World War I: Animals--Dogs


Figure 1.--The French and Germans trained thousands of dogs during World War I. They served as sentries, scouts, anunition and equipment carriers as well as to send messages. We are not yet sure what happened to these dogs after the War. The suspect that this Doberman photographed with an unidentifiefd German boy in the early-1920s was one of those dogs.

Dogs were also important in the War. The French and German armies in particular used dogs, mostly as sentries, scouts, anunition and equipment carries as well as to send messages. One report suggests that the dogs proved as reliable as soldiers in running messages. The complexities of World War I trenches is often not fully understood by modern readwers. This created a range of communication problems. Modern field communication were developing, but still basically crude. Thus human messengers were still widely used. (Cpl. Adolf Hitler was one of those messengers and he reportedly kept a dog.) Human messengers had a number of advantages. They could react to a variety of obstacles and could ask others to convey the message if wounded. They could operate motor vehicles increasing speed. Motor cycles were especially important. There were also disadvantages. Human messengers were large that enemy gunners often targeted. Vehicles had the same disadvantages. An during an offensive, enemy artillery would obliterate the often primitive or muddy roads. Dogs were one of the sollutions to the communications problem. Dogs were faster than a human runner and less dependant on roads and could move through very difficult terraine. They also presented a much more dofficult target for enemy snipers. Some oif these dog messengers accomplished virtually impossible tasks. A British dog traimed in Scotland carried a vital message 4 kilometers to a brigade's headquarters over "very difficult" terrain in less than a hour. Other efforts to convey the message had failed. The dogs had other uses in the trenches. They proved useful in killing rats in the trenches that became the princle battleground on the Western Front. They also provided companionship for men away from their families for extended time. The French and Germans trained about 50,000 dogs. This was the klargestest number of dogs ever used in warfare, but was only a fraction of the number used in World War II. The British established a dog training school in Scotland. When the Americans arrived in France, they did not have trained dogs. The British and Belgians loaned trained dogs to the Americans. We are not yet sure what happened to these dogs after the War.

Countries

Dogs were also important in the War. The French and German armies in particular used dogs. The French and Germans trained about 50,000 dogs. This was the largest number of dogs ever used in warfare, a testament to just how valuavle they were. It was, however, only a fraction of the number used in World War II. The British established a dog training school in Scotland. When the Americans arrived in France, not only were the AEF soldiers largely untrained, but they lacked trained dogs. The British and Belgians loaned trained dogs to the Americans. One American soldier did bring aof to france with him. Seargeeant Stubby though largely untrained proved to be the most honored and famous war dog of world war I. A stray terrier befriended Private J.Robert 'Bob' Conroy on the Connecticut National Guard training camp at Yale University before America entered the war. The two became inseparable. Conroy brought Stibby with him to France. Stubby became invaluable in the trenbches, among other skills hunting rats with a vengence. He came home a decorated war hero. His biographer writes, "Stubby;s YMCA card became part of the mascot's signature story. One honor led to the next .... Stubby became iconic, a sybol of the pluck, and fortitude, and mosest price of the boys who had crossed an ocean against steep odds and returned victorious. In short, the news media ate him up." [Bausum]

Uses

Dogs were used mostly as sentries, scouts, anunition and equipment carries as well as to send messages. One report suggests that the dogs proved as reliable as soldiers in running messages. The complexities of World War I trenches is often not fully understood by modern readwers. This created a range of communication problems. Modern field communication were developing, but still basically crude. Thus human messengers were still widely used. (Cpl. Adolf Hitler was one of those messengers and he reportedly kept a dog.) Human messengers had a number of advantages. They could react to a variety of obstacles and could ask others to convey the message if wounded. They could operate motor vehicles increasing speed. Motor cycles were especially important. There were also disadvantages. Human messengers were large that enemy gunners often targeted. Vehicles had the same disadvantages. An during an offensive, enemy artillery would obliterate the often primitive or muddy roads. Dogs were one of the sollutions to the communications problem. Dogs were faster than a human runner and less dependant on roads and could move through very difficult terraine. They also presented a much more dofficult target for enemy snipers. Some oif these dog messengers accomplished virtually impossible tasks. A British dog trained in Scotland carried a vital message 4 kilometers to a brigade's headquarters over "very difficult" terrain in less than a hour. Other efforts to convey the message had failed. The dogs had other uses in the trenches. They proved useful in killing rats in the trenches that became the princle battleground on the Western Front. They also provided companionship for men away from their families for extended time. We are not yet sure what happened to these dogs after the War.

Breeds

We think that the principal breed used in World war I was the Gernman shepherd. We are less sure about Doberman Pincers.

After the War

We do not have a lot of information about what happened to the war dogs after the War in Europe. Of course many were killed or wounded during the War and had to be put down. We think many German dogs also had to be euthenized because of the difficult economic conditions. We are not sure about France. The British had fewer dogs. One chnge in Britain was that the name of the German shepherd was changed to Alsatian because of the anti-German sentiment, the same sentiment that forced the Royal Family to change their name. The situation in America was different. There were very few German shepherds in America before World war I. They are virtually absent from the photographic record. This changged after the War. The American German shepherd dog club was not founded until just before thee War (1913). The War created great interest in the breed and an appreciation for its characteristics. American soldiers had come to admire the breed. Many returned with desire to own one. Others actually brought shepherds home with them. The intelligence and nobel ppearance of the breed caught the imagination of the dog owning public. And they were even chosen to beconme moviestats--Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart. My mom recalls her shepherd in the 1930s with great affection. These movies were churned out with the various interations of the "boy and his dog" theme. Some Americans clled them police dogs. What had been aather rare breed in America became one of the most popular breeds. The American Army, however, did not institute a dog training program.

Sources

Bausum, Ann. Sergeant Stubby: How a Stray Dog and his Best Friend Helped Win World war I ans Stole the Heart if a Nation (2014), 240p.






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Created: 8:22 AM 3/23/2011
Last updated: 10:13 PM 5/13/2014