GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 12, 2012

Letter: Dogs and their roles during wartime


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Veterans’ Day is an official United States holiday honoring armed service veterans, observed on Nov. 11 because it was at 11 a.m. of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice was signed formally ending WWI.

Armistice Day as it was called, has been celebrated each year from 1919 to honor those who served in the “War to end all War.” Then on June 1, 1954, Congress voted to replace Armistice with Veterans to honor all those who served this country during times of war, whereas Memorial Day is still a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving.

However, we should not forget the outstanding role that animals such as horses, carrier pigeons (Cher Ami) and dogs played for this country during war time. I am a great lover of all animals but I am very partial to dogs.

Now, throughout history, dogs have been the human race’s best friend. They have also served gallantly in war too, since the days of the Egyptians, Greeks and Persians.

The first dog to gain notoriety for the United States, was Stubby, who was named so because of his short stocky build. In WWI, he alerted troops by detecting gas attacks, giving them time to put on their gas masks, thus saving numerous American lives. Many times, he also ran down German soldiers, forcing them into a position to surrender. By the war’s end, he had been promoted to sergeant and was awarded 10 medals, some personally by General “Black Jack” Pershing.

Recognizing the war talents of dogs, the U.S. Army established the K-9 corps on March 13, 1942. Dogs were trained as sentries, scouts, messengers and mine detectors.

One of the most famous of all these war dogs, was Chips, a German shepherd who served with the Third Infantry Division. He saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. Among his awards were the silver star and purple heart and he was personally thanked by General Dwight Eisenhower. Later, the Commander of the Order of the Purple Heart took away Chip’s medal saying, “ It was demeaning to American servicemen to have a dog wear a purple heart.”

Finally, there was Susie, a mongrel, who was the lovable mascot for the crew of the USS Merrill (DE-392). In the fall of 1943, the ship was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to be refitted with new armament. During the weekend, Susie disappeared. As my father, a first class petty officer on the ship related, “We finally found her, floating in the water. We retrieved her body and found that she had a broken neck.”

“After an exhaustive investigation by the crew, we found the murderer who quickly confessed. He had come back to the ship drunk and attacked the dog. Next, he was brought before the captain for his punishment. The following day, the captain had the entire crew report beside the ship in full dress uniform. It was then marched in formation to the far end of the navy yard.

“The murder was then handed a shovel and ordered to dig a regulation size grave in front of everyone. The dog was given a military burial with full honors complete with the playing of taps and a 21-gun salute. Immediately following this ceremony, the murderer was transferred for his own safety.”

So, as this most recent Veterans Day fades into history, let’s also not forget what animals like these did to serve their country.

RICK GONSALVES

Main Street, Essex