A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany
SECOND WORLD WAR
SEARCH AND RESCUE U.S. Army's "Pack And Pull" Dogs!
Alaska, 10th Rescue Unit. C-47 Jump! Judging From The K-9's Expression Not All Were Volunteers!!! Photo: USAF
Introduction to "Pack & Pull" Dogs!
With all the horses, mules, camels and elephants (after all, didn't they go over the alps once) to be had for the asking, it may seem a dirty trick for the fighting forces to pick on dogs for draft purposes.
But the fact is that, relatively speaking, a dog is twice as strong as a horse. The great mastiff like matins of the Belgians could pull up to five hundred pounds each. The Belgians have employed them for centuries domestically, even using them for light harrowing and cultivating in their gardens.
But in wartime they were invaluable for drawing supply carts, sleds and machine guns over rough ground and through dense undergrowth impassable for horse or mule. Nothing stopped them!
Best of all, as occurred on numerous occassions when their gun crews were wiped out, the big dogs were smart enough to head back from the front, thus saving themselves and their guns from capture by the enemy.
But where dogs had it all over other draft animals, was in the Far North, on ice bound wastes where even the tough old mule, who could usually turn his chunky rump to windward and weather anything the gale brings, would perish.
And the dog, who shined the brightest at this work was our own Alaskan Eskimo dogs, either Malemute or Husky. He could carry a 65 pound pack on his rugged back, go four or five days without food and showed no sign of wasting under the strain.
No other animal began to compare with him when it came to resisting the ravages of cold, because the Husky's has a built in jacket of insulation, that is impervious to temperatures as low as 60 degrees below zero. Horses and mule sweat, catch pneumonia, and die. The Husky sweats too, but the brine rolls off his lolling tongue. If the tongue gets chilly, he simply shuts his mouth and warms it up.
Then, at night, the Husky loves nothing better than to burrow into the snow and curl up. He would be set for the night, "as snug as a bug in a rug!"
Today as then, the Husky is still not far enough removed from his wolf days to have forgotten them entirely. Like a wolf, and unlike his more domesticated cousins, he cannot bark. His only vocal expression is a howl. And the greatest difficulty in working with these sons of the arctic is traceable directly to the proximity of their wild ancestry.
They revelled in bloody fights to the finish among themselves. Fortunately, tough hides and heavy coats prevented frequent disasters, but the driver had to be constantly on the alert when stop.
In spite of this, the Husky dotes on human fellowship and takes great pride in performing difficult, exciting tasks. He is in his element with ski troops, packing suppies and light equipment over snow too deep even for the mules that supplement him, and up mountain trails too steep and rugged for machines.
Search & Rescue Training During The War Years!
In the fall of 1942, the Quartermaster Corps began an very aggressive training program to provide sled and pack dogs for search and rescue under the command of the North Atlantic Transport Command. The sled dogs would also support the 10th Mountain Infantry during cold weather operations.
A War Dog Reception and Training Center was established at the Marine's Camp Rimini, near Helena, Montana. Rimini was located in the Rockie mountain's snow belt at a former CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp and was ideally suited for cold weather training.
The "Cream Team" making training film.
Camp Rimini, under the command of Major Edward J. Purfield, had about 750 sled and 150 pack dogs but only 150 men.
The sled dogs were Siberians, Malamutes and Athabasca landing huskies. The pack dogs were, Saint Bernards, some Newfoundlands and Great Pyrenees, plus afew mixed breeds.
Sled dog training also took place at Presque Isle, Maine and at several small army camps in Alaska and Newfoundland. Also at the civilan owned Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire, who provided sled and pack dogs under contract with the army and supported limited training facilities.
Mount Washington, NH, Training Exercise.
The assignments of sled and pack dogs began in 1942, with Stephensville, Newfoundland, receiving 35 dogs and the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Harmon Field (northern aircraft field stopover), Newfoundland pickup up four.
In December 1943, 125 dogs were stationed at Sondre Sjrom Fjord, Greenland, part of the Army Air Force Arctic Search and Rescue Squadron.
Siberian Huskies Could Carry Alot Of Weight.
All sled dog teams and drivers were reassigned in December 1943, to the North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command, of the Army Air Force, under the able command of Lt. Colonel Norman D. Vaugham, who served with the Grenfell missions in Labrador and the Byrd Antarctic Expedition of 1928-30.
His outfit was composed of other veteran sled dog men, given commissioned or non-commissioned Army rank. Three of the sergeant mushers had been with Byrd in the Antarctic, others were ski experts or explorers. The sled teams mission was to organize search and rescue groups to recover downed pilots and cargo.
Rescue Team, Loaded And Ready To Go!
Rescues of crews of planes, which had crashed were often collaborations between search planes and sleds. First a recon plane, by the aid of radio, visual signals, or scouting would locate the wreck.
If crevasses or some other hazard prevented landing, the plane, in flying back to the base, would survey the quickest and safest approach for a dog team.
A transport plane then loaded drivers, dogs and sleds, and landed them as close as possible to the scene of the disaster. For every minute gained was precious - the crew of the wrecked plane were likely to be injured, freezing, and starving.
Landed, drivers harnessed and hitched with all speed. A crack of the whip, teams were off, the dogs yelping, their bushy tails swinging. At the scene of the crash when emergency aid had been given, the sled party, which had traveled light, might arrange for further supplies to be dropped by parachute or the teams would bring out the crew.
Besides making rescues, the sled dog teams were engaged in freighting, communication work, and other routine operations. But everything was dropped, when a sudden call came through for a special mission.
Camp Rimini closed in the middle of 1944, and the men and dogs were transferred to the Western Remount Diviision, at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
By the end of the war about one hundred aircrew members had been recovered by sled dog teams, and tons of equipment.
Was it all worth the effort...I would have to say...yes, even if only one man was saved! Will we ever use sled dogs again, perhaps!
During the Second World War, Huskies and Belgian mutins weren't the only ones busy pulling loads.
In North Africa...
In Libya hundreds of Bloodhounds, Airedales and sheep dogs kept British gun crews going with ammunition when all other means of supplies failed.
Each dog was equipped with a double pouched pack saddle strapped across their backs. Pockets on each side held the load of hand grenades, small shells and machine gun ammo. These animals, operated across open ground under enemy fire, worked independently the same way as messengers.
Many of them died courageously, but none ever turned back with his load.
The British were able to keep fighting and after a siege of weeks, during which the dogs were their only source of supply contact with their headquarters.
The Battle of the Bulge ...the faces of war!
American GI - Sled Dogs Tried To Help Everyone! - German Tanker
Across the Atlantic, the German Army was making its last great breakthrough. In December 1944, Von Runstedt's armor rolled through the Ardennes, overwhelming American battalions and regiments in its path.
With superior American aviation grounded by impossible flying weather, Panzer armies drove on through bitter cold and heavy snow, that rivalled even the Arctic's. When at last the drive was slowed down by the bloody fighting called the Battle of the Bulge, snows were hip deep.
American GI's Battle Of The Bulge, 1944.
At many points, the drifts bogged down stretcher bearers and were impossible for motor ambulanes. Lives were being lost by delays in bringing wounded back from the front lines to advance medical stations. It was then, that a rush call was sent out for sled teams.
Teams and their drivers had been purposely stationed at widely distant points over the Arctic Circle, so that they could rapidly reach crippled planes wherever they fell. To call them in and ship them by boat would take weeks. They would have to be transported by air with top priority.
The order went out to 23 picked teams one evening. Drivers and dogs, collected by C-47's from remote stations in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland and other points in Canada, were assembled at three serial ports of embarkation. There they were transferred to big four motored transport planes for the Atlantic hop.
Captured German POW Being Searched By MP
The 80 pound, tawny or grey and white Huskies were chained to the bucket seats of the planes. To play doubly safe against all too likely dog fights, pilots climbed to 11,000 feet. That was high enough to keep the dogs drowsy from lack of oxygen. As a result there was only one fracas with no worse casualties than a nipped ear.
Four days after the movement orders reached the Arctic stations, the first plane load of dogs and drivers landed at Toul, France. (Note: The 50th Fighter Group was stationed there at the same time, that the dogs arrived.) Altogether, 209 dogs, their drivers, sleds, and complete equipment were transported.
Clearing weather and the recession of the German drive kept the teams from showing their full ability, but the operation had set a remarkable record.
SiteBuilders Note: During the Battle Of The Bulge, rescuing of the wounded was perhaps one of the most difficult task for both sides, due to the fiercest of the battle. In some instances the rules of war were observed, other times they weren't.
There were times the American Medics were shot and killed by german army snipers; and other times, they were allowed by the Germans to collect their wounded from the battlefield.
On one occasion, using German POWs as shields was the only way the medics could gather the wounded. Sometimes the wounded of both sides were able to be rescued; other times only the most serious! The same could be said of the German Army medical teams, sometimes all, sometimes only their own troops!
NEXT: WW II - GREAT BRITAIN'S WAR DOGS