Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unsung Heroes

In honor of Veteran's Day, I thought I would spotlight some lesser known veteran heroes from America's past - K-9 Soldiers. Thank you to all Veterans, human and animal! While researching this post, I discovered a movement to make a Nation Wide K-9 Veterans Day (some states already have it) on March 19th. I'm still honoring them with all the Veterans today! [PS - the dog bios are edited versions of one's I found on various web sites. I'm not citing properly, I admit, but before suing me over it, please ask, and I'll take the time to cite your article properly.]

Lance Corporal Alfredo Salazar and his German Shepherd partner, Kaiser, met in Fort Benning, GA. They completed months of training at Fort Benning and then in Camp Pendleton, CA before being shipped to Vietnam. Once there, they completed more than 30 missions together before joining D Company, First Marines, 3rd Marine Division on a search and destroy mission. The two were leading a patrol through heavy brush towards a small village when the Company was hit by heavy automatic weapon fire and hand gernades. Kaiser was hit almost immediately. The Company returned fire and proceeded with the attack, but Salazar stayed by his partner. The dog tried to lick his hand, but couldn't before passing away. The dog was carried back the Company tents and burried under a shady tree. The site was named Camp Kaiser in his honor.World War II:
Probably the most famous War Dog was Chips. Chips was trained at Fort Royal, VA in 1942 and was among the first dogs shipped overseas. He was assigned to the 3d Infantry Division and served with that unit in North Africa, Sicily, Itlay, France and Germany. Although trained as a sentry dog, Chips was reported on one occasion by members of Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment while stationed in Sicily, to have broken away from his handler and attack a pillbox containing an enemy machine gun crew. He seized one man and forced the entire crew to surrender. He was also credited for having been directly responsible for the capture of numerous enemies by alerting his company of their presence. In recognition of his service, Chips was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, both later revoked (WHY??).
World War I:
Sergeant Stubby
Stubby, served 18 months 'over there' and participated in seventeen battles on the Western Front. Stubby was a bull terrier. One day he just appeared when a bunch of soldiers were training at Yale Field in New Haven, Ct; he trotted in and out among the ranks as they drilled, stopping to make a friend here and a friend there, until pretty soon he was on chummy terms with the whole bunch. One soldier though, in particular, developed a relationship with the dog, a Corporal Robert Conroy, who when it wastime for the outfit to ship out, hid Stubby on board the troop ship. It was at Chemin des Dames, France that Stubby saw his first action, and it was there that the boys discovered he was a war dog par excellence. The boom of artillery fire didn't faze him in least, and he soon learned to follow the men's example of ducking when the big ones started falling close. Naturally he didn't know why he was ducking, but it became a great game to see who could hit the dugout first. After a few days, Stubby won every time. He could hear the whine of shells long before the men. It got so they'd watch him!

Then one night Stubby made doggy history. It was an unusally quiet night in the trenches. Some of the boys were catching cat naps in muddy dugouts, and Stubby was stretched out beside Conroy. Suddenly his big blunt head snapped up and his ears pricked alert. The movement woke Conroy, who looked at the dog sleepily just in time to see him sniff the air tentatively, utter a low growl, then spring to his feet, and go bounding from the dugout, around a corner out of sight. A few seconds later there was a sharp cry of pain and then the sound of a great scuffle outside. Conroy jumped from his bed, grabbed his rifle and went tearing out towards the direction of the noise. Stubby had captured a German spy, who'd been prowling through the trenches. The man was whirling desperately in an effort to shake off the snarling bundle of canine tooth and muscle that had attached itself to his differential. But Stubby was there to stay. It took only a few moments to capture the Hun and disarm him, but it required considerably more time to convince Stubby that his mission had been successfully carried out and that he should now release the beautiful hold he had on that nice, soft German bottom.

By the end of the war, Stubby was known not only to every regiment, division, and army, but to the whole AEF. Honors by the bale were heaped on his muscled shoulders. At Mandres en Bassigny he was introduced to President Woodrow Wilson, who "shook hands" with him. Medal and emblemed jackets were bestowed upon him for each deed of valor, plus a wound stripe for his grenade splinter. Not to be left out, the Marines even made him an honorary sergeant. Stubby returned home with Conroy and his popularity seemed to grow even more. He became a nationally acclaimed hero, and eventually was received by presidents Harding and Coolidge. Even General John "Black Jack" Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces during the war, presented Stubby with a gold medal made by the Humane Society and declared him to be a "hero of the highest caliber." He was even made an honorary member of the American Red Cross, the American Legion and the YMCA, which issued him a lifetime membership card good for "three bones a day and a place to sleep."

Civil War:
Sallie, a brindel bull terrier, joined the 11th Pennsylvanis Vol. Regiment as a puppy in the early days of the war. Through it all, she provided a source of comfort, pride, and inspiration for her fighting comrades. Sallie would hold her position on the line and bark fiercely at the enemy. At Gettysburg, the gallant little dog became separated from her unit in the confusion of the first day's battle. Refusing to pass through the Rebel lines, Sallie returned to her unit's former position atop Oak Ridge, staying among her fallen comrades, licking wounds of the injured and watching over lifeless bodies. Days later, after the Confederates retreated from the field, she was found weakened and malnourished, amidst the dead and debris. Miraculously Sallie had avoided being shot at Gettysburg, but on May 8, 1864, the same day the regiment's Captain Keenan was killed; she was shot in the neck by a minie ball. After a few days recuperation at the hospital, she returned to the unit with the painful and annoying wound. Upon reporting for "active duty" she felt it necessary to tear the seat out of the pants of a young soldier from another unit running away from the battle line as he crossed along the back of the "Old 11th." Sallie was in her usual position on February 6, 1865, at Hatcher's Run, Virginia, when a bullet struck her in the head, killing her. Heartbroken over the loss of their beloved mascot, the men buried her on the filed of battle under heavy enemy fire.

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