In January 1942, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), the American Kennel Association and Dogs for Defense mobilized dog owners across the country to donate working dogs to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps. This spawned the beginning of the U.S. military working dog program.
Military war dog training centers were founded, organized, staffed and funded at various locations throughout the country (e.g. Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Robinson, Nebraska Camp; Rimini, Montana; San Carlos, California; Gulfport, Mississippi; Fort Washington, Maryland; Beltsville, Maryland; Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Front Royal, Virginia).
The training time for a working dog and handler varied between 8-12 weeks and produced the following dog jobs for military use and deployment in the Pacific and Europe during WWII:
- Fixed Sentry Duty Dogs
- Scout Dogs
- Wire Laying Dogs
- Pack and Pull Dogs
- Mine Detection Dogs
- Roving Patrol Messenger Dogs
- Sled Dogs
By late 1944, the number of preferred breeds had been reduced to seven.
- German Shepherd: Their keen nose, power, courage, adaptability and trainability made the German shepherd the preeminent choice of all the breeds used during World War II.
- Doberman Pinscher: Possessed nervous energy, speed, power, keen nose, tractability and exceptional agility. Second to the German shepherd, the Doberman was the second most desired breed for scouting and sentry duty.
- Collie: His traits were speed, alertness, endurance and tractability and trained as a messenger.
- Belgian Sheep Dog: Alert and loyal dogs were trained as messengers.
- Eskimo: Sled dog could haul double its body weight; and average from twenty to thirty miles daily on long trips. Trained as a Pack and Pull Dog and Wire Laying Dog.
- Alaskan Malamute: The oldest and best of the sled breeds, with “snow shoe” type feet, endowed with thick pads and hair to cushion between the toes. Trained as a Pack and Pull Dog and Wire Laying Dog.
- Siberian Husky: Another sled dog breed, with feet well adapted for traction over ice and snow; along with speed, endurance and ability to work in a team. Trained as a Pack and Pull Dog and Wire Laying Dog.Tattooed Ears and Service Records: Each World War II War Dog was tattooed on the inside of one ear. Their number was recorded in their service record along with their call name, breed, date of birth and date of enlistment. Notes were kept on the type of training each dog underwent, physical examinations and treatments, unit of assignment, combat missions performed (successes and failures) and injuries or wounds sustained.
World War II – Pacific Theater
William W. Putney – 1944 Marine Lieutenant & Veterinarian commanded the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon’s beach landing that helped liberate Guam from the Japanese. The Marine Doberman Pincers and their handlers served as sentries, messengers and scouts. Twenty-five of Lieutenant Putney’s war dogs gave their lives in the liberation of Guam and were buried there in a War Dog Cemetery with name markers.
“BRUCE” – Brand Number T178: February 17, 1945 at 0315 hours, the Japanese launched a banzai attack in Northern Luzon Island against “E” Company, 27th Infantry. Bruce viciously attacked three Japanese infantrymen advancing in the darkness with fixed bayonets towards his foxhole containing two wounded American soldiers. Bruce’s saved their lives.
“BUSTER” – Brand Number A684: 1944 – While operating as a Messenger War Dog with “F” Company 155th Infantry Regiment on Morotai Island, Buster was directly responsible for saving the lives of an entire patrol of 17 men. Buster’s determination carried him through heavy enemy machine gun and mortar fire on a total of two dangerously long trips delivering instructions for the patrol to hold its position as help was on its way. Bruce was credited for the reinforcements that arrived in time to repel and defeat the entire Japanese force.
The American war dog teams helped defeat the Japanese military forces on Guam, Luzon, Morotai, Okinawa, Guadalcanal and many other pacific islands.
World War II – European Theater
“CHIPS” – Brand Number 11A, a German Shepherd Sentry Dog assigned to the 1st War Dog Detachment was the most highly decorated War Dog of World War II. Chips was trained at Front Royal, Virginia in 1942 at the age of 2-years.
Chips first served in General Patton’s Africa campaign and also waded ashore with the 3rd Division of Patton’s Seventh Army as it swept into battle in Sicily. Chips was the first canine in military history to be awarded the Silver Star for heroism and Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. His medals were later revoked by the War Department because medals were meant for humans and not War Dogs.
The Quartermaster Corps issued two military certificates honoring thousands of America’s war dogs deployed during World War II:
- Certificate of Merit – given to owners of dogs killed in action.
- Discharge Certificate – given to canines leaving military service.