Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend, but to those who serve in the military and on police forces, K-9 officers are much more. They’re tasked with protecting, alerting, sensing and searching, and have saved thousands of lives alongside their human counterparts throughout history.
In honor and recognition of their service, here is a look at just three of the war dogs who blazed trails for canines everywhere who continue to serve in the military.
Sgt. Stubby was a military canine who racked up a lengthy list of actions that were lauded for bravery and valor and is regarded as one of history’s most decorated dogs.
Stubby was discovered as a stray by training soldiers on the Yale campus. During World War I, the U.S military didn’t have an official “war dog” program, but Stubby’s quick wit and charm had a lasting effect with the men in his regiment.
Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment and was involved in multiple battles including the battle of Marne, and the battle of Chateau-Thierry, according to History Extra. Stubby was able to hear incoming artillery shells and let his unit know when to duck and cover while also being able to sniff out wounded soldiers on the battlefield.
He was injured in a gas attack in his first battle and was then fitted with a specially made mask. Learning from this experience, Stubby was then able to detect and warn his fellow comrades about incoming gas attacks.
One of his more notable achievements was his capture of a German spy in Argonne, who was mapping allied positions. By the end of the war, Stubby had been involved in 17 battles.
Following the war, Stubby returned home a hero, touring the country and meeting several U.S. presidents including Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge, and was honored with a medal for heroism form the Humane Education Society.
Chips was the first dog to be awarded the Silver Star, the U.S. military’s third-highest honor for bravery in the face of combat. He also received a Purple Heart for wounds serving in Italy.
Chips served under his handler Pvt. John P. Rowell and the 3rd Infantry Division, fighting on fronts in Africa, Italy, France and Germany.
This German Shepherd mix charged and successfully neutralized an Italian machine gun crew that had pinned down his unit. His sense of smell helped capture enemy soldiers. Chips even suffered scalp and burn wounds but continued his service for most of the war.
In 2018, Chips was awarded the Dicken Medal, which is the highest award given to an animal who has served in the military. A handful of other animals including, Pigeons, Cats, and Horses have also received the award, the Washington Post writes.
Smoky, an unlikely hero, was a female Yorkshire Terrier who was found alone in the New Guinea jungle in 1944 during World War II.
Her most notable achievements occurred when she aided in connecting string communication lines while her handler’s unit was under attack in the Philippines.
Smoky’s small size allowed her to transfer the communication lines undetected, helping to secure communication between her unit and Allied forces. For this, she was credited with helping save the lives of hundreds of soldiers.
According to National Geographic, Smoky was also one of the first therapy dogs, visiting wounded soldiers and having a lasting effect on their morale. Smoky and her owner continued to tour hospitals after the war until she eventually retired in 1955 and died two years later.