They delivered communications, watched over posts and supplies, and saved downed pilots. Scout dogs guided forces across hostile territory, revealing ambushes and sparing platoons of soldiers’ lives. War dogs repeatedly demonstrated their wit, bravery, and unwavering loyalty while engaged in warfare.
How were dogs used by the Germans during World War Two?
One of the U.S. Air Force’s German Shepherd dogs, Afola, waits for orders from her handler. (Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson took this shot of the U.S. Air National Guard.) Visit the MWDTSA website to find out how you can help military working dogs that have been deployed to combat areas abroad.
Development of German Shepherd Dogs as a Breed and Early Trials
German Army Captain Max von Stephanitz created the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) between 1899 and 1914 as a working dog. The qualities of intellect, loyalty, commitment, and tenacity required for military and police applications were refined through many years of selective breeding by Stephanitz. Stephanitz sent these new dogs to German police departments—the first K9 Corps—in an effort to demonstrate the abilities of the new breed.
These new dogs demonstrated significant potential in skills including obedience, tracking, and protection during their time in training with the German police. Stephanitz thought the German military may also benefit from having these dogs. Stephanitz attempted to get GSDs added to German Military formations after these initial testing with German Police units. Stephanitz and his brand-new German Shepherd Dogs couldn’t have been there at a better time.
World War I
German Shepherd Dogs started working with the German military in 1914, at the start of World War I. They carried out a variety of duties both on the field of war and among the ranks of the German Army. These new canines worked as couriers, sentries, and transporters of ammo. They excelled in assisting soldiers who were injured on the battlefield. They even escorted blinded and hurt soldiers off the battlefield and toward safety. The GSD still performs a crucial role in the development of the first seeing eye dog as a result of the latter action by the new breed.
The soldiers on both sides of the conflict were initially amused by the employment of dogs on the battlefield but quickly became intrigued. They witnessed these new dogs accomplishing several brave deeds in risky and demanding circumstances. In fact, soldiers were so awestruck by the dogs’ talents that after the war, not only the Americans but also the English and Germans started breeding German Shepherd Dogs specifically for military use. When World War II started in 1939, GSDs would show their combat prowess once more.
World War II
The Germans used GSDs once more during World War II, and the United States started using them as well. U.S. GSDs mostly functioned as messengers, facilitating army communication on the front lines. Throughout the conflict, GSDs served as guard dogs and search and rescue canines. The GSDs excelled in each of these functions. As a result, numerous K-9 training facilities were built, and GSDs started receiving regular training for use in the American military.
The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps set up dog training facilities in Front Royal, VA, Fort Robinson, NE, Cat Island (Gulfport), MS, Camp Rimini (Helena), MT, and San Carlos, CA, starting in August 1942. 32 different breeds of dogs were initially accepted for training by the K-9 Corps.
But by 1944, the military had whittled that selection down to just seven breeds: Malamutes, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Siberian Huskies, Farm Collies. The only breed from that initial list that is currently trained by the U.S. Military is the German Shepherd Dog. The Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retrievers, who are currently being trained and deployed as Military Working Dogs, are modern additions (MWDs).
These K-9 Camps provided canines with training that lasted between 8 and 12 weeks and included “basic instruction to acclimate the dogs to military life. The canines would then proceed to a specific training program in one of four areas after completing this initial twelve-week training period: Training for scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs, mine detection dogs, or sentry dogs.
War Dog Platoons would be formed once the dogs and their handlers had successfully completed the specialized training. The military sent fifteen War Dog Platoons to the European and Pacific Theaters of War during World War II. Eight served in the Pacific Theater, while seven served in the European Theater. It has been said that no units were ever ambushed while on patrol with a War Dog Platoon in the Pacific Theater, thanks to the K-9s attached to those forces. German Shepherd Dogs made up a large portion of the dogs trained and used in WWII.
The Korean War
Due to a lack of participation and financial constraints after World War II, the military canceled and shut down the majority of the War Dog Programs. However, the 26th Scout Dog Platoon moved from Front Royal, Virginia to Fort Riley, Kansas in 1948 with some degree of continuity. The Military Police Corps took over responsibility for dog training on December 7th, 1951. Once more relocating to Fort Carson, Colorado, was the 26th Scout Dog Platoon.
The only War Dog Platoon that was still serving during the Korean War was the 26th Scout Dog Platoon. Between June 12th, 1951, and June 26th, 1953, it performed service in Korea with distinction and glory. A total of three Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars for valor, and 35 Bronze Stars for outstanding service were given to the members of the platoon. General Order No. 21 from the Department of the Army, issued on February 27th, 1953, acknowledged the platoon’s accomplishments.
Scout Dog York, a dog with the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon in Korea, shown exceptional effectiveness (011X). The last of York’s 148 combat patrols was conducted the day before the war’s official end with the signing of the Armistice. The War Dog Training Center was relocated from Fort Carson, Colorado to Fort Benning, Georgia, on July 1, 19571.
German Shepherds were mostly employed as sentry dogs during the early stages of the Vietnam War on Air Force facilities. However, as the conflict intensified, the US Marine Corps and US Army went into a service arrangement to have German Shepherds trained as scout dogs. The Marines had not employed scout dogs prior to this since World War II. In February 1966, two Marine scout dog platoons were sent to Vietnam.
Camp Kaiser, named for the first Marine scout dog killed in action in Vietnam, was where the Marines boarded their canines close to Da Nang. The 25th IPSD arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in June 1966, marking the beginning of the first Army scout dog platoon’s deployment to Vietnam. Four Marine Scout Dog Platoons and twenty-two Army Scout Dog Platoons, including the 47th IPSD, deployed to Vietnam between late 1965 and January 19692.
Four thousand canines and over 9,000 handlers participated in the Vietnam War. However, the end fate of the dogs after the war is a tragic and shameful chapter in the history of our military. The military at the time treated the dogs as equipment, and after the war, disposal of the canines was done in the most practical manner. The dogs were, at best, put down or just left to fend for themselves after being reluctantly surrendered to the South Vietnamese military for reasons that remain unknown. The beautiful and brave dogs that had so valiantly assisted our our soldiers on the battlefield were given the most terrible and shameful conclusion.
The public was outraged greatly by this tragic incident. In return, the military promised to refrain from getting rid of working canines in the same way in the future. Eventually, a bill was established by Congress that permits military canines to retire with distinction. In November 2000, a bill (H.R. 5314), which changed title 10 of the US Code, was signed by President Clinton. This made it possible for retired military working dogs to be adopted by their previous handlers and other qualifying civilians.
These military service dogs that save lives can now look forward to a cozy and respectable retirement.
German Shepherd Dogs: 9/11 and Beyond
Since the end of the Vietnam War, through the Cold War era, and up to the present day of international terrorism and asymmetric threats, German Shepherd Dogs have been a member of the US Military’s Military Working Dog program. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are the most popular dog breeds used by military personnel, according to a recent New York Times article, because they have the best overall combination of a keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence, and adaptability to almost any climatic condition.
Currently, the Army has 600 dog teams, which have served in Afghanistan and Iraq3. Since the K-9 Corps was founded, these dogs’ bravery and dedication have continued to save lives and stop injuries.
German Shepherds make up a large portion of the dogs in these teams right now, and they serve several purposes and carry out numerous tasks. German Shepherds are now used by Navy SEAL Teams and Special Operators to make HALO jumps and insert from vessels. These dogs are still respected soldiers of our armed forces and loyal defenders of our independence.
For many years to come, German Shepherd Dogs will probably continue to serve in our armed forces. They have distinguished themselves by serving in numerous regions and wars all around the world. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting MWD teams, please express your gratitude for their service to our nation.
What breeds of dogs were employed during World War Two?
When guerilla fighters in Central America started employing dogs as sentries to alert the army in 1935, the U.S. Marine Corps became interested in using dogs. In World War I, the Germans also used canine troops. As a result, during World War II, dogs were used as scouts, couriers, and infantry dogs. These canines were perfect for the lush tropical foliage of the Pacific islands.
The war dog training school was located in Camp LeJuene, North Carolina, and canines there started off with the rank of private before they were able to surpass their handlers in rank. At Camp LeJeune, seven War Dog Platoons underwent training.
The Doberman pinscher was the breed of choice for the battle dog. In order to fulfill his own need for a devoted, submissive, and ferociously protective dog to accompany him on his rounds as a tax collector, German tax collector Louis Doberman initially created this adaptable breed in the Apolda area of Germany. Later, in 19th-century Germany, the dogs underwent police dog training. Doberman pinschers made up about 75% of the fighting dogs deployed during World War II, with German Shepherds making up 25%. The public was able to lend their family dogs to the Marine Corps through a nonprofit group called Dogs for Defense. Many of the battle dogs were also provided by the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.
For six weeks, each dog underwent a rigorous obedience training program. The dogs were placed into groups for specialized training as scout, messenger, or infantry after receiving their basic training. First, the handler and scout dogs were sent out to search for mines or hostile soldiers. Dog messengers would bring supplies or letters while tracing their handler’s footsteps. The troops were made aware of the enemy’s presence by infantry dogs.
Since they had been taught not to bark, the dogs utilized signals to notify the soldiers to the presence of the Japanese. A human scent could be located by the dogs up to half a mile away. None of the War Dog platoons were ambushed by the Japanese during the conflict. During World War II, each of the seven War Dog platoons engaged in combat in different Pacific islands such as Guam, Okinawa, and Guadalcanal.
The combat Dog Platoons were abolished in August 1945. Several of the canines stayed with their handlers while others were retrained for civilian life and returned to their homes. During the conflict, 1,047 dogs enlisted, of which 465 participated in active duty. During the war, 25 dogs lost their lives while serving in the Pacific.
“The first War Dog Memorial, a life-size bronze of a Doberman pinscher, was unveiled on the U. S. Naval Base on Guam during the 50th anniversary of the liberation of that island thanks to the efforts of Dr. William W. Putney, a WWII veteran and member of a War Dog unit. -Dana Prince
When did dogs enter World War II?
In front of the Suffolk County Executive Building in Hauppauge, New York, is a monument honoring military dogs.
Many cultures have utilized dogs in battle. Their goals have significantly evolved as combat has developed. 
- Mid-seventh century BC: Each of the Ephesians’ riders had a battle dog and a companion carrying a spear during their Maeander-based war against Magnesia. The initial attack involved dogs, which shattered the enemy lines. Next, a spear attack was launched, and finally a cavalry charge.  A Magnesian horseman named Hippaemon was buried beside his dog Lethargos, his horse, and a spearman, according to an epitaph. 
- At the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BC, Cambyses II employed a psychological strategy against the Egyptians by positioning dogs and other animals in the front line to successfully exploit their religious veneration of animals.
- A dog that accompanied his hoplite owner into battle against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC is remembered on a mural.
- 480 BC: When Xerxes I of Persia invaded Greece, he was accompanied by sizable packs of Indian dogs. They might have been employed for sport or hunting, or they might have served in the military, but this is unknown. 
- Lysimachus was killed in the Battle of Corupedium in 281 BC. His body was found on the battlefield, preserved, and being watched over carefully by his devoted dog.
- Marcus Pomponius Matho, the Roman consul, commanded the Roman troops as they crossed Sardinia’s interior in 231 BC. Guerrilla warfare was waged by the locals against the invaders. To find the inhabitants who tried to hide in the caves, the Romans used “hounds from Italy.” 
- Bituito, king of the Arverni, engaged the consul Fabius’s little Roman army with just the dogs he had on hand in 120 BC.
- 1500s: Spanish conquistadors frequently used mastiffs and other huge breeds against Native Americans.
- 1914–18: Important communications were delivered by dogs for multinational forces. A million or so dogs were lost throughout the conflict. Sergeant Stubby, a Bull Terrier or Boston Terrier, was the only canine to be nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through fighting. He has been dubbed the most decorated military dog of World War I.  Honored in connection with a Smithsonian Institution exhibition.   He is credited with several more achievements, including the apprehension of a German spy.  He was also adopted as Georgetown University’s mascot. Another well-known dog from World War I was Rags.
- 1941–1945: With limited success, the Soviet Union used explosive-strapped dogs to fend off German invasion tanks.
- In the Pacific Theater during the years 1943–1945, the United States Marine Corps employed dogs that had been donated by their American owners to aid in reclaiming islands from the Japanese occupiers. All breeds of dogs were allowed to be trained to be “war dogs of the Pacific” at this time, though the Doberman Pinscher eventually became the USMC’s official canine. Only four of the 549 canines who came back from the war could not be put back into civilian life. Many of the dogs returned from the war with their handlers.  During World War II, Chips received the most awards as a war canine.
- 1966–1973: The US Army did not keep records prior to 1968; approximately 10,000 US service members served as dog handlers during the war; it is estimated that over 10,000 lives were saved by K9 units; 232 military working dogs and 295 US service members serving as dog handlers were killed in action during the war. 200 Vietnam War canines are thought to have survived the conflict and were transferred to other US locations abroad. The surviving dogs were put to sleep or abandoned.