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The United States War Dogs Association

Public Information

Anna M. Waller
Department of the Army
Office of the Quartermaster General

Study on the history of War Dog training and utilization during and after World War II.

(Part 1)


Section I - War Dogs in World War II

History of Military Use of Dogs

While the horse and mule were rapidly passing from the military scene the Army during World War II, ventured into a new and comparatively untried field of activity - the use of dogs for military purposes. Even though it had utilized a few dogs in minor roles earlier, it was not until World War II that they were used to any significant extent as auxiliaries to our fighting men when trained for sentry, messenger, scout, sled and pack duties. However the use of dogs for such purposes was by no means new to the world.

The extraordinary characteristics of the dog - acuteness of his senses, his docility, his affection for man, his watchfulness, and his speed enable him to be of great value for military purposes. This fact was recognized centuries ago. As methods of warfare changed through the ages, so did the military use of dogs change.

Prior to the introduction of gunpowder, dogs usually took an active part in combat. The early Greek and Roman soldiers made use of large dogs by equipping them with spike collars and sending them forward to attack the enemy. During the Middle Ages, war dogs were outfitted with armor and frequently were used to defend caravans. The North American Indians developed the dog for pack and draft work as well as for sentry duty. By the early part of the twentieth century most European countries were utilizing dogs in their armies. Russia used ambulance dogs during the Russo-Japanese War. The Bulgarians and Italians employed dogs as sentries in the Balkans and in Tripoli, as did the British on the Abor Expedition in the Himalayas. During the long drawn-out Spanish-Morocco War the Riffs camouflaged the animals in garments to make them indistinguishable from their owners in the hazy desert visibility and trained them to run along the front lines and draw the fire of the Spaniards, thus revealing gun positions.

Dogs were used in sizable numbers in World War I, particularly by the Germans, French, and Belgians, and proved of considerable value under advantageous conditions for certain types of auxiliary duties. The German Army is reported to have utilized approximately 30.,000 of the animals for messenger and ambulance service, The French and Belgian Armies employed them on a smaller scale for messenger, ambulance, and draft work.

In the Spring of 1918, during World War I, a recommendation was made by G-5. General Headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces that dogs be used as sentries, messengers, patrol aids and for special supply missions. It was proposed to procure 500 dogs from French training centers every three months to equip American Divisions with 228 each; training to extend to the United States, five kennels with 200 dog capacity each. However, the project was disapproved by G-3, General Headquarter, and the matter dropped.

At the time of Pearl Harbor, the sled dog was the only working type


to be found in the Army. About fifty of these animals were assigned to military stations in Alaska, where they-were employed when snow and ice precluded the use of horses mules or motorized transportation. Apart from the animals in Alaska, the only other sled dogs were the forty obtained from the Byrd Antarctic Expedition on its return early in 1941. They were used by the Air Corps Ferrying Command in rescuing airmen forced down in snowbound and desolate parts of Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland.

Origin of the War Dog Program

The Army still had no plans for training dogs when the United States entered World War II. -That such a program eventually was adopted was due partly to the enthusiastic support given the idea by the major organizations of dog owners and breeders and partly to the vision of a few military men who foresaw various ways in which dogs could be used to excellent advantage. As soon as it became apparent that the United States might become actively involved in the new global conflict fanciers of dogs pointed out the possible value of the animals to the Armed Forces, and leaders of several prominent dog organizations turned their attention to developing training techniques that might be militarily useful, particularly for sentry and casualty work.

The attack upon Pearl Harbor and the sudden entry of the United States into the war greatly stimulated interest in the use of dogs for sentry duty, With the rapid expansion of industrial plants and Army installations, the potential damage that might be done by saboteurs enemy aliens, and fascist-minded groups was constantly mounting, and precautionary measures were required. The necessity for such measures was further emphasized early in 1942 when German submarines began to operate in large numbers near the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and landing of expert saboteurs loomed as a distinct possibility. Dog fanciers were not slow to point out that the animals might be extremely valuable auxiliaries if they were attached to Coast Guard beach patrols then being organized to prevent such landings and if they were used as guards at industrial plants and Army installations.

Role of Dogs for Defense Inc. as Procurement Agency

Meanwhile -steps were being taken to establish a national organization to guide the patriotic purpose of dog owners along constructive lines, Outstanding among the leaders of this movement were Mrs. Milton Erlanger, prominent dog breeder and exhibitor Arthur Kilbon, who for years had written articles about dogs for the New York Sun and other publications under the pseudonyms, Arthur Roland and Roland Kilbon; Harry I. Caesar, who was elected President of the newly formed organization, Dogs for Defense and Len Brumby head of the Professional Dog Handlers Association,, The result was the establishment of Dogs for Defense, Inc.,*

*See Appendix I for List of Board of Directive, Dogs for Defense Inc. (Not included in this Document)


which was designed to serve as a clearing house for coordinating the various attempts to develop interest in sentry dogs. This new group obtained the cooperation of the American Kennel Club, which as the registration body for all pure-bred dogs, wielded a strong influence among owners and fanciers. The most powerful professional and amateur influences thus were mobilized to assist in launching Dogs for Defense in January 1942. Funds to finance the operation of Dogs for Defense were to be obtained through member clubs of the American Kennel Club and by donation from individual financiers. The animals were to be acquired by donation trained at kennels under the supervision of Dogs for Defense, and distributed for use where they were most needed, Regional offices were to conduct most of the work actually required in connection with procurement and training.**

Shortly after the establishment of Dogs for Defense, the American Theatre Wing War Service made a formal offer to donate dogs to the Quartermaster Corps for defense purposes. In view of the mounting interest in sentry dogs and the fact that the Army had no regular means of obtaining them The Quartermaster General asked permission of the Secretary of War to accept the dogs without cost to the Government. The authority was granted in February.. Inasmuch as the organization of the Theatre Wing group did not lend itself readily to the actual procurement and training of dogs, officials of Dogs for Defense agreed to assume these responsibilities.

The program embarked upon was experimental because canine supply and training, except in connection with sled dogs were entirely new tasks for the Army. It was designed primarily to provide a test of the usefulness of dogs at Quartermaster Installations. Supervision of the new program was assigned initially to the Plant Protection Branch, Inspection Division OQMG (Office of The Quartermaster General) on the theory that dogs would be used chiefly with guards at civilian war plants and Quartermaster depots. Original estimates listed requirements at only 200 animals.

To fill this order, Dogs for Defense asked qualified trainers to volunteer their services without pay and called for the donation of animals and the use of-private kennels for instructional purposes. Donations of 100 acceptable dogs were soon obtained but none of the kennels offered was sufficiently large to carry on the training of so many animals- so it was necessary to maintain a dozen small training centers in various parts of the country. This meant that standardization of instruction was impossible. Moreover, few animals were actually delivered to using agencies. An Army inspection made in June, three months after the program began, revealed that the dogs in training had made little progress. This was due largely to the fact that available instructors generally were inexperienced in teaching sentry dogs and unfamiliar with military conditions most of them having specialized in preparing animals for routine obedience tests or for field trail work. Another striking weakness of the program was the failure to teach men to handle the dogs. This defect however, was due primarily to the fact that the Army did not make enlisted personnel available for this purpose.

Partly because of the discouraging conditions, under which Dogs for

**See Appendix 11 for List of 'Regional Directors, Dogs for Defenses, Inc. (Not included in this Document)


Defense conducted its activities and partly because the demand for sentry dogs was beginning to outstrip the original limited conception of the number required, a new training program was developed in the summer of 1942, The first step toward formulating such a program was the transfer of the responsibility for procuring, handling, and training dogs from the Plant Protection Branch to the Remount Branch. The extensive and specialized organization of the Remount Branch its long experience in dealing with animals and its strategically located depots made it the logical agency to handle an enlarged program. Inasmuch as it was still intended to use only sentry dogs and these largely at civilian plants the responsibility for the issue was retained for the time being in the Plant Protection Branch but this function too was shifted to the Remount Branch in September. This realignment of functions meant that while Dogs for Defense lost its training function, it retained the procurement function by delegation from the Remount Branch.

Evidence that military interest was developing in the potentialities of war dogs for tactical purposes was demonstrated early in July 1942 when Headquarters, Army Ground Forces announced plans to utilize 100 messenger and scout dogs and 100 sled dogs in the proposed Mountain Division, and submitted a request for eleven of these dogs in November for use in a test at Camp Hale in Colorado. Another token of interest in tactical dogs was the request made by Army Ground Forces a short time later for specially selected animals for experimental training in message carrying wire-laying, pack-carrying, first-aid, scout., attack., and trail work.

Formal recognition of the possible military value of dogs came on 16 July 1942., when the Secretary of War directed The Quartermaster General to broaden the scope of the War Dog Program to include training for roving patrol messenger and sled work in addition to fixed sentry duty. Instruction in this latter category it was pointed out, should be modified to meet the needs of the Army Air Force in guarding air fields, and possible uses by other agencies. This directive also ordered the Army Ground Forces, the Army Air Force and the theaters of operations "to explore the possibilities of using dogs advantageously in the various activities under their control."

Pending the determination of military needs, The Quartermaster General was ordered not only to conduct training of dogs in the four categories but also to teach handlers, develop training techniques, and establish schools capable of rapid expansion. Thus the program originally based on the assumption that dogs would be employed only in small numbers and only for fixed sentry duty at industrial plants and Quartermaster installations became one based on the supposition that these animals might be utilized generally for a wide variety of tactical purposes by other arms and services.

The functions of the Quartermaster Corps expanded still further in the fall of 1942 when the Corps was made responsible for procuring and training dogs for the Navy and the Coast Guard. This was an out- growth of the steady increase in demand for dogs among the Armed Forces.


The Coast Guard required dogs in mounting numbers for its beach patrols and the Navy needed them for sentry duty at its yards, air stations ordnance plants,, and ammunition depots.

At this time Mrs. Milton Erlanger, mentioned earlier as having been one of the most enthusiastic leaders in organizing Dogs for Defense Inc. entered on duty as Expert Consultant to The Quartermaster General in setting up the War Dog Program, unofficially known as the "K-9 Corps". While this title was never officially adopted, it became the popular title of the Program, obviously due to its phonetic association with the words "canine corps". Mrs. Erlanger worked directly with the then Chief of Remount Branch Colonel E. M. Daniels, in formulating plans for the procurement of "suitable dogs and for their training as well as the recruitment of personnel for the latter function. By reason of her many years’ experience as a dog fancier breeder exhibitor and judge of shows she was eminently fitted for this position. She authored the Training Manual known as TM 10-396-WAR DOGS, technical bulletins, training films, etc…

Procurement and Training

To implement the greatly expanded program, The Quartermaster General ordered the establishment of war dog reception and training centers. Their function was to receive animals procured by Dogs for Defense, give them a rigid physical examination classify them accordingly to the type of work for which they seemed best fitted, and provide the training necessary to make them useful to the Army. In addition the centers had the task of training enlisted men to serve as dog handlers in order that there might always be available personnel capable of caring for the animals and supervising their work.

Location of Training Centers

The first of these centers was established in August 1942 at the Front Royal Virginia Quartermaster Remount Depot, Three others were opened late in l942 .- Fort Robinson Nebraska, Camp Rimini Montana, and San Carlos, California -- and a fourth in April 1943 at Cat Island, Gulfport, Mississippi. Small temporary training centers were set up at Beltsville, Maryland, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, when it was decided to train mine detection dogs. This highly specialized training was later transferred to the San Carlos War Dog Reception and Training Center, California.

The centers at Front Royal and Fort Robinson were located at permanent remount installations while the others were independent establishments Camp Rimini, situated in a region in the Rocky, Mountains where the snow lay on the ground for many months of the year, was utilized exclusively for the training of sled and pack dogs. Cat Island was used for tactical training because its semi- tropical climate and dense vegetation made it a suitable place to prepare dogs for use in jungle warfare.

All of these centers, except the one at Fort Robinson, were


discontinued during the latter half of 1944, By the summer of that year the Allied military situation had improved to the extent that the need for dogs to assist in guarding United States coast lines and zone of interior installations had virtually disappeared, As a result the number of sentry dogs returned began to exceed by far the number issued. Training activities which were then being devoted increasingly to the instruction of scout dogs, 'Were concentrated thereafter at the Nebraska post.

In 1942 and 1943, when practically all of the dogs were trained to perform the comparatively simple tasks involved in sentry duty more than thirty breeds of both sexes were considered suitable for military service. Experience revealed, however, that even for sentry duty some breeds were unsatisfactory. Among these were Great Danes, whose large size made them difficult to train, and hunting breeds in general because they were too easily diverted by animal scents. By the fail of 1944 the number of preferred breeds had been reduced to seven, German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs,, Doberman-Pinschers, farm collies, Siberian huskies, Malamutes and Eskimo dogs. Crosses of these breeds also were acceptable. "

At the beginning of the program dogs of acceptable breeds from one to five years old were taken. It was soon found that dogs of five years were too old to begin their training so the maximum procurement age was lowered first to three and one half years and then to two in the fall of 1944 when most of the dogs were being trained for tactical service. Requirements called for animals of neutral color such as gray, tan, or salt and pepper. Those with extensive white or buff markings were unacceptable as too conspicuous. Specifications as to size and weight varied over the years, but by the fall of 1944 the acceptance height range was from 20 to 26 inches at, the shoulder and the weight from 40 to 80 pounds, except for sled and pack dogs which could weigh more.

The elaborate regional organization of Dogs for Defense, its many enthusiastic volunteer workers, and the fact that widespread publicity had acquainted virtually all dog owners with its objectives made it an ideal agency for obtaining the donation of animals, On receiving an offer of a dog, the nearest regional office sent out a questionnaire to ascertain whether the animal met the specifications for military service. If such appeared to be the case, the dog was inspected and given a preliminary physical examination. Only about 40 percent of the animals passed this test. These were forwarded to the war dog reception and training centers for a more thorough inspection, classification, and training, In general, Dogs for Defense was able to maintain a fairly even flow of animals, On some occasions, however there were more student handlers at the centers than could be provides with dogs, and it was suggested that the animals be obtained before the men.

Dogs for Defense served as the procurement agency for the Corps until March 1945, when its officials asked to be relieved of this


responsibility. At that time the Quartermaster Corps set up its own organization for dog procurement. During its 3 years of operation, Dogs for Defense obtained approximately 18 000 dogs through donations. Purchases of sled and pack dogs had been made earlier by the Quartermaster Corps. Thus a total of approximately 20,000 dogs were procured during the war. Of these only slightly more than 10,000 finished training for some form of war work, the others being disqualified for one reason or another. Undersize, disease, temperamental defects, inferior scenting powers, and extreme excitability under the influence of noise or gunfire were the principal causes for rejection.

A highly specialized program for training both dogs and their handlers was set up by the Remount Branch through the cooperation of technical experts of the Military Training Division Office of The Quartermaster General, and leading dog trainers in the country. Of basic significance was the development of a comprehensive plan whereby dogs and handlers could be trained together as a team for sentry or tactical work for the effectiveness with which the animals performed their duties depended not only upon the thoroughness of their own training but upon that of their masters as well,

Student handlers were drawn not only from the Quartermaster Corps but also from civilian plants, the Coast Guard, the Navy and other sources requisitioning dogs. When their instruction had been completed, the students, then full-fledged handlers accompanied their dogs to using units or agencies and were responsible for their care, housing and feeding as well as their handling. Inasmuch as a dog worked best with the man recognized as master the policy was to keep the dog and his handler together if feasible throughout their military, careers. Moreover, no one but the master was authorized to feed, pet, or handle the dog on the theory that the animal otherwise would soon regard all persons as friends and become a mere mascot.

Originally, training activities were conducted in the ratio of one man per eight sentry dogs. It soon became evident however, that man and dogs would both be better instructed if the ratio was one man to four dogs and this change was made early in December 1942. A few months later when the Coast Guard expressed a wish for attack dogs provision was made for teaching two and even only one guardsman to one dog, As a result more handlers were trained for the Coast Guard than for the Army, 2,662 men being instructed for the former and 2,169 for the latter.

Attempts were made to standardize training methods insofar as possible. Conditions varied considerably, however and adjustments had to be made in accordance with the number and quality of men and dogs to be trained, the number and quality of instructors, the availability of facilities, and the time that could be allotted. Sentry dogs could be trained in about 8 week, but other types usually required approximately 12 weeks.

Normally the first month was devoted to basic training intended to develop patterns of behavior fundamental in all war dogs, and to determine


their classification for specialized service. They learned to obey verbal commands and gestures and were accustomed to muzzle and gas mask, to riding in cars and trucks, and to working under gunfire. Meanwhile, the student handlers learned about grooming feeding, and kenneling, and about the capabilities and limitations of dogs. They also learned the value of patience.

Upon completing basic training, each dog was given specialized instruction to prepare him for his Specific mission. He was selected for a particular type of training on the basis of his aptitudes and abilities. Although experimentation was carried on early in the war for the use of dogs for other purposes, only five types were actually trained and issued to using agencies. These were sentry, sled and pack , messenger, mine detector, and scout dogs.

Sentry dogs worked chiefly on leash and required less instruction than other types but were required to be moderately intelligent, willing and aggressive. Attack dogs, which were included in the category of sentry dogs, were taught not merely to warn of the presence of a stranger by growling or barking, but also to work off leash and attack on command or provocation. It was necessary that they possess high intelligence, willingness energy, and above all aggressiveness. Moreover, they had to be strong, courageous, and large and heavy enough to throw a man to the ground. Attack dogs like all sentry dogs were used mostly for interior guard work. The sentry dog was taught to accompany a military or civilian guard on patrol in daylight or darkness and give him warning of the approach or presence of strangers within the area being protected. He worked on a short leash and was restrained from actually attacking unless the intruder should threaten his master. The animal at first was taught to become aggressive and pugnacious. Later the handler assumed the role of a sentry to familiarize the animal with the conditions under which he would work. During this phase of instruction the dog was schooled to detect the presence of any stranger in the neighborhood, The aggravator hid in ditches, behind fences or boxes, in tall grass, and in trees.

Only those dogs exhibiting exceptional qualifications could be trained for tactical use, scouting with combat Patrols and carrying messages.

The Scout dog, trained to work with combat units and give silent warning of the presence of a strange individual or group was preferably a strong dog of medium size and quiet disposition. He was required to have acute hearing, highly developed sensitive powers, and ability to detect motion.

Loyalty was the quality most desired in the messenger dog since he was motivated by the desire to please two masters between whom he carried messages. He also had to possess great speed, stamina, strength, endurance, ability to swim and superior powers of scenting and hearing. Unlike most other types, messenger dogs were not required to look for trouble, and hence it was desirable that they have a suspicious rather


than an aggressive nature.

Experiments in the use of dogs for other military purposes were carried on, but it was 1944 before other types were trained on any sizeable scale. Of the 10,425 dogs trained at the war dog centers during World War II, nearly 9,300 were for sentry duty. The Coast Guard utilized approximately one-third of these as shown in the following table.

Type and Number of Dogs Trained

Type of Dog Trained for Army Trained for
Coast Guard
Sentry 6,121 3,174  9,295
Scout     571         0     571
Sled and pack     263         0     268
Messenger     151         0     151
Mine detection     140         0     140

Trained sentry dogs were issued by the Quartermaster Corps to hundreds of military installations of various types, such as coastal fortifications., harbor defenses, arsenals, ammunition dumps, airfields, and depots as well as to industrial plants. Although many civilian establishments which were engaged in the production of military items employed one or more dogs to help guard their plants, the bulk of the animals trained by the Corps were utilized by the armed services. At the height of enemy submarine activities the largest group of sentry dogs was, of course that attached to the Coast Guard beach patrols guarding the long stretches of shoreline along the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific. The Coast Guard came to prefer that type of sentry dog called the attack dog because he was more fully trained. Animals of this type were assigned to the Coast Guard in the summer of 1943 just before that agency initiated a large-scale training program of its own.

Reports from military installations and civilian establishments using sentry dogs were on the whole, favorable. The generally satisfactory nature of the services the dogs performed was demonstrated by the small number of using agencies which abandoned their employment and by the large number of requisitions for additional animals. Failure to obtain satisfactory results usually occurred when the dogs were handled by constantly changing or inexperienced personnel. In many instances the use of dogs made it possible to reduce the number of human sentries and at the same time increase the efficiency of patrols, particularly when the post covered a large area. The dogs enhanced the efficiency of protective work both by supplementing man's limited powers of hearing and smelling with their own superior senses and by enabling a more thorough search to be made for intruders in stacked supplies, in holes, in ditches, and in other places not readily accessible to man.

Shift in Emphasis to Tactical Dogs

By early 1944 the war dog program had begun to undergo extensive


changes. With the gradual abatement of the submarine menace after mid-1943 and the eventual lifting of the blackout, the need for guarding coast lines and zone of interior installations steadily decreased. Consequently the demand for sentry dogs became progressively smaller and more of these animals were being returned to the training centers than were being issued. A few of the sentry dogs were detrained and returned to their owners, some were sent overseas for sentry- duty and others were -retained for tactical service with units in the theaters where demand for dogs in combat became more urgent, particularly in the Pacific. Eventually all dog-training activities were centralized at Fort Robinson and more attention was devoted to instruction of tactical dogs and their handlers.

In the absence of any definite policy on the part of the Army Ground Forces regarding their use the training of tactical dogs in 1942 and 1943 was necessarily limited and experimental, Military officers generally were unfamiliar with the possible utilization of these animals in combat and rather skeptical of their value. There also was a widespread belief that they could not be sent to tropical areas on account of the large variety of diseases and parasites likely to attack them. The few animals that had been trained for tactical work therefore were employed chiefly for tests or demonstration purposes. The instruction of even these dogs was seriously handicapped at first by the scarcity of trainers experienced in teaching scout and messenger work; most of the men with foreign experience in schooling war dogs were engaged in other essential work.

Moreover, preliminary reports on the use of scout and messenger dogs in North Africa by the British in 1942 and 1943 had indicated that their work was unsatisfactory. According to observers the animals were easily frightened and confused by artillery fire those doing scout work losing their sense of direction and neglecting to smell out the enemy. While ordinarily giving good service on short patrols messenger dogs also were affected adversely by heavy gunfire, It was suggested, however that, though conditions in North Africa might preclude their successful employment in that region in close country such as the islands of the South Pacific they would have a very definite use in guarding lines of communication and particularly in detecting infiltrating troops.

As a precautionary measure in the event the Army might find valuable uses for tactical dogs, the Quartermaster Corps continued to train them in small numbers, emphasis being placed upon scout and messenger dogs. The War Department General Staff decided in the Spring of 1943 to send a detachment of six scout and two messenger dogs overseas to operate with troops in the Pacific as a test of their value under combat conditions.

When our Army decided to train dogs for tactical purposes, it was found necessary to seek assistance in developing doctrine from our allies, since there were no trainers in this country qualified to develop such doctrine. The British sent over the Director of their War Dog Training School., Captain John B. Garle, together with two non-commissioned officers (handlers) and four dogs., an a sort of "leash-lend basis".


Captain Garle arrived in the United States on I February 1943, He proceeded with his entourage to the War Dog Reception and Training Center at Beltsville, Maryland, where he demonstrated his messenger and scout dogs to officers interested. So successful were these demonstrations that Captain Garle was sent on a tour of all Quartermaster War Dog Reception and Training Centers to indoctrinate our trainers in his methods.

Scout and Messenger Dogs

Reports received from the Southwest Pacific on the experiments with scout and messenger dogs were on the whole highly favorable. The observer with the dogs in New Guinea reported that in the period between July and December 1943 the animals were used in the forward and combat areas and had given "consistently excellent performances". This experience established the fact that dogs could be employed effectively in tactical units. He found that scout dogs used in reconnaissance work warned patrols of the presence of Japanese within ranges varying up to I000 yards depending upon conditions of open or closed terrain, wind direction, dampness of ground, and that they could be employed effectively in amphibious operations to detect the enemy on beaches and in undergrowth along the shore. He noted that the dogs had no fear of water or travel by small boats, He reported that messenger dogs demonstrated that they could cover distances of from 600 to 1,000 yards with great speed over any kind of terrain and that their chances of getting through were excellent as they presented small targets. The observer reported that the animals worked more effectively when the dogs and their handlers were thoroughly familiar with each other.

On the other hand the observer reported that combat experience revealed certain weaknesses in the training of dogs, While the dogs had been conditioned against firing of small arms, most of them had not been conditioned to withstand the noise of heavy gunfire and as a consequence their usefulness deteriorated rapidly when suddenly exposed to heavy artillery action.

As a result of this and similar reports that came in later the program for training tactical dogs was expanded in 1944 and efforts were made to overcome the short-comings brought to light by combat experience, Particular emphasis was placed upon training scout dogs, teaching the animals be silent at all times and exposing them to simulated battle noises in the early course of their instruction in order that they might learn to exhibit no fear or reaction in the presence of heavy gunfire.

Since the function of scout dogs was to give silent warning of the approach of any enemy they were trained for use principally with reconnaissance and combat patrols at outposts. Their chief tasks were to warn of ambushes or attempts at infiltration. Though the distance at which they were able to give warning depended upon a number of factors, such as the ability of the master to understand his dog, wind direction and velocity, volume or concentration of human scent humidity, and denseness or openness of country the dogs usually could detect the presence of enemies long before the men became aware of them. When


operating with reconnaissance or combat groups, the dog and his master proceeded a short distance in advance of the patrol, following the general direction indicated by the patrol leader., but moving so as to take advantage of wind and other conditions favoring the dog's power of scenting. Upon the dog's warning of a hostile presence the master immediately signaled the patrol leader, who in turn issued instructions as to the course of action to be taken. At outposts the dog and his master remained at a fixed position a short distance from the unit to which they were attached and the animal was taught to be alert while stationary .

The initial stages of instruction were similar to those employed in training sentry dogs, but the scout dog was taught not to bark or growl, and more emphasis was placed upon accustoming the animal to heavy gunfire. Since the dog was expected to discover an alien presence partly by his ability to detect wind-blown scent and partly by his extraordinarily keen hearing, instruction was aimed at stimulating him to employ these natural endowments. The dog was trained to detect human scent as a bird dog is trained to detect hidden birds. When he "winded the enemy" he signified his discovery by "freezing" stiffening his body, raising his hackles, pricking his ears and holding his tail rigid.

Messenger dogs usually were used in connection with scout dogs and were trained to deliver field communications from a scouting patrol to the scouting headquarters or from an advanced position to the rear. In contrast to scout dogs, two handlers were employed for the messenger dog, for, since he had to run between two points, it was necessary to place at each point a master to whom he was loyal,, This feeling was fostered by having each handler take equal turns at teaching and feeding the animal. At first the training was carried on in an enclosed area but later over rough terrain and crossing streams. In the latter phase of his instruction the dog was accustomed to the confusion of moving troops and simulated battle noises. The two masters alternated their positions and frequently hid themselves, never using the same place of concealment twice. The dog was taught to locate them by body scent. When he was successful, lavish praise was given him as his reward.

Mine Detection Dogs

During the African Campaign, non-metallic land mines were first utilized by the enemy. Mechanical mine detectors proving ineffective against them, it became vitally important to discover a counter-measures. One of our answers to the enemy's new weapon was the M-dog (mine detection dog).

Dogs had been employed for this purpose prior to the invention and use of non-metallic mines; although armies of all nations (exception ours) were aware of their value as sentries, messengers scouts and as aids to the Medical Corps in finding wounded it was not until necessity arose for a reliable method of detecting plastic and wooden mines that the suggestion was made that dogs might be trained to use their instinct for finding buried bones for finding buried objects of less innocence.


The first mine detection unit was ordered activated in November 1943. The M-dog was taught to detect buried objects of all kinds in order that he could be used in discovering metallic and more particularly non-metallic mines, anti-tank and anti-tank personnel mines, trip wires and booby traps. He was taught to indicate the position of a buried mine by sitting down from one to four paces from the concealed objects. If he detected a trip wire or booby trap he was trained to halt or refuse to advance. Properly trained dogs, it was hoped, would not advance over any type of mine or trap. If this objective could be achieved M-dogs could help men locate mines, determine whether a mine field could be by-passed, and clear a path through a field if it could not be skirted.

The training of an M-dog was based on arousing the emotion of fear and instinct of self preservation. A light electric charge was concealed in the trap and the dog was shocked when he came in contact with it. This was done to teach him that there were objects in the ground which would hurt him. When he had learned this, his fear of being injured made it possible to teach him to shun objects foreign to the terrain and to rely on all his senses in trying to detect them.

The enthusiasm with which this training began later turned to disappointment. Only two war dog mine detection units were activated and trained. Both were sent to North Africa, where the animals failed to prove their proficiency in locating mines when used on typical German mine fields. The dogs had been tested in the United States and pronounced excellent detectors but when tried out in North Africa under battlefield conditions they fell far short of attaining the standard of efficiency that had been established by the Corps of Engineers. In two tests in September 1944 the dogs located only 51 and 48% respectively of the mines planted. Inasmuch as the discovery of at least 90% was considered essential to make a method of mine detection practicable, it was decided not to employ the dogs. Both units were deactivated and mine-dog training was discontinued.

Establishment of War Dog Platoons

Except for the two experimental Engineer mine dog detection units, the initial issues of dogs and handlers trained for duty overseas were casual detachments. It was not until March 1944 that the War Department authorized the establishment of Quartermaster war dog platoons and issued special Tables of Organization and Equipment (T/O & E) for that purpose. Originally a platoon consisted of twelve scout dogs twelve messenger dogs, one mine detection dog, one officer and twenty-six enlisted men. Three months later, however, on the basis of early theater experience, the mine detection dog was eliminated and the number of scout dogs was increased to eighteen, while the number of messenger dogs was reduced to six and the number of enlisted men to twenty. Fifteen Quartermaster war dog platoons were activated and trained in 1944, and all were shipped overseas. Seven of them saw service in Europe and eight in the Pacific.


These platoons were unique in that they served with infantry units and engaged in tacticel operations in the combat areas yet the Quartermaster Corps supplied and trained not only the dogs but the handlers as well. The men were expert in directing the work of the dogs but the fact that many of the handlers were physically unfit for combat service and had had no experience in infantry tactics, scouting, and patrolling proved to be a serious defect. Another weakness of the early platoons was the failure to give them advanced training with Army Ground Forces units of the kind with which they were to be associated.

To correct these deficiencies the War Department transferred the responsibility for the activation, training and preparation of the dog units for overseas movement to the Amy Ground Forces later in 1944.

This meant that handlers were to be selected by the Army Ground Forces from men who had been trained in infantry tactics and scouting and that the units would be given advanced instruction with infantry organizations. The Quartermaster General however, retained responsibility for the procurement, basic training, and issue of dogs and handlers.

A concurrent development was the decision to revise the T/O & E and eliminate all messenger dogs from the platoons "Since combat reports indicate that this type dog has proved neither as desirable nor as essential as the silent scout dogs." The new T/O & E, released in December 1944, changed the name of the units to infantry scout dog platoons and provided that each was to consist of 27 scout dogs.

Between December 1944 and the spring of 1945 the fifteen Quartermaster war dog platoons were redesignated as infantry scout dog platoons and reorganized to conform with the new T/O & E. During 1945 the Army Ground Forces activated and trained six infantry scout dog platoons. Five of these however, did not complete their training until shortly after V-J Day and consequently were not sent overseas. Thus all but one of the war dog platoons that saw service in the war were activated and trained by the Quartermaster Corps.

At first the war dog program was conducted largely as an experiment to determine which, if any, types of militarily trained dogs might be of value to the Army in modern warfare. Numerous uses for the animals had been envisioned by dog fanciers but after extensive tests the Quartermaster Corps actually trained and issued dogs for only five types of duties. Of these, pack and sled mine detection and messenger dogs proved of slight service either because of superior facilities afforded by the latest mechanical devices or because of limitations on the part of the animals themselves. The training of mine detection dogs was discontinued completely after tests in North Africa revealed they had no practical value. Opinion was divided concerning the usefulness of messenger dogs. Some observers reported excellent results under certain conditions but their use proved quite limited and the War Department eventually eliminated them from war dog platoons.

The two types of dogs for which a real need was demonstrated were sentry dogs and silent scout dogs. The former proved of outstanding assistance in guarding Army and Navy installations both in the zone of


interior and in the theaters of operations. But insofar as tactical service was concerned, the silent scout dog alone survived the severe tests to which the animals were put in World War II. Scout dog platoons which emerged in the latter part of the war were found to be "a capable and valuable adjunct when properly trained and used."

The experimental nature and limited success of the war dog program is reflected in statistics. Although approximately 20,000 of the animals were procured only about half of that number were trained and issued by the Quartermaster Corps, and fewer than 1,900 of these were shipped overseas. It was late in 1944 before scout dogs were being sent to the theaters in any sizable numbers, and by the end of the war only 436 had been shipped abroad, as shown in the following table:

Total Number of Dogs Issued in Z/I (Zone of Interior = US)  - Total Number of Dogs Shipped O/S

Type of Dog Total Trained Issued In ZI Shipped Overseas
Sentry 9,295 8,396   899
Scout    571    135   436
Sled & Pack    268        0   268
Messenger    151        0   151
Mine Detection    140        0   140
Total  10,425  8,531 1,894

These figures fail to give an accurate representation of the comparative military value of the various types of dogs, for, in contrast to all other types, the demand for scout dogs was increasing in the closing months of the war and plans were launched in the summer of 1945 to recruit at least 1,600 more of the animals for scout work in the Pacific.

Though requirements were relatively small, when a real need arose for scout dogs there was no substitute for their particular capabilities. At the same time, there were various conditions and circumstances under which the dogs were unable to perform satisfactorily, and consequently it was of vital importance that the handlers be acutely aware of the limitations of the animals as well as their abilities. It was equally important that the dogs be thoroughly schooled in their duties and their handlers be well trained in scouting, patrolling, and minor tactics.

Reports received from overseas during and immediately following the war gave ample evidence that while many satisfactory results were obtained from the use of scout dogs in the war against Germany, these animals were employed much more effectively in the islands of the Pacific. The dense tropical vegetation and the semidarkness of the jungles even at midday afforded the Japanese excellent opportunities to infiltrate behind the American lines and conduct reconnaissance. Such hostile operations could not easily be detected by ordinary patrols. When dogs accompanied these patrols they were able to detect and give silent warning of the enemy long before the men became aware of them. The dogs could also be used to good advantage in mountainous areas, in river bottoms, and in heavily wooded terrain.


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