This Veteran’s Day while we salute the men and women who have served our country, we take a closer look at famous dogs in military history.
Dogs have served beside humans for centuries but did not have an official military role in the United States until World War II. This list of canine heroes highlights just a few of the dogs who both officially and unofficially served their country.
- Sallie. When 4-week old Sallie was given to a captain in the 11th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers in May of 1861, she became the first official regimental mascot of the Civil War. Quickly learning all of the various drum rolls and bugle calls, Sallie went everywhere with her men. Fiercely dedicated to the soldiers in her unit, she would comfort the injured and guard them in the field until help could arrive. Sallie fought faithfully by their side until two months before the war’s end when she was killed in action; her men buried on the battlefield. In 1890, the surviving members of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry dedicated a monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield. A bronze soldier stands on a marble pedestal, vigilantly watching for rebel soldiers. At the base of the pedestal is Sallie, keeping watch for eternity.
- Sergeant Stubby. One of the most famous and decorated American war dogs, Stubby was a stray when he wandered onto Yale University where John Robert Conroy was training for deployment to WWI. When he was sent to France, he brought Stubby with him. Believed to be either Bull or Boston Terrier, this dog of uncertain lineage eventually became the official mascot of the American Expeditionary Force. During his service, Stubby raised troop morale, participated in 17 battles and four major offenses, and provided early warnings to his comrades of both mustard gas attacks and artillery fire. He also had a knack for finding hidden Germans. Stubby became the first dog nominated to a military rank and then to be promoted to sergeant through combat (outranking his owner). After the war, he was smuggled back to the United States and became a celebrity, even becoming the official mascot of the Georgetown University’s football team.
- Smoky. This pint-sized Yorkshire Terrier is proof that size doesn’t matter. Found in a foxhole in New Guinea during WWII, Smoky became an unofficial military dog participating in a dozen combat missions and surviving more than 150 air raids. Invaluable for warning her team of incoming artillery shells, Smoky once pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70-foot pipe – a task that would’ve taken 40 men three days. After the war, Smoky made television appearances and visited veterans in hospitals. She is considered the first therapy dog.
- Nemo A534. One of the most famous canines from the Vietnam War was Nemo. While on patrol in 1966, Nemo and his handler came under enemy fire. Despite being shot in the eye, the courageous German Shepherd attacked the enemy, giving his injured handler time to call for support. When reinforcements arrived, they found Nemo lying on his handler’s body, protecting him from additional harm; he could not be moved without a veterinarian’s help. The two soldiers recovered from their injuries and Nemo was given a permanent retirement kennel for the rest of his life.
- Lucca K458. Lucca spent 6 years as a U.S. Marine serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trained as a specialized search dog whose primary mission was to find explosives, she saved countless lives through her detection work; the IEDs she was trained to detect were considered the top killers of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2012 after 400 missions, Lucca was injured and lost her leg while sweeping for landmines. The German Shepherd mix recovered and retired to live with her handler and his family, you can follow her adventures on Facebook.