It is not accurately known when the first dog took to the battlefield to wage war alongside his human companions. Historians believe that millennia ago, the ancient Egyptians used canines to carry messages. The Corinthians surrounded their seashore citadel with guard dogs in 400 BC, and the Romans employed them to raise alarms for their garrisons. The feared invasion of Attila the Hun brought ferocious hounds with them to protect their camps during battle.1
Multi-Purpose Canines (MPC) (to use the current official nomenclature) were employed during World War I to carry messages, and for locating Injured soldiers on the battlefield.
During World War II following the infamous Pearl Harbor attack, a civilian venture: Dogs for Defense was created appealing to owners to donate their pets to the military. This was never an easy decision. By 1942 the Army had training facilities for 200 sentry dogs, and then the demand increased exponentially for dogs to support the Marines and the Coast Guard. M-Dogs (Mine-dogs) were employed in North Africa to detect booby-traps, trip wires and non-metallic mines. They were used by the Coast Guard for beach patrols, and to guard Air Force installations.
Scout, Tracker and Tunnel Dog platoons were assigned to the U.S. Army Infantry divisions during Vietnam, when due to their success, the enemy Viet Cong levied high prices on the heads of the tracker dogs. A scout dog program was initiated at Fort Benning, Georgia, and in jungle environments where tracker dogs could detect the enemy from up to 200 yards, it is estimated that over 2,000 U.S. lives were saved.
Since January 1974 all military dogs and their handlers were trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron at Lackland AFB, Texas. In October 1974 the U.S. Army Military Police School Training Detachment was co-located at Lackland AFB, and was eventually redesignated in December 2002 as Company D (“Dog”), 701st MP Battalion, 14th MP Brigade. Prior to 9/11 an average of 200 dogs per year were trained for DOD, this has increased to some 500 dogs per year as sentry dogs and bomb-sniffers. More recently SOF units have commenced training dogs for their specific needs.
During the War on Terror, with improvised explosive devices (IED) taking increased tolls against the U.S. military, once again in early 2005, dogs came to the rescue, and the following year in the Department of Defense, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) integrated the use of MPC it was quickly determined that the MPC was the far superior weapon to counter the ever-growing IED threat.
The ability to sniff our drugs became another resounding success of the Customs and Border Canine Protection Program where drug-sniffing canines account for more than 60% of drug arrests.
In addition to IEDs and drugs, continued capabilities resulted in the expanded success in sniffing out booby-traps, weapons and demolitions caches, and alerts to hidden enemy manning ambush sites. Their demand increased for Special Operations Forces (SOF) canines to support Army Special Forces, Ranger and CAG missions; U.S. Navy SEALS and DevGru; and USMC Raiders. The first SOF K-9 asset to be lost was ‘Ivan’ in 2010 In Iraq. A SOF K-9 handler and his Belgian Malinois named Cairo, accompanied the bin-Laden raid and capture.
The SOF K-9 were increasingly employed throughout U.S. SOF, at the cost of more than 60 SOF K-9 killed in action. Those losses in turn dramatically reduced the number of SOF names that could have been added to this Memorial. Regretfully, recent publications indicate that as the dogs are retired, there is a documented reluctance to allow their former handlers to purchase them.2
1. ‘Dogs of War in Conflict’ New York Times, 21 February 1915.
2. ‘Troops betrayed as Army dumps hundreds of heroic war dogs’ New York Post, 14 February 2016, http://nypost.com/2016/02/14/troops-betrayed-as-army-dumps-hundreds-of-heroic-war-dogs/
SOF K-9 Memorial, Airborne and Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, NC: http://sofk9memorial.com/
THE COMPLETED SOF K-9 STATUES ARE SCHEDULED TO BE IN PLACE DURING MAY 2016