(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 call of modern warfare as the Gulf war demonstrated in 1991, exemplified our use of the most sophisticated, technology advanced equipment that the US could procure to bring swift and decisive victory for a just cause. To this end, the US had in the past, expended every available resource to meet the ultimate goal. But although the face of war changed, some fundamental tools and weapons used have not. As a matter of fact, the US followed certain paths laid out by the ancient peoples of Persia and Assyria with their use of four-legged technology in warfare.
Canines or ‘wardogs’ were used in warfare throughout history supporting combat operations. Long before the invention of gunpowder, dogs were gathered in columns, many of them clad in mail armor and spiked collars by the military forces of the Roman Empire. The English were known to have equipped their dogs with long spikes placed over their heads and had them charge forward to attack the enemy’s Calvary. Britain also employed the use of Mastiffs in 55 BC to fight Caesar’s invading armies. Napoleon was probably the first one to make use of the dog’s superior senses by chaining them to the walls of Alexandria, using them to warn of an impending attack.
The borders of Dalmatian, a Croatian seaside province, used Dalmatian type dogs (home of the Dalmatian) to warn of approaching Turks from Croatia.
The United States did not make extensive use of dogs prior to 1942. Up until that point, Germany was the dominant user of dogs. The Germans trained them for scout duty with infantry patrols. However, their primary job was to use their superior senses to give warning of an enemy’s approach. The dogs were also used to ferry messages between front line fighters and headquarters to the rear of the fighting. (End of Part 1)