Good Boys: The War Dogs of World War 2

The Polish Army was not the only Allied power that got some help from the animal kingdom – so did the US government! The US military employed thousands of military working war dogs during World War Two. Additionally, Army, Marine Corps and Navy units unofficially adopted thousands of animals when they served in war-torn areas.

So, how did all these dogs end up fighting in World War 2? Keep scrolling to read about how these dogs became an incredible asset for the US military!

How Did These “War Dogs” End Up in WWII?

During their first six months involved in WWII, the US government realized the need for working dogs. There was a great fear of German and Japanese soldiers landing on US shores. So, huge numbers of sentry and guard dogs were needed for the big leagues! The military initially envisioned these dogs patrolling coastlines, protecting industrial facilities and guarding military bases from attack. But, there was just one problem: The US military had no dog program. They also could not wait to breed their own dogs.

Because of this, the Army launched the Dogs for Defense Program, which allowed patriotic citizens to donate their dogs for military service. They Initially accepted almost any breed. However, the Army soon narrowed down the list once they built training centers. Approximately 75% of dogs that ended up being recruited during the war were Doberman pinschers and 25% were German Shepherds. 

What Did War Dogs Do During WWII?

So, how many dogs did military forces adopt during WWII? It is estimated that 1,047 dogs were donated and trained for military service throughout the war. And photographic evidence from the National Archives shows that the practice was widespread. These war dogs successfully served in both the Pacific and European areas.

Working dogs were used as scouts, messengers and attack dogs. They were trained not to bark, alerting soldiers of Japanese presence through special signals. The trained dogs could also detect a human scent up to one-half mile away.

Dogs were also adopted by smaller units at the platoon and company level. Sometimes divisions even had official dog mascots. Though dog mascots were not expected to perform military functions, their role was crucial in keeping troops fighting. Regardless of how official it was, service members adopting animals proved to be a widespread practice. The dogs also a huge morale booster!

war dogs
An Army PFC takes his company’s mascot out for a walk in Leipzig, Germany, in April 1945. Photo found here

What Did The Dogs Do After the War Ended?

In 1945, the military retrained these dogs back to civilian life. All but four dogs were able to be retrained and re-homed. Though it was common to adopt cats, birds, goats and mules, dogs were by far the most popular choice among service members. 

Throughout World War Two, dogs played a crucial part in the US military. Military working dogs served in a variety of roles, both on the home front and in frontline combat. Numerous stories of dogs’ heroism solidified their use for future generations. Of the 1,047 dogs that served, 25 died during their service.

memorial for war dogs
Marine Corps war dog cemetery on Guam. Photo found here

To this day, the US military still uses dogs to fight in wars. Take a look at their intense training:

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