A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany

...The Dogs of War on Two Fronts!

Featuring The History of The United States and Great Britain!

Lt. Colonel Surgeon Grow (without hat) Loading The Wounded!

SiteBuilder Note: The following excerpt is from the bio of, "Surgeon Grow: An American In The Russian Fighting," by Malcolm C. Grow, former Lt. Colonel Imperial Russian Army Medical Corp. Frederick A. Stokes, Pub. 1918. It briefly describes his experiences on the front. The complete online book is listed on our Hahn 50th K-9 Link Page.

On The Eastern Front
...The Rescue!

Chapter XIV

We had with us three Airedale terriers. They were trained to locate the wounded in thickets and brushy places where they could not be seen by our searching parties, who, for obvious reasons, cannot carry any light.

About two o'clock we received word that a wounded man had managed to crawl in from between the lines and had reported that some badly wounded soldiers were lying in a thicket and were perishing in the cold. He had passed several of them as he crawled painfully by. They were too weak to move but displayed signs of life.

I summoned the three orderlies who had charge of the dogs, and, taking twelve stretcher-bearers, hurried to our trenches opposite the point indicated. The weather had moderated slightly and the snow was melting a little, but it was one of those damp, penetrating nights when the cold seems to go right through to the bone.

As we splashed through a communication trench, the dogs tugging at their leashes, I thought of those poor devils lying out there, suffering all kinds of anguish and without any hope of being rescued.
It was as dark as a pit as we entered the firstline trenches. They were full of soldiers sitting about shivering in the cold and waiting for the next order to attack.

In the occasional flicker of a rocket I could make out, half-way between our trenches and the Germans, a dark patch of scrubby weeds and stunted bushes. In this little thicket lay the wounded.

The orderlies who had charge of the dogs lifted them up on the parapet, unsnapped their leashes, and spoke a sharp word of command: "Begone!"

The dogs disappeared in the darkness of No Man's Land and were gone for quite a long time. I thought at first that they must have gone astray or that one of those scattering volleys from the German trenches had ended their mission of rescue.


Something in our entanglements had struck a projecting piece of wire directly in front of me. A rocket shot up, and over the parapet a yard to my right I saw a shaggy head peering down. The dog held something in his mouth. I heard him whine softly. One of the orderlies reached up to get him and he snarled savagely and jumped back. It was not his master and he was trained when on duty to keep away from any other person.

Another orderly stepped up on the firestep and spoke to him, and he whimpered softly and came to his master, who lifted him down.

Russian Mercy Dog Grabbing A Wounded Man's Cap.

In the light of my electric torch I saw that he held in his mouth a crumpled, blood-stained cap. His master took the cap in his hand, snapped the leash on the dog's collar, lifted him up on the parapet and crawled up after him, followed by two stretcher-bearers.

The dog led them out through the barbed wire, tugging at his leash, and I followed the little party, curious to see whether he would find the owner of that cap.

I could distinguish their dim forms as they crawled on hands and knees, dragging the rolled-up stretcher after them. I followed, also crawling, and when a rocket soared up and cast its ghostly light over the field, we all "froze," lying perfectly flat in the snow until the light died out.

I heard the dry grass crackle as they wormed their way into the thicket and I thought that we must be very dose to the German lines. Several bullets struck the weeds about me.

My hand touched something which felt like a piece of woolen cloth in the weeds and I saw a dark object lying partly concealed in the thicket. I reached out and felt a human arm-it was hard and stiff and the clutched hand was icy. I tried to move the arm, but it was rigid and I knew that there was no life in that cold body.

I crawled hurriedly on through the bush and found the little party kneeling about another dark object sprawled in the snow. The body was still warm but the hands were very cold and at the wrist I could feel only a tiny trickle of pulse. I passed my hand up to his head. The cap was gone and the hair was stiff and matted with frozen blood, but just above the ear I felt a warm moist spot. I knew that this was the wounded point and that the fresh blood was oozing forth. The bullet had entered the brain and the soldier was unconscious, but it was evidently the man whose cap the dog had brought to our trenches.

One of the orderlies had a first aid kit, and we hurriedly put on a dressing to keep the dirt out. We slid him on to the stretcher and started back, crawling and dragging the stretcher after us.

Our progress was necessarily very slow, for with each rocket we had to lie quiet. The German trenches were not more than forty yards away. Finally, however, we reached our wire and passed through one of the lanes which had been cut to let the attacking waves through.

The stretcher was carefully passed down to waiting hands below, and the wounded man wrapped in blankets, and we started back for the dressing station.

Russian Medical Corp With Their Mercy Dogs!

I learned that the other two dogs had returned in the meantime, one with a cap and the other with a piece of cloth ripped by his fangs from a wounded man's overcoat. The dogs are trained to tear something from the soldier's garments if they cannot find a cap or glove. Whatever the dog brings back is used to refresh its memory when the rescue party starts after the wounded man, the orderly passing it across the animal's nose whenever he falters.

One of the rescue parties returned with an abdominal case, a bad one, so weak that I could scarcely detect a sign of life.

"Do the dogs ever take you to dead bodies?" I asked the orderly.

"No, Excellency, never," he replied. "They sometimes lead us to bodies which we think have no life in them, but when we bring them back the doctors, by careful examination, always find a spark though often very feeble. It is purely a matter of instinct, which, in this instance, is far more effective than man's reasoning powers."

Presently a third party returned with a man with a broken thigh. He was almost lifeless from exposure and shock.

So the work went on until we had recovered fourteen wounded. Then one of the dogs returned without anything in his mouth. He was sent back again and while he was gone another returned, also without any "evidence." When, after a little while, all three dogs stuck their shaggy heads over the parapet with nothing in their mouths we were tolerably sure that there were no more wounded Russians in the thicket.

By that time the first gray light of dawn was struggling to dispel the night. As. I went back to the main dressing station through the ghostly forest, our artillery was pounding furiously at the German lines. Then came the infernal crackle of rifles and the tack! tack! of machine-guns and the flickering of rockets as another wave of our infantry went over the top in a second desperate attack to break the German lines. As I pictured the inrush of the flowing stream of wounded pouring down the road through the forest to our dressing stations, I realized that there would be little rest for me that day.

War Dogs!

Italian Medical Corp With Red Cross Dogs!

The Italian Army used about 3,500 dogs, chiefly in the Alps, from Val Gindicarie to the Adamello. Most of them were mongrels of the St. Bernard type from the Franco-Italo-Swiss border. They were of large size, weighing from 125 to 150 pounds, usually white with reddish markings. The best of them had heavy coats, which could withstand the cold at great heights.

It was in the transport almost exclusively that these dogs were used, some in harness, others as pack animals. In winter they were hitched to sledges with loads of food, or ammunition, weighting perhaps 250 pounds, for the troops working on building roads thru the mountains. Often a party of ski runners (mountain troops), camoflaged in white uniforms led the way, breaking out a trail.

Where the trail was so steep, that even a sledge couldn't go, they sent squads of 30 or 32 dogs, each carrying packs of about 60 pounds. So, a single squad could deliver about a ton of transport every trip.

A good many dogs were lost, some through falling down crevasses; some from enemy shells and bullets. Others were wounded, and for these, hospitals were establish at safe points, one such "infermeria cani" was at an altitude of 3,000 feet.

Each dog, received a soldier's ration: coffee and bread for breakfast; broth, meat, bread and water for lunch, and meat, bread, sugar and chocolate for dinner at night. They were housed in special huts, erected at points safe from bombardment.

Charles Mosansky, the author of this article was a Hungarian conscript during World War I with the Axis Powers (Germany). The Vizslas is a breed of short hair Hungarian Pointer dogs, that was used by both sides in The Great War.

Vizslas: War Dogs
During The Great War!

A View From The Russian Front
By Charles Mosansky

My parents were caretakers for the Austro - Hungarian Baron Valbot Bela who maintained his summer home at his castle outside Zemplen Hogyala. I grew up with Baron Valbot's vizslas. When I was 12 years old I was sent away to a trade school and there I lost contact with the vizsla until I was 19 years old. I was drafted into the Army right after World War I broke out and I was soon to learn what daring and heroics the vizsla would play in the War.

After a short training period, I was shipped to the Russian Front. Our company was very fortunate inasmuch as we had a trained war dog, a vizsla. They were rather scarce and the outfits that got them were considered lucky. The dogs were used mainly for relaying messages, standing guard and scouting for patrols. During the winter of 1915, we had a lull in the fighting and we began to dig trenches and bomb shelters deep down under the surface.

One evening, while we were resting in our shelters, our dog started acting very strangely. He was restless and uneasy; then he stood perfectly motionless and listened intently. He began to dig a hole in the ground. At first, we didn't know what to make of it. He would listen, then dig. We got down on the ground, but heard nothing. The dog wouldn't give up; he was trying to tell us something. Finally, our Commander caught on - the Russians were digging under our lines. We retreated to a position far enough back and dug in again. A few days later it happened - the Russians blew up our vacated positions and began, what they thought, was a surprise attack. We counter-attacked and dealt them a very humiliating defeat. Because of that vizsla's intelligence and keen senses, hundreds of our boys owed their lives to him.

In 1916, we were replaced on the front by fresh troops. We were supposed to get a short furlough, but instead the Roumanians attacked on another front and we were dispatched immediately to fight them. This time we were not so fortunate, for we had no dog. The other vizsla remained with his master who was separated from our Company.

When we reached the front, we had no idea of where the enemy positions were. We sent out patrols, but they never came back. Finally, we sent an urgent message to the higher command requesting we have a dog. We were rewarded for, shortly thereafter, we received two vizslas. They went out with our patrols and, for awhile, were without results, but at least our patrols returned.

Finally, one day while out on a patrol, we witnessed a battle of battles. Our vizsla came upon a Roumanian police dog. This dog was out ahead of an enemy patrol. Both these dogs were trained killers and they immediately went for each other's throats. Here the vizsla showed his superior skill and intelligence. He out-smarted and out-maneuvered the police dog and before long the vizsla stood triumphant over his dead opponent. He also alerted our patrol of the approaching enemy. We took up our positions and waited. Before long, the enemy walked right into our hands. We took them prisoners without a shot being fired.

Belgian War Dogs!

Belgian Draught Dogs Pulling Gun Cart, WW I

For centuries dogs had been used as draught animals in many parts of Europe, but perhaps Belgium was the biggest user.

As a rule, these animals were well treated and there were even special laws enacted for their benefit. The carts were balanced on their axle, so that the weight of the load rested on the two wheels, and not on the shoulders of the dog. The police were even instructed to stop any driver, who was using a dog cart without the proper harness, which included a broad flat band for the chest, for it was by his chest that the dog pulls.

Properly equipped, and on a hard level road, a good draught dog could draw 500 pounds; and a pair could pull a ton. It seemed then, that when war broke out, that the Belgian Army didn't overlook their stanch draft dogs.

Belgian Gun Cart Crew And Dogs Resting!

At that time there were only a few draught (draft) dogs in the army. Several of the machine gun companies had four each, but at the call to arms, the government requisitioned all that were needed.

A Belgian officer on duty in Antwerp when the first lot of civilian dogs from that section were turned over to the army, happen to mentioned what a sight it was.

Dozens of men and women brought in their beloved pets and helpers; and in many cases their parting was very hard. They told the soldiers the names of the dogs, dwelt fondly on their peculiarties, especially what they liked best to eat, and tried to exacted promises that they would be kindly treated and when the war was over. brought back to them. Such was the love they felted for their animals!

Their work in the army consisted in drawing light running, two wheeled, machine gun carriages with a maxim gun mounted on each; or ammunition carts to supply these guns, or water carts to carry drinking water to the gunners.

Because the dogs were already trained in harness, military training was usually quite easy. Although when the guns went into action, the work of the dogs was very often dangerous but simple. An officer would run forward and selected the gun position, and at a signal the dogs would leaped in their harness and carried the gun to him at full gallop. The gun crew then would lift the gun, tripod and all, out of the cart, and set it up on the firing line, while one man swung the dogs around and ran them back with the empty cart to the nearest available shelter.

Twelve companies of dog drawn machine guns were used in the Belgian army during the war and approx. 500 dogs were drafted to draw these guns and the ammo wagons. They were nearly always at the front line and took part in the battles of Liegeand and Namur, were in action close to Antwerp and Louvain; and assisted in the capture of 500 prisoners at Aerschot.

A good many gun dogs were killed in action, and many more wounded. Behind the lines, there were remount stations, where new dogs could be obtain as needed; and dog hospitals for the sick and wounded animals.

When campaigning, the dogs were fed once a day and given water at least three times, sometimes more. In winter they often slept across the legs of the gunners for mutual warmth, and every morning they were groomed and cared for, when ever possible.

German War Prisoners At French Camp!

Guarding War Prisoners!

In November 1916, a report was submitted to the General Inspector of War Prisons, suggesting that in as much as the Germans were using trained dogs to guard their war prison camps, a similar dog service might be valuable in the French camps.

The answer was no, that having sent an official protest to the German government against such use of war dogs, the War Ministry could not sanction the practice in its own army. Never the less, there was nothing to prevent an unofficial trial; and at least, an dozen dogs were sent to Dijon camp to help guard the German prisoners.

The results were entirely satisfactory but no further trials were made until 1918. Then many prison camps were provided with dogs: to discourage escapes, to track prisoners if they did succeeded in getting away, and to hold up German aviators, who might, purposely or accidentally land behind French lines.

At a prison camp for non commissioned officers at Saint Martial, in September 1918, prisoners were being taken for a walk, when an Austrian, under the pretense of picking wild flowers, lagged behind and attempted to escape. A guard dog, Caporal went after him without instructions, bit him in the thigh and literally drove him back into the column.

Also, two very good dogs were put on duty at the frontier station at Belegarde, where quite frequently prisoners escaped by hiding in Swiss supply trains. They were put in charge of two custom officers, who before the war had used dogs for capturing smugglers along the northern border of France. One of these men wrote to the trainer only a day or two after the arrival of the dogs:

"Tsekoff made himself known the first night he was on duty by discovering two Germans, who had concealed themselves in a flour wagon. Only in my opinion, he did not bite them enough. They were sorry looking objects."

Cpl A Hitler (front. left), Conrads & His Dog Fuchsi

November 11, 1918

With the end of the 'War To End All Wars,' about 7,000 dogs were thought to have lost their lives, this figure is probably low, based on the total number of dogs used by all sides. Some reports cited German loses alone at over 7,000 and a United States Veterinary Corps history stated 16,000 battle deaths.

More loses probably occurred after the end of hostilities than during the war. France destroyed 15,000 animals as its great war machine demobilized; and the vast quantities of dogs used by the United States, Great Britian, Germany, Italy and Russia faced the same fate.

With peace, the United States did nothing with the knowledge and information gained by using dogs in warfare. Germany on the other hand, continued to advance the training of war dogs under the Treaty of Versailles. Soon the mold would be cast for a future war. Nazi Germany unlike the United States would be prepared with its dogs of war.


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