Dogs In A RowSpeaking of what you might do for your government, I meant to post up this little nugget regarding war dogs yesterday, but got side-tracked.

From the wikipedia:

1943–1945: The United States Marine Corps used dogs, donated by their American owners, in the Pacific theater to help take islands back from Japanese occupying forces. During this period the Doberman Pinscher became the official dog of the U.S.M.C.; however, all breeds of dogs were eligible to train to be “war dogs of the Pacific”.

These dogs were accepted into service after being ‘volunteered’ by their human caretakers, or, if the movie Courage Of Lassie is to be believed, after being found stray.

A “basic training” period was initiated where dogs were trained to carry out certain fundamental commands such as sit, stay, come, etc… They were also accustomed to muzzles, gas masks, riding in military vehicles and to gunfire. –

After basic training, the dogs would specialize in a specific task, usually scout or guard duty, although occasionally in being messengers or mine-detectors.

The scout dog and his Quartermaster handler normally walked point on combat patrols, well in front of the infantry patrol. Scout dogs could often detect the presence of the enemy at distances up to 1,000 yards, long before men became aware of them. When a scout dog alerted to the enemy it would stiffen its body, raise its hackles, pricking his ears and holding its tail rigid. The presence of the dogs with patrols greatly lessened the danger of ambush and tended to boost the morale of the soldiers. –

Lessen the dangers of ambush, possibly, but not entirely negate them. I couldn’t find a casualty count for canine combatants during WWII, but I imagine being specifically used as the method of determining first contact would lead to quite a number of close encounters.LIFE War Dog

At the end of the war the Quartermaster Corps put into operation a plan for return of war dogs to their civilian owners. Dogs were sent to a reprocessing section for the purpose of rehabilitation for civilian life. Dogs were trained that every human was friendly and tested for such things as reaction to people riding around them on bicycles or placed in an area with a great amount of noise. Before return, each dog was given a final check by a veterinary officer. Shipment of the dog to the owner was made at government expense. Those dogs which the original owner did not desire were sold to the public by the Treasury Department with the assistance of Dogs for Defense. By early 1947 the return of all borrowed dogs was completed. –

Which almost seems like a more careful and tender-handed release process than most modern human soliders get these days.

The wikipedia:

Of the 549 dogs that returned from the war, only 4 could not be detrained and returned to civilian life.

Were these four dogs put down – or were they the start of a secret, elite K9 combat unit?
Pfc. Rez P. Hester, 7th War Dog Platoon, 25th Regt., takes a nap while Butch, his war dog, stands guard.  Iwo Jima, February 1945.  S.Sgt. M. Kauffman.