War Dogs: Man's Greatest Ally

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Man’s Greatest Ally
It is not a new idea to use dogs in combat; for thousands of years dogs have been used in war. Almost all of the greatest civilizations that have ruled have used dogs as key component in their military tactics. Historical records have shown that dogs were used as watch guards for the Egyptians during periods of war (specifically during the Middle Kingdom) and that the Romans made entire attack formations of dogs to help with their various land conquering campaigns. These dogs were bred for combat and were often given armor and spiked collars to make them more lethal in combat. In more recent years, dogs are used in other combat situations. In 1988, Israeli Special Forces used dogs as an attack force against a terrorist organization in Lebanon. In America, dogs have been used in combat for well over 180 years. Though the canine’s military missions and methods have changed since that 1830’s, their importance in combat remains just as critical. However, the public in general does not realize the significance of dogs in warfare as well as in homeland security.

In America, the first recorded use of dogs by the military was during the Second Seminole War in 1835. The military had hired five dog handlers and 33 bloodhounds to help track and detain the Seminoles and runaway slaves that were hiding in the swamps of Florida and Louisiana. Several states (New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Indiana) protested the use of dogs by the military and sent several petitions to Congress. Most of these protesters were Quakers that believed it was wrong to make these dogs hunt like savages. Though many petitions were sent, Congress dismissed all of the protests and allowed the military to use the dogs in combat.

Dogs were not used by the military for another 20 years. During the Civil War both the Union and the Confederate Armies recorded the use of dogs a mascots, sentries, and guards. Interestingly, the dogs were not supposed to assume these roles, originally their masters brought them into the military as a source of companionship, not protection. One of the most recognizable dogs during the Civil War was Sallie, a brindle bull terrier. Sallie joined the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry Unit at the beginning of the war as a pup and served the unit as source comfort, inspiration, and loyalty to their cause. In the heat of battle Sallie would bark and intimidate Confederate soldiers and lick the wounds of her fallen comrades. Sallie survived such battles as Gettysburg and Oak Ridge. Sallie met her untimely death at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia by a bullet to the head. Her unit cared about her so much that they buried her immediately, even though the battle was still raging on. There were several other dog mascots in the Civil War, though none matched the popularity of Sallie.

The use of dogs changed during the Spanish-American War from a relatively docile role to a more militarily useful function. It was recorded by Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders”, that dogs were scouts that helped navigate the dense jungle terrain in Cuba and patrols for the horses. This is also the first time in American military history that the dogs used were actually trained in navigation and protection tactics. Dogs were again used as mascots during the Spanish-American War for the military. In an old photograph, taken in 1900, the USS Texas (a vessel used during the war) depicted fellow crewman with their mascots--a cat and a dog (both unnamed).

The role of the dog expanded even more during the Great War. During this time period a vast amount of dogs were employed as: sentries, messengers, ammunition & food carriers, scouts, sled dogs, draught dogs (water carriers), guard dogs, Red Cross casualty dogs (carrying med packs), and even cigarette dogs. The German armies had a total of 30,000 dogs in service during the war, France had over 20,000, and Italy supplied the Allies with 3,000 dogs. Americans did not have any organized dog units and...
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