2300 members of the Armed Forces get no pay check, no benefits, no vacations, and not nearly enough credit. They’re military working dogs (MWD). The US War Dogs Associations honors them as Canines with Courage. They maintain a K-9 Wall of Honor for those that die defending their handlers.
Aiello and Stormy were responsible for leading a platoon as they searched two villages, he said, noting their job was to ensure there were no ambushes waiting to happen, no booby traps ready to explode.
“I would come out (of the village) and give the `All clear’ to the squad behind me,” he said.
Nothing was found in the first village, but as Aiello and Stormy headed down a trail and into a clearing near the second one, Stormy stopped, her head snapping up. Aiello knelt down beside her.
“Just as I knelt down, a sniper shot,” said Aiello, who figures the dog may have heard the click of the rifle. “If I was standing up, he may have hit me.”
Instead, Aiello dived behind a ridge, and about 30 Marines behind him were alerted to the danger.
“That was my first time out, and everything we were trained to do worked,” Aiello said. “She alerted me to the danger. I read the alert and we got out.”
Aiello guesses if not for the War Dogs in Vietnam, 10,000 more Americans would have died.
Dogs have been used in war for centuries, according to an article on Dogs in Warfare in Wikipedia:
- 628 BC – The Lydians deployed a separate battalion of fighting dogs.
- 525 BC – Kambyses used huge fighting dogs against Egyptian spearmen and archers.
- 490 BC – Battle of Marathon – A brave fighting dog was immortalized in a mural.
- 385 BC – Siege of Mantineia – Fighting dogs cut off enemy reinforcements.
- 101 BC – Battle of Vercellae – Large Kimber dogs led by women defend their laagers.
- 101 – The Romans employ one fighting dog company per legion.
- 1525 – Henry VIII exports 400 mastiffs to support Spain.
- 1580 – Elizabeth I sends 800 fighting dogs to fight in the Desmond Rebellions.
- 1799 – Napoleon assembles large numbers of fighting dogs in front of his reserves.
- 1915 – The Belgian Army use carabiniers, strong-muscled Bouvier des Flandres to haul heavy machine guns to the front.
- 1914-1918 – Dogs are used by international forces to deliver vital messages.
- 1941-1945 – The Soviet Union used dogs strapped with explosives to destroy invading German tanks.
- 1943-1945 – The United States Marine Corps used dogs, donated by their American owners, in the Pacific theater to help take take islands back from Japanese occupying forces. During this period the Doberman Pinscher became the official dog of the U.S.M.C.; however, all breeds of dogs were eligible to train to be ‘war dogs of the Pacific’. These dogs were to be returned to their original owners after WWII ended, however, if the dogs could not be ‘de-militarized’ or re-trained to be companion animals again, they were destroyed.
- 1966-1973 – Approximately 5,000 US War Dogs served in the Vietnam War (the US Army did not retain records prior to 1968); About 10,000 US servicemen served as dog-handlers during the war, and the K9 units are estimated to have saved over 10,000 human lives. 43 military working dogs and 73 US servicemen working as “dog handlers” were killed in action during the war. US military regulations required destruction or transfer of military working dogs in combat zones, and no known Vietnam War dogs returned home (US).
- 1979-1988 – The Soviet Union again uses dogs, this time in the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Interested in helping one of these animals? Read this story on adopting a military working dog.
8/28/2009 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Military working dogs have come a long way since the days of ancient Persia and Assyria, where they donned armor, spiked collars and warned of impending attack or charged on the enemy’s cavalry.
Modern battlefield and customs conditions bring forth complex and ever-changing challenges, and as such, Department of Defense officials have created a clear standard operating procedure used by all kennels to ensure excess military working dogs have a chance to go to deserving adoptive homes.
The DOD, in accordance with the November 2000 “Robby Law,” enables military working dogs to be transferred or adopted out to former handlers, law enforcement agencies or families who are willing and able to take on the responsibility of former MWDs. Currently the DOD adopts out about 300 dogs per year to private homes; of that 300, about 100 dogs go to law enforcement agencies outside of the DOD. (Read more about War Dogs)
Jacqui Murray is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, an ISTE article reviewer, a weekly contributor to Write Anything and mother of a Naval Officer and an Army grunt. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.