Research / Analysis
In Pennsylvania, citizens were willing to do anything and everything possible to help the war effort, from the purchase of war bonds to the donation of dogs to the armed forces. Our two posters focus on war dogs. Dogs for Defense Inc. resulted in Americans giving over 17,000 dogs to the armed services.

The War Dogs movement is . . . a little known historical element of World War II, even though these dogs undoubtedly made a [huge] difference to millions of soldiers. From saving lives, to serving as companions in [lonely outposts], the dogs were placed in a multitude of areas, and excelled in all.

At the very top of Poster 1, the Anthracite Kennel Club is advertising a local dog show . . . with all the proceeds going to Dogs for Defense Inc. Poster 1 would catch the attention of a passerby on the street with the image of a soldier and dog, and the bold lettering. Poster 2 is a simple sign, with the image of a paw, entitled, “War Dogs.” The text attempts to persuade the reader into helping the cause.

The donations came from a wide variety of people. The elderly sacrificed their old trustworthy dogs, while little boys gave away their best friends. There were even cases where convicts who were unable to serve instead sent their dogs across the world to battle in their name.1

Different areas of the armed forces requested different breeds. The Coast Guard, for example, relied on the German shepherd because of its strong body build, weather-resistant fur, and proven intelligence. The Marines, on the other hand, looked to Doberman Pinchers as their dog of choice.2 Dogs were recruited for “alertness, endurance, strength, tractability, speed, ability to withstand exposure and to swim well.”3 These dogs were subject to intense training, ensuring that they were ready for battle. In combat situations, the dogs would be subject to loud explosions, smoke, fires, and armed enemy soldiers, and thus had to be able to withstand such conditions.

By May 25, 1945, the army requested sixteen hundred more war dogs for the battle against the Japanese. The dogs proved to be vital in the Solomons where Japanese snipers in camouflage seemed to be invisible to the naked human eye. The dogs spotted snipers, as well as advancing patrols, before their human comrades could see them.

While it may seem impossible, the dogs even learned to climb ladders . . . carry dispatch messages from one base to another, and string telephone wire (a dog could lay half a mile of wire in five minutes, much faster than a man alone could). Some dogs even had cages attached to their backs so that they could deliver carrier pigeons to the battlefront.4 One of the most amazing advancements was that the dogs were trained to wear gas masks. Given the changing nature of battle, they had to be prepared to run without fear through burning gases.5

Some dogs became war heroes in their own right. Of all the dogs, Chips stands alone at the top, with an unmatched record of distinguished accomplishments. Known for running through streams of bullets, this German Shepherd saved his troops by taking control of an enemy pillbox in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender, despite the fact that they had a machine gun.6 Chips won the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for his heroics. He met Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower (whom he bit), Prime Minister Churchill, and stood guard at the Casablanca Conference.7

Although the program, and the contributions of the dogs, are not widely recognized, the War Dogs proved, through their valor and innate abilities, to have been a great benefit to American forces. The military dogs often battled to the death, yet were almost immediately forgotten after the war by the general public. For this reason, we believe that these dogs deserve honors and distinctions, just as any other soldiers would receive.

1”Convict Can’t Enlist So He Sends His Dog,” New York Times, 25 January 1942.
2“Service Men Seek Canine Recruits,” New York Times, 20 December 1942.
3H. I. Brock, “Mentioned in Dispatches,” New York Times, 23 January 1944.
4Fairfax Downey, “War Dogs,” Los Angeles Times, 7 June 1942.
6H. I. Brock, “Our K-9 Commandos,” New York Times, 4 February 1945.


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