air Forces:  

"The following extracts from official report received from the Army Air Forces Pilot School, Stuttgart, Arkansas, are furnished for your information:  

'On 6 October 1943, Jack 96E8. alerted and gave the alarm when 'a fire broke out in the post guardhouse. This dog undoubtedly saved the lives of some of the men who were in said guardhouse.  

'On 8 October 1943, Danny 73E1 discovered and gave warning of a fire in the lumber pile approximately one hundred feet from his post, saving the government some valuable lumber.'  

It seems safe to assume that much loss through fire could be prevented by the more widespread use of sentry dogs.

Anyone who has read this story so far knows now what War Dogs can do and what they can't do. As their use becomes widespread and more reports of their heroic deeds are received, it will be easier to evaluate the merits of this new special weapon, sponsored and developed by the Quartermaster Corps.

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