Dogs of War: The Untold Story of American Heroes

We try to honor and remember our veterans, and for good reason.  Brave citizens who commit themselves (sometimes their lives) to our freedoms deserve our reverence.  To recognize their service, we hang our flags with pride, attend parades, and ask our veterans to tell their stories.  But, there’s one tale untold by a war hero; the story of a war dog.

War dogs, also known as Military Working Dogs (MWDs), are trained to serve our country on the battlefield in many ways.  Their contributions range from combat, logistics, communication, medical research, and detection, all the way to search and rescue missions.  As many as 600 MWDs contributed to the conflicts in Afghanistan, and in the 1970s the US Air Force employed over 1,500 MWDs across the globe.  The breed most common among all MWDs is the German Shepherd Dog.

Since 600 BC, canines fought alongside their owners in battles all over the world.  Initially, their primary responsibility was to patrol for invaders, but over time their contributions to battle expanded.  It is estimated that up to a million MWDs were killed in action during WWI alone, however far fewer canine casualties were reported in subsequent conflicts.

During the Vietnam War, MWDs were classified as expendable equipment for the first time in history.  Consequently, upon US departure, MWDs were either euthanized or gifted to an allied army.  This upset many soldiers and civilians alike, and in 2000, President Bill Clinton made it possible to adopt retired MWDs.  You can learn more about adopting MWDs here.  Analysts believe MWDs saved up to ten thousand lives in the Vietnam War, the only American war from which MWDs never returned home.

In 2006, a memorial in Bristol, PA was dedicated to MWDs that served during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  It is also intended to recognize the contributions of canine heroes in the US armed forces each day.  We are grateful for the freedoms defended by our nation’s veterans, and that includes the dogs of war.