The Quiet Americans - A History of Military Working Dogs Part 2
Reprinted with permission from
Ron Aiello President The United States War Dog Association and credit to SSgt Tracy L. English Office of History 37th Training Wing Lackland AFB, 15 December 2000
The Quiet Americans: A History of Military Working Dogs
The Belgians and Russians followed closely behind Germany in their use of military dogs. The French used dogs for transportation purposes mainly with light carts carrying food and supplies.
France had one canine training center, the Army Kennel for casualty dogs, at Fontainebleau. It was rumored that the French government encouraged the experimental use of dogs in areas other than rescue.
In all, many European countries continued with use of dogs in one form or another up until the start of World War I.
Germany had, by far, the most experience with training dogs for war. However, France and Great Britain made greater use of them as messengers during WWI than Germany.
The advantages of using the four-legged messengers were too plentiful to ignore.
The animals were less likely to get captured than a human messenger, and less likely to get shot. Furthermore, sets of dogs were trained to run along the front lines and others to run to the back of the fighting to deliver messages.
At the start of World War I, America had no program for training dogs, or for that matter, using dogs in any capacity. The Quartermaster Corps of the Army had responsibility for procuring horses and mules.
Riding horses were purchased for the cavalry for the purpose of training officers. Draft horses hauled field artillery and pack mules were used to carry supplies in areas with no roads (such as in Alaska and the Philippines).
During WWI, the Remount services procured over 500,000 horses and mules, but failed to procure a suitable number of riding horses.
To this end, the Remount branch of the Army began a special breeding program to secure the better breeds needed by the Army. The Army distributed the better stallions among civilian breeders for the program. Even though the civilians would own the offspring, the Army would use this as a ‘reservoir’ for horses in an emergency.
The first modern push for the use of dogs in the military had purely patriotic origins.
In the late 1930’s and early forties, many influential breeders had formed groups to urge the military to use dogs. One of the most famous groups was "Dogs for Defense," led by a group of professional breeders, they came into being immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Along with help from the American Kennel club, the group aimed their goals at promotion, coordination and financial assistance to develop a large trained canine force for use in civilian plants and in the Army if the call ever came.
Without the formation of this group, the military might have had a harder time starting its program. As it stood, the Dogs for Defense group had an efficient organization for procuring and training dogs from across the wide spectrum of canine groups that existed.
This fact was not lost on Colonel Russell A. Osmun, Chief of the Plant Protection and Public Relations Branch of the Office of the Quartermaster General. Colonel Osmun, who had a long time interest in the use of dogs in the Army, was instrumental in starting the instruction of dogs for sentry duty at the Quartermaster installations on the West Coast.
The first East Coast military establishment to receive sentry dogs was Fort Hancock, New Jersey. Then commanding officer General F.S. Gage reported that due to the fact that the base was practically blacked out at night, with a sentry and a dog, it was like having two sentries on guard.