As I begin this blog, I find myself choked with tears and a knot in my throat. Having been a part of the military community for nearly a decade, I know Memorial Day means a lot more than grilling in the backyard. I know it’s a time to remember the ultimate sacrifices that service members have made. Today, in addition to the service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, I’d like to remember the canines who were by their side.
Last year as part of my preparation for an interview, I read much material on dogs that have served in combat. In story after story I was struck, yet again, by how amazing dogs are. Many lives have been saved in war because of dogs, and just trying to grasp the magnitude of their role in battle is nearly overwhelming.
Dogs take on many roles in combat. These roles were categorized as sentry, scout, casualty, messenger, explosive, ratters and mascot dogs.
I could fill blog after blog talking about each job and the incredible stories that I have found, but today I want to talk about the canine messengers. Messenger dogs alone have been given credit for saving thousands of lives. These dogs were crucial during WW1. World War I consisted of trench warfare and the battle line often time remained fixed for very long periods of time. The common form of communication was telephone or soldiers taking the messages to the rear commanders.
When communications were down the dogs would step up to the plate and when they stepped up, they really stepped up. Messenger dogs were able to deliver the messages four to five times faster than the average man solider. The dogs were also low to the ground which enable them to hide from the enemy more efficiently than a tall solider.
A famous messenger dog known as Satan was credited for saving “The Lost Battalion.” As the story goes, the French held a small village near Verdun but then were surrounded by German forces. The telephone lines had been cut so there was no way of communicating of their horrid situation. Artillery soon found their target and many soldiers lost their lives. In the midst of all the craziness there was a image in the distance the soldiers saw and it was strange because of the unusually large head. It was Satan with two pigeon carriers on his flanks and he was wearing his gas mask. Only a few hundred yards as he approached in his trained zig zag form (he was trained to do so to avoid enemy fire) the Germans opened fire. Satan fell, but recovered, picked himself up and with a slower trot starting moving toward the French only to be shot in the shoulder. He was only a few yards from the French at this point. He picked himself up for the second time and stumbled to the French. Of course the soldiers greeted him with much enthusiasm and the doctor than was able to treat his battle wounds. Satan was able to deliver two carrier pigeons. The first flew only a few feet before the German’s successfully shot it down. The second pigeon was released with a message of their horrid situation. This pigeon was successful in avoiding the German fire. Within a few hours long range guns from the French were there for reinforcement against Germany and the French were able to relieve the village the same day. The success of this battle which involved thousands of soldiers was determined by the brave act of a dog to do what he was trained to do and he did so with much courage.
It’s obvious that we owe so much to canines in combat.
In 1922 a beautiful monument was built in honor of these brave and loyal canine souls at Hartsdale Canine Cemetery in Harstdale, New York. This monument has been dedicated to “The War Dog” for services given during the World War 1914-1918.
We know dogs are amazing beings, but reading story after story about military canines really tops the cake. Today let’s remember these canines and men & women who have given their service and the ultimate sacrifice for mankind. Thank you.
Blog written by Michelle Huntting
Sources for Blog:
War Dogs by Micahel G. Lemish page 20