the service of dogs in the armed forcesd

This was sent to my email: thought I’d share.

Fold3: Original military records online


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Find: War Dogs of World War II


Unlike many other countries, when the United States entered World War II, they didn’t have a canine corps. But the military came to believe that dogs would prove an asset, so in 1942 awar dog program was introduced. Since the country was already at war, the military needed a large number of dogs right away, so they asked Americans to volunteer their pet dogsfor service in the Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.

In the beginning, they accepted almost any kind of medium- to larger-size dog, but they eventually found that some breeds were better for service than others and limited the accepted breeds mainly to German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies, Giant Schnauzers, Airedale Terriers, Rottweilers, Huskies, Malamutes, Eskimo dogs and mutts that were predominantly any of those breeds.

Americans volunteered almost 20,000 of their beloved pets, but only about half of that number were accepted and trained. Of those, only around 2,000 were finally sent overseas; the rest were used stateside.

The vast majority of dogs the military accepted were trained as sentry dogs. These dogs were used as guard dogs at various types of military installations and by the Coast Guard to patrol shorelines. Also highly valued, by both the Army and the Marines, were scout dogs. These dogs went ahead of patrols and silently alerted their handlers if they sensed anyone nearby.

There were other types of dogs trained by the military, but they were used less than sentry and scout dogs. These included sled and pack dogs, mine detection dogs, and messenger dogs.

Sled dogs at work in AlaskaAfter the war ended, the dogs were “demilitarized” and taught to socialize and act like normal dogs again. Dogs that successfully completed that process were sent back to their original owners—if the owners still wanted them. If the dogs were unwanted, they were either adopted by their former handlers or sold to new families. Want to see these war dogs? On Fold3, you can find a few photos of WWII’s canine soldiers and the men who worked with them:

  • A photo of “Ricky,” half collie, half shepherd, of the 6th War Dog Platoon, crawling into mouth of a cave on Iwo Jima
  • A photo of a Huskie sled team helping to rescue the crew of a downed Douglas C-47 in Alaska
  • A photo of Casimir P. “Casey” Gorajec of the U.S. Army’s Canine Corps in New Caledonia

Learn more about Word War II topics in Fold3’s World War II Collection!


  1. The first war dogs of WWII were given to the Army in the Phillipines, after Pearl Harbor, by a woman who raised and trained standard poodles. The breed is very intelligent and easy to train, can be loyal to a whole group of men, and their keen intelligence makes them great alert dogs for the perimeter of bases or warehouses. However, the Army found they weren’t always the best attack dogs because their disposition wasn’t usually vicious.

    However, Napoleon had a large poodle war dog. He let his dog’s hair grow, then had it combed out to make the dog appear even larger in stature. He used this dog when he attacked the Russians to help lead the French troops. The Russians shot at the dog, always missing, because the extended hair was a great camouflage. The didn’t understand why it didn’t die. The French color bearer was shot and the poodle picked up the colors and carried them into battle. The French soldiers loved the dog who bonded to all of them. When they returned to France, a statute was built in Paris to honor “Moustache,” the French war dog.

    Poodles are extremely loyal. They they are as fast as greyhounds because they are built the same, long legs, lean, and deep chested for good air capacity. They really aren’t French dogs, they are German water retrievers and the fussy haircut was purposely developed by their trainers for their work retrieving water fowl.

    John West ran teams of standard poodles in the Iditarod for about eight years. While they did well, they don’t have a double (winter) coat which was the final deciding factor to not run them in such a extreme climate.

    They are the only dog where all three sizes, toy, miniature, and standard, are genetically identical. The bred is so old that they are shown on Trajan’s column in Rome.

    From my research on the web before I got my first poodle. Best dog I’ve ever had and, by far, the smartest and best mannered.

    Laura Ellene Tynes

    • I have a standard poodle Jacque 6 years old. I have had many wonderful dogs but he is so unique! He learned to surf too. Very athletic. A parti.poodle. White with brown spots!

  2. I went through High School with a black standard poodle named Mimi…named for the Chevalier song. She belonged to our favourite Teacher, and actually FOLLOWED THE BELLS. When the first bell rang, she’d stand by the door, and wait until we were seated, Then, she’d go to each one of us, and touch “nose to knee”. (It was a small school, with about 12 students per section) After the greeting, she would lie down by the desk, and learn History until the exit signal of two bells. I knew her from 8th through 12th grades, and I know she was there at least 3 years after I graduated, Mimi was a very wise dog, with a very deep heart, and I miss her still..

  3. My father had one dog when he was growing up, a German Shepard named, Buddy. When we asked what happened to Buddy, he told us that the Army took him. My father never had another dog his entire life. Since he died, I found a photo of Buddy that I had never seen. Are there any records tracking these donated dogs?

  4. I live in Bermuda and during World War II we acquired an Irish Terrier whom we named “Chips”. He came here from Boston, where the sailors stole him, on a Greek ship with a huge list. Initially he walked sideways but soon became a very loving pet. He only needed to be corrected once for any misdeed. We lived close to a home for elderly ladies and when he went there he greeted each lady in turn. He was struck by a motor cyclist and died of internal bleeding. On the night of his death he tried to get to the home to bid farewell to the ladies. Naturally we will always miss him but our memories of him are very happy.

  5. My family “donated” Dutch to the Marine Corps. He was a Doberman and served in the Pacific then came back to be my gentle babysitter. How can I find out more about his service???

  6. My mother’s family had a dog, Cinders, that was donated for duty. We have a certificate from the War Department expressing appreciation for “…your patriotic action in donating your dog…”.
    She was returned to the family at the end of the war; Mom remembers being told that she had worked with the Coast Guard. I also have a picture (was published in the Brigeport Post, 1946) taken of all of the family males who had participated in WWII, with Cinders in the picture!

  7. I hadn’t known about this. Very interesting. I can’t imagine knowingly & voluntarily sending my pet off to war. Thank you for sharing it. I’ve included your post in my Noteworthy Reads post for this week:

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