Article Overview:   The Dogs of War are really the K-9's of Vigilance.   They are the War Dogs used in Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, World War II to sniff out the Beast of Terror.  They helped win the war in Iraq, but they serve a much greater purpose.  They are reminders we need to stand sentry against Terrorism to defeat it.


Thursday--April 17, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 582
The Dogs Of War Howl In The Aftermath of Victory

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Apr. 17--As the war in Iraq winds to an end the yips and howls of some of the toughest combat veterans can be heard barking in joy.
  They are the combat dogs, usually German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, who have uncanny abilities to sniff out both the enemy and the enemy's weapons.

Buster in action

Buster, Springer Spaniel War Dog hero in Iraq

       One such dog, Buster, rooted out weapons hidden in a wall cavity covered with a sheet of tin that coalition troops had already searched and cleared.
       "War Dogs" have the ability to "smell" the enemy up to 250 yards away, and can detect sounds even when challenged by the roar of an F-14 jet engine.
         The use of War Dogs is ancient.  Roman centurions captured wild dogs and used them to fight one another, and the most vicious were then trained to attack the enemy in battle.  In the U.S. Revolutionary War dogs were used as messengers and scouts.
         In Vietnam more than 4,000 War Dogs are credited with preventing over 10,000 U.S. casualties based on their instinct to alert their handler to danger.  One of the more famous stories of that war involves a War Dog named Bruiser, a German Shepherd.  

Training dogs for Vietnam

         Bruiser and his handler were on patrol when Bruiser froze, his ears cocked, signaling the presence of the enemy.   His handler, John Flannelly, began to fire, exposing an enemy ambush.
        Gravely wounded, Flannelly was sure this was the end.  Bruiser had other ideas.   The shepherd dragged Flannelly to safety, suffering two wounds in the process.   The canine's advanced warning helped U.S. forces limit casualties and credited the dog with saving a number of lives.

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       The center for War Dog training is Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  (link )   Dogs are selected from breeders both in the U.S. and Europe, trained at the center, then disbursed to all branches of the military.  A War Dog Memorial Fund is located at March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California.  Mo Johnson, a member of the Fund, says his goal is to establish to memorials, one on the East and the other on the West Coast of America.  The unveiling of another War Dog Memorial on Sacrifice Field at Fort Benning, Ga. took place on October 8, 2000 (photo on left).
       Until Nov. 5, 2000 when H.R. 5314 was passed authorizing their adoption by qualified personnel, combat dogs were exterminated.    Based on their aggressive training, they were considered a threat to the safety of the public.
       Currently, when a War Dog is retired, if it meets certain standards of domesticated behavior, it is eligible for adoption by a qualified handler--generally a former dog handler, or someone experienced in working with highly trained, aggressive canines.

DogNY  created and displayed 300 statues around New York City as a tribute to the dogs that assisted in Nine Eleven.  The above statue, a tribute to military dogs,  is owned by the Vietnam Veterans Assn. and  is displayed throughout the country

        Canines are used not only in combat as sentries, but also to sniff out drugs, explosives and in rescue efforts.

       War Dogs were not part of the official military mix until the attack on Pearl Harbor, launching World War II.   Prior to Pearl Harbor, the U.S. had noted France, Germany and Belgium's use of dogs in World War I, but found no use for them in its Armed Services.
        After Pearl Harbor, the threat of enemy submarine landings on U.S. coasts alerted the need for additional security, and to protect industrial plants from sabotage.   Civilians offered their help under a program called Dogs for Defense.   Volunteering their animals, and working for no pay, civilians began patrolling the beaches.  However, the program failed to meet military expectations.
        On July 6, 1942, the military took seriously the use of War Dogs, employing 100 sled dogs in Alaska and another 100 in "basic training" for scout and sentry use.

       A well-known woman dog breeder and dog show judge, Mrs. Milton Erlanger, the key energy behind Dogs for Defense, authored the first instructions on using canines for security.  Her work was a training manual known as TM 10-396-WAR DOGS.  She also produced technical bulletins and training films.
        Originally, more than 30 breeds were used as sentry and guard dogs, but many breeds were not suited for the job, such as Great Danes and hunting dogs often thrown off by animal scents.   By 1944 the list of acceptable dogs included only the following: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman-Pinschers, farm collies, Siberian huskies, Malamutes and Eskimo dogs.  The chart below shows how the 10,000 Defense Dogs were utilized in WWII

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

    Sentry dogs worked in silence.  They were trained to alert their handlers of ambushes or infiltration of the enemy.   When the dog "winded the enemy" he would stiffen, raise his hackles, point his tail.   No sounds could be emitted.

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     Messenger dogs were trained by two handlers.   One of the handlers would be in the front and the other in the rear.   Both lavishly praised the dog and became their "dual masters."  In combat, when the handler in the front put a message in the dog's collar, the dog would seek out its "other master" in the rear, following the scent as a bloodhound.   Enemy fire and combat confusion didn't waver the dog from its goal, and it would find its "dual master," receiving big hugs and pets as the message was removed.

STUBBY, Bull Terrier mix, WWI. The most decorated war dog in U.S. history. As a small, stray bull terrier, he was smuggled aboard a troop ship to France. There he was wounded in no-man's land but recovered and still served in battles at Chateau Thierry, the Marne and the Meuse-Argonne with the men of the 102nd Infantry. One night in February 1918, he roused a sleeping sergeant to warn of a gas attack, giving the soldiers time to don masks and thus saving them. Gen John "Black Jack" Pershing awarded him a special Gold Medal. He was given Life Membership in the American Legion and the Red Cross. He met Presidents Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge. He died of old age in 1926. Stubby is now on display as part of American military history in the Hartford Armory in Connecticut and is called "Sargeant Stubby".
PRINCE 347E, German Shepherd,Vietnam (see photo). He served our country his entire adult life and was put to rest on October 2, 1968, at the War Dog Hospital, Long Binh, Vietnam. "I have remembered him every day for the last 39 years and will continue to do so until I join him. Thank you very much for honoring those that the military/politicians in DC forgot so many years ago." - Robert L. Ott, Initial Trainer and Handler
           go to:   and read about other war dogs

      War Dog Platoons were formed in WWII, comprising 12 scout dogs, 12 messenger dogs, one mine detection dog, one office and 26 enlisted men.  Later, when the mine detecting dogs proved ineffective in rooting out enemy mines, the mix was enhanced to 18 scout and 6 messenger dogs.
      America enjoys nearly 40 million dogs as pets, about .361 per household--(there are more than 100 million U.S. households).
      In Iraq, the stories of how canines saved lives has yet to be told.   It may take a few decades for all the tales to be told, and many may yet to be unfolded because the canine's full use is yet to come.   Guarding Iraq may prove a far greater challenge than winning the war.  Digging through the rubble, protecting against possible insurgents and guerrilla force threats, sniffing out mines and buried explosives--all full-time work for dogs trained to provide both sentry and to ferret out dangerous weapons.

K-9 Sentry of Vigilance

      While America is basking in the glow of victory, there are many stories yet that will rise out of the ashes of Iraq. 
       The Dogs of War will certainly be one of them.
       I think of the dog as a Sentinel of Vigilance--a K-9 Sentry of Vigilance, if you will.
       Trained properly, the K-9 Sentry of Vigilance, can sniff the Beast of Terror, catch his scent in the wind just as quickly as he might an enemy.

        The K-9 Sentry of Vigilance can smell the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that worms its way into the minds of the people, that makes them vulnerable to the Beast's venom.
       War itself is the result of Terrorism's infiltration into the marrow of a society.   War is the end result of letting Terrorism run free,  the kind of Terrorism that threatens, bullies and brandishes weapons of mass destruction that threaten the security of an entire world.
       When nations sit back and let other nations violate human rights and defy international law under the false security of sovereignty, it is not unlike the ostrich burying its head in the sand.    Ignorance is not bliss, it is eventual Terrorism of the worst kind.

Nine-Eleven Sentry of Vigilance

        If the world community, specifically the United Nations, were a sentry dog, it would sniff out the Beast.  It would raise it hackles.  Its body would stiffen.   Its ears would flatten.
       It would tell the world that the Beast of Terror was laying in ambush, waiting to spring out on the unsuspecting.  
       The U.S. used its Dogs of War to sniff out Saddam Hussein.   Despite the world's refusal to back the U.S., Britain and Australia, the War Dogs attacked the Beast while others hid behind the shield of Indifference, and wallowed in the Quagmire of Complacency.
       Now, the Dogs of War are barking.

K-9 Sentinels of Vigilance are barking a warning

       They are barking not in joy of defeating Terrorism.
       They are barking as a warning to not let the next Beast of Terror go unnoticed.
       As K-9 Sentinels of Vigilance, they are telling the world to beware--the enemy is not dead and buried.
       They remind us all to keep our nose to the ground, sniffing, searching, patrolling and being ready to root out Terrorism before it swallows us.
       Hail the Dogs of Vigilance.   Let them keep us and our children safe.

War Dog Memorials and Tributes

      Fort Benning, Ga.                            Hartsdale, New York                                      Guam
NJ Vietnam Vet Memorial                                              Queensland, Australia

                  "Guardians"  in Streamwood, Ill.

            "They protected us on the field of battle. They watch over our eternal rest.  We are grateful."


April 16--War Vultures Swoop Down On Weapons

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