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


Prelude To War!

During World War I, dogs were used on the largest scale yet realized, well over a million dogs served with the armies of the Allies and Axis powers.

German Alpine Mountain Troops, 1938.

Germany learned its lessons well even in a losing effort. Even though the country lay in economic and political turmoil, the German Army continued to advance the training of war dogs under the Treaty of Versailles at the end of The Great War.

In the mid 1930's, they established an large dog training center near Frankfurt, that was involved in the breeding and training of military and police dogs. The organization also bought dogs from private breeders.

It is estimated that by the time the United States got involved in World War II, that the Germans had trained 200,000 military and police dogs.

They also provided 25,000 trained military dogs to their ally, the Japaneses, that were used in their war effort against the Chinese.

But in the United States the possibilities of dogs of war were largely forgotten and ignored, even though the USA was one of the most populous dog countries in the world. Americans had always been great dog lovers and owners; it was estimated in 1942 that there were from 13 to 15 million dogs in the United States.

German Alpine Mountain Troops, 1938.

In the event of another war, America had plenty of dogs...they just weren't trained for military purposes. Not only were they untrained for military purposes; the bulk of them had no more than an elementary canine education. Most Americans kept their dogs strictly as pets or watch dogs. Obedience training, the basis of military training, was practiced but not widely.

And beyond the occasional use of bloodhounds, our police forces seldom employed dogs and never used them to the extent and with the effectiveness of European police. In Europe, dogs for police work had been used as early as 1895. European police dogs became war dogs, as quickly as their masters could change uniforms.

In a great many ways, and not just military dogs, the U.S. was unprepared for war when World War II came to the country on a Sunday, December 7, 1941.

December 8, 1941...War!

President Roosevelt signs the
Declaration of War against Japan.

On December 8th, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the United States Congress declared war on Japan. Three days later Germany and Italy declared war on the United States...global warfare was at hand.

The only military working dogs to be found within the army at this time were about fifty sled dogs in Alaska. There were also forty dogs obtained earlier in 1941 from the Byrd Antarctic Expedition.

A handful of dogs could also be found at Camp Haan and Fort MacArthur in California, participating in a local sentry dog program for the Coast Artillery. No official US dog program yet existed and the force to begin one would actually come from outside the military establishment.

"Dogs For Defense"

January, 1942, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American Kennel Association and a new group calling itself "Dogs for Defense" mobilized dog owners across the country to donate quality animals to the Army's Quartermaster Corps.

Outstanding among the leaders of this movement were Mrs. Milton Erlanger, prominent dog breeder and exhibitor; Arthur Kilbon, dog columist for the New York Sun; Len Brumby, head of the Professional Dog Handlers Assoc.; and Harry I. Caesar, who was elected president of the newy formed organization.

Dogs For Defense was designed to serve as a clearing house for coordinating the various attempts to develop interest in a sentry dog program for the United States. Funds to finance the group were obtained through member clubs of the American Kennel Club; and by donations from individual financiers.

The animals were to be acquired by donation from a patriotic public and trained, at kennels under the supervision of Dogs For Defense and distributed for use, where they were most needed. The country was divided into Regional offices, that were to conduct most of the work actually required in connect- ion with procurement and training.

American Theatre Wing

Very shortly after the establishment of Dogs For Defense, the American Theatre Wing War Service made a formal offer to donate dogs to the Quartermaster Corps for defense purposes. In view of the increase interest in sentry dogs and the fact, that the Army had no regular means of obtaining them, the Quarter- master General asked permission of the Secretary of War to accept the dogs without cost to the government. The authority was granted in February.

In as much as the organization of the Theatre Wing group did not lend itself readily to the actual procurement and training of dogs, officials of Dogs For Defense agreed to assume these responsibilities.

Army's Quartermaster Corp

The dog program embarked upon was experimental because canine supply and training, except in connection with some sled dogs, were entirely new tasks for the Army's QMC. It was designed primarily to provide a test of the usefulness of dogs at Quartermaster installations. Supervision of the new program was assigned initially to the Office of The Quartermaster General's Plant Protection Branch, Inspection Division on the theory, that dogs would be used chiefly with guards at civilian war plants and Quartermaster depots.

March 13, 1942

Beginning on March 13, 1942, Lt. Colonel Clifford C. Smith, chief of the Plant Protection Branch, Inspection Division, QMC, notified Caesar of the quartermaster's requirements, original estimates listed only 200 animals; and informed him that the Dogs For Defense would be the appointed agency for canine recruitment and training.

Proud Pups, Their Moms Are War Dogs!

This was the first time in the military history of the US, that marked the official recognition of war dogs by the armed forces. The date is notable!

To fill this order, Dogs For Defense asked qualified trainers to volunteer their services without pay and called for donations of dogs and the use of private kennels for instructional purposes. Donations of 100 acceptable dogs were soon obtained but none of the kennels offered were sufficiently large enough to carry on the actual training of so many animals, so it was necessary to maintain dozens of small centers throughout the country. This meant that standardization of instructions was impossible. Moreover, very few dogs were actually delivered to using agencies.

An Army inspection was made in June of 1942, three months after the program began, revealed that the dogs in training had made little progress. This was due largely to the fact that most available instructors generally were inexperienced in teaching sentry dogs and unfamiliar with military conditions. Another striking weakness of the program was the failure to teach men to handle the dogs. This defect however, was due primarily to the fact, that the Army did not make enlisted personnel avail- able at first for this purpose.

Partly because of the discouraging conditions, under which Dogs For Defense conducted its activities and partly because the demand for sentry dogs was beginnng to outstrip the original limited conception of the number required, a new dog training program was developed in the summer of 1942. The first step towards formulating such a program was the transfer of the responsibility for procuring, handling and training dogs from the Plant Protection Branch to the Remount Branch.

Now the Army Quartermaster Corps Remount Branch was responsible for running the popular so called "K-9 Corps" and under took to quickly change these new "recruits" into good fighting "soldiers." Dogs For Defense retained the procurement function by delegation from the Remount Branch.

Evidence that interest was developing in the potentialities of war dogs, was demonstrated early in July 1942, Headquarters, Army Ground Forces announced plans to utilize 100 scout dogs, messengers and 100 sled dogs in the newly proposed 10th Mountain Division, and submitted a request for eleven of these dogs in November for use in a test at Camp Hale in Colorado.

WW II First Aid Canine

Another token of interest, was the 2nd request made by Army Ground Forces a short time later for specially selected animals for experimental training in message carrying, wire laying, pack carrying, first aid, scout, attack and trail work.

Formal recognition of the possible military value of dogs came on July 16, 1942, when the Secretary of War directed the Quartermaster General to broaden the scope of the War Dog Program to include training of dogs in the four categories:

sentry dogs,
patrol dogs,
mine detection dogs

but also to teach handlers and to develop training techniques plus establish schools capable of rapid expansion.

Also the Corp was ordered to broaden the scope of the United States' War Dog Program to include training for 'roving patrol messenger dog' and 'sled work' in addition to 'fixed sentry duty dog.'

Typical WWII Airfield, England 1944.

Instruction in this latter category it was pointed out, should be modified to meet the needs of the Army Air Corp in guarding air fields.

The functions of the QMC expanded still further in the fall of '42, when it was made responsible for procurring and training dogs for the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard. This was an out growth of the steady increase in demand for dogs among the various Armed Forces.

Coast Guard Watch Tower

Early on, the military had a fear, almost paranoia, of saboteurs and fifth columnists, within the continental United States, who could potentially damage the rapidly expanding war effort... plants, bases, air fields or ship yards with strategically placed explosives.

These fears became an even greater reality when several Japanese submarines were spoted operating off the Pacific coast and German U-boats increased their activities along the Atlantic seaboard.

QMC TM 10-396

Mrs. Milton Erlanger entered service as a Expert Consultant to Major General Edmund B. Gregory, the Quartermaster General and authored the Corp's Training Manual known as: TM 10-396, War Dogs, 1 July 1943; as well as some technical bulletins, training films, etc...

Sentry Dog On Watch!

Types of Dogs Used.

In 1942 and 1943, when practically all of the dogs were trained to perform the comparatively simple tasks involved in sentry duty more than thirty breeds of both sexes were considered suitable for military service.

Experience revealed, however, that even for sentry duty some breeds were just unsatisfactory. Among these were the Great Danes, whose large size made them difficult to train, and also hunting dog breeds in general because they were too easily distracted by animal scents.

By the fall of 1944 the number of preferred breeds had been reduced to seven: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, collies, Siberian Huskies, Malamutes and Eskimo dogs. Mixed crosses of these breeds also were acceptable.

Alaskan Malamute: Polar regions knew him well as one of the old- est and best of the sled breeds, with fine large "snow shoe" type feet, endowed with thick pads and abundant hair to cushion between the toes.

Belgian Sheep Dog: Thousands of these alert and loyal dogs were trained as messengers in the First World War, and many were killed in action. He is the "Dog of Flanders," in Quida's novel.

Collies: His traits were speed, alertness, endurance and tractability. The British made frequent use of him as a war dog. In general, the so called farm type without to long a coat was preferred.

Doberman Pinscher: Originally bred in Germany as a police and war dog, he possessed nervous energy, speed, power, keen nose, tractability and exceptional agility. This breed was favored by the Marine Corp.

Eskimo: Another of the great sled breeds. An Eskimo could haul from one and a half to double its body weight; and average from twenty to thirty miles daily on long trips.

German Shepherd: He had the look of the wolf, probably an older ancestor. One of the great German breeds, he shepherded the flocks of those early Germanic tribes, the Cimbri and Teutoni. The breed is said to have been launched on its popularity in the United States by the number of German Shepherds brought back by veterans of the First World War. His keen nose, power, courage and other war dog qualities would finally make him preeminent of the breeds used.

Siberian Husky: Another sled dog breed, with feet well adapted for traction over ice and snow; along with speed, endurance and ability to work in a team.

At the beginning of the program, dogs of acceptable breeds from one to five years old were taken. It was soon found that dogs of five years were to old to begin their training, so the maximum procurement age was lowered first to three and one half years and then to two in the fall of 1944 when most of the dogs were being trained for tactical service.

All Dogs Had A Complete Physical.

Requirements called for animals of neutral color such as gray, black, tan or salt and pepper. Those with extensive white or buff markngs were unacceptable as too conspicuous.

Specifications as to size and weight varied over the years, but by the fall of 1944, the accepted height range was from 20 to 26 inches at the shoulder and the weight from 40 to 80 pounds, except for sled and pack dogs, which could weight more.

Rare Army Air Force Photo, Craig Field, 1943,
Of 2 AAF Handlers And Their Sentry Dogs!

They Came From All 48...

The elaborate regional organization of Dogs For Defense, its many enthusiastic volunteer workers and the fact that wide spread publicity, from the media and dog demonstration, such as one held during the Westminister Dog Show, had acquainted virtually all dog owners with its objectives.

Dogs For Defense obtained its canine recruits from every one of the forty-eight states, from rich homes and poor, from the nation's best kennels, from the city and the country. To the national headquarters came many humorous letters from dogs owners who wanted to enlist their pets.

Bobby Britton, of Morgan Hill, California wrote: "I am eight years old and live on a farm. I have a large Australian Shepherd dog about two and one half years old, that is a very good hunter and I think he would be good hunting Japs. He sure likes to kill skunks."

Civil Police Did Their Part, By
Donating Dogs for Defense!

The Hawthorne Barracks of Troop K, New York State Police, sent four of their famed Bloodhounds, Danny Boy, Rusty, Tuffy and Smarty, all experts at tracking, to war. It was the largest single shipment of that rare breed; the dogs took their basic training at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

Motion picture stars, from Hollywood, sent their pets as well, they included: Greer Garson's poodle, Cliquot; Mary Pickford's german shepherd, Silver; Bruce Cabot's boxer, Frits; Rudy Vallee's doberman, King.

When Ezio Pinza, Metropolitan Opera basso, donated his two dalmatians, Boris and Figaro, to the K-9 Corps, he sent an album of his operatic recordings out to Fort Robinson with the dogs. Mr. Pinza explained that they were accustomed to hear- ing him sing around the house.

Recruit's Medical Checkup, Front Royal, 1942

Training Centers

The first of these centers was established in August 1942 at the Front Royal War Dog Reception and Training Center, far out in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, near a Remount Depot.

Front Royal was a veritable army of dogs, similar in size to Fort Robinson, it held over 1,800 dogs and each day more recruits from around the country would pour in. No sooner out of their packing crates, they would be inspected, weighted, groomed, even 'manicured,' assigned a handler and put to work.

San Carlo Dog Training Center

Three others were opened late in 1942: one at the QMC's Fort Robinson Remount Center, in Nebraska to serve the mid-west; another at Camp Rimini, Montana (a Marine post, in the snow belt of the Rocky Mountains, was utilized exclusively for the training of sled and pack dogs), and San Carlos, on the west coast, in California, plus a fourth was open in April 1943 at Cat Island, Gulfport, Mississippi (that was used for jungle warfare training because of its semi tropical climate and dense natual vegetation).

The army did not bear the sole responsibility for training and procurement; and in the early stages of the war other services maintained their own camps.

A 'Coastie' On Beach Patrol

The Marines maintained a training center at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and the Coast Guard, requiring only sentry dogs, had three facilties on the east coast plus several on the west.

Althought the War Department authorized Dogs For Defense to be the only recruitment agency for the army, for a short time the Navy and the Marines procured some of their own dogs directly from private citizens and groups, as did the United States Coast Guard.

Eventually the Navy appointed the DFD as procurer, as did the Coast Guard and Marine Corp, the latter in conjunction with the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.

The Marines preferred the male Dobes because of its ability to work well in a tropical climate, but also used other breeds; and the Coast Guard, recruited mostly females German Shepherds, because of a previous arrangement it had with the Marine Corp.

Fort Robinson's Kennels, Nebraska.
Housed Over 2,000 dogs.

Fort Robinson War Dog Training
& Reception Center, Nebraska

Fort Robinson, the largest of all the QMC centers, opened in September 1942. The school trained dogs for the Army, the Army Air Corp, Navy, Coast Guard and some civilian agencies. It had as many as two thousand dogs in training at one time.

Fort Robinson's Obstacle Course

Eventually some 14,000 dogs were shipped to Fort Robinson for the war effort. From that number, nearly 5,000 dogs, half the number used by the army in WWII were trained there.

Note: The center was deactivated in June 1946. Fort Robinson was a permanent remount installation, where the Army also trained horses and mules for the Quartermaster Corp.

Camp Patrick Henry Kennels, VA., 1945

Small temporary training centers were set up In Maryland at Fort Washington; plus Beltsville, Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, when it was decided to train mine detection dogs. This highly specialized training was later transferred to the San Carlos War Dog Reception and Training Center, California. Hawaii both recruited and trained dogs at a camp near Honolulu.

All of these centers, except the one at Fort Robinson were discontinued during the latter half of 1944.


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