08 March 2007
In a time of war, it is good to honor those who have served. The many fine men and women who do their duty are to be cared for and honored. Wherever human beings go their animals go with them as workers, comfort and pets. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that the animals go to war. These loving and loyal companions are celebrating an aniversary today.
Beginning on 13 March 1942, the Quartermaster Corps ran the Army's so-called "K-9 Corps" and undertook to change these new recruits into good fighting "soldiers." The readily-used phrase "K-9 Corps" became a popular title for the War Dog Program in the 1940s and 50s. The term however is not official. Its origin lies in its phonetic association with the equally unofficial, alternative phrase "Canine Corps."
After World War II, the sentry dogs and the silent scout dogs continued to be of great value. The end of 1946 saw the beginning of the Quartermaster Corps "Dog Training Branch" at the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Quartermaster School in Lenggries, Germany.
Probably the most famous War Dog was Chips. Chips was donated by Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York, was trained at Front Royal, Virginia in 1942, and was among the first dogs to be shipped overseas. He was assigned to the 3d Infantry Division and served with that unit in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. His assignments included sentry duty at the Roosevelt-Churchill conference in Casablanca in January 1943. Although trained as a sentry dog, Chips was reported on one occasion by members of Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment, to have broken away from his handler and attacked a pillbox containing an enemy machine gun crew in Sicily. He seized one man and forced the entire crew to surrender. He was also credited by the units to which he was assigned as having been directly responsible for capture of numerous enemy by alerting to their presence. In recognition of his service Chips was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, both were later revoked. In 1993 Disney produced a TV move about Chips called "Chips the War Dog".
Dogs continue to serve the armed forces. In the Korean War the Army used about 1,500 dogs.. During the Vietnam War about 4,000 dogs were employed. Of these 281 were officially killed in action. Most recently dogs have been deployed in the Persian Gulf War and now to Iraq for Mine Detection. An effort is currently underway to to petition the U.S. Postal Service for a stamp honoring military working dogs.