Since Memorial day was last weekend I thought I would take a moment to mention those few unsung heroes who rarely get featured but who do so much for us. They’re called War Dogs. Dogs used in warfare have a very long history. They were used by Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and many other nations as far back as 600 BC.
Many are trained in combat, scouts, sentries, guards, and trackers. Their uses are as varied and as heroic as they men who train them. Some of our greatest soldiers are cute, furry creatures who turned out to be man’s best friend. And we've used war dogs since the Revolutionary war. Many of them became military dogs quite by accident. Here are some of the greatest heroic wardogs in American history.
From Rags to Riches:
James Donovan an American AWOL WWI soldier in Paris stumbled upon an adorable Boston Terrier and when he was confronted by the military police he BSed his way back into his unit by telling them that he’d been searching for the unit’s mascot who ran away. Rags he named the dog. Well the story worked and Rags officially became the unit’s mascot.
When Donovan transferred to the frontline, he didn’t want to risk Rags’ life, so he left the little guy behind. The dog missed his new owner so much he tracked down Donovan in the trenches. Realizing the pup was good at tracking, Donovan adapted a secondary strategy: He taught Rags how to run messages between command and the frontline.
Rags took his new job seriously and never missed a beat. He learned the ropes, knew when to duck and soon the soldiers learned to mimick the dog because dogs have better hearing than humans. Rags saved his unit’s lives on several occasions by knowing when to duck from incoming artillery.
He became quite famous during his reign. But on July of 1918, Rags was charged with delivering an important message. Rags was caught out in the open when the German’s launched a gas attack, catching him without his doggy gas mask. Undeterred, he took a beating and delivered his message…then passed away.
Rags was a true hero and we must never forget his sacrifice.
The First Nemo:
Nemo the German Shepherd was a veteran of the Vietnam War. Trained as a sentry dog at Lackland Airforce Base in Texas, Nemo was then shipped to Vietnam in 1966. After his original handler returned stateside Nemo was paired with Airman Second Class Robert Thorneburg. The two formed a very close bond right away. On Dec. 3rd 1966, after a long night of fighting, Thorneburg and Nemo were on patrol when Nemo sensed something. Before Thorneburg could radio for backup, Thorneburg was shot in the shoulder and Nemo was shot in the muzzle. The bullet entered his right eye and exited through his mouth. Ignoring the wound, Nemo bolted for the gunmen and allowed Thorneburg the time to call for help. Both man and dog were rushed in for emergency treatment. Nemo’s right eye was removed and he received skin grafts on his wounds. He was flown home to Lacklund to live out the rest of his life with the very best Veterinary care on the Airforce base, a hero till the end. He died on March 15th 1973. Rest in peace my heroic friend.
These are just a few of the many heroic stories of war dogs. Those furry beasts we call friends all too often lay down their lives when called upon. Their loyalty knows no end and they will never turn their backs on you. Let’s remember to take a brief moment each memorial day to say thank you to those beautiful beasts who give so much for us as well as those who serve alongside them.
You can find more wonderful stories about heroic dogs here and here. And I’d like to give a big thank you to those who serve in uniform on both two legs and four. You can find out more about the War Dog memorial here.