Animals at war
Animals have been a part of war for as long as humans have fought each other. From Hannibal’s elephants and the camels of Saladin’s army to America’s mounted Special Forces of the Afghan War, when humans charge into battle, invariably animals go with them. Despite being unwilling participants in human conflict, dogs, horses, birds and other creatures, have none the less fought bravely and generally left their mark on history.
When waging war against each other, human armies often enlist the aid of the animal kingdom. In past conflicts, horses, elephants, and camels hauled men and supplies; pigeons carried messages; dogs tracked enemies and protected troops. Their efforts helped to turn battles—and the fortunes of many a combat soldier. Carrying on this tradition, U.S. forces employed thousands of animals during World War II. They could be found in every theater of the war: They were workers and warriors; they were soldiers' comrades-in-arms and companions in battle. Their widespread presence on the battlefields was documented by government photographers covering the war. Today, hundreds of photographs of dogs and cats and horses can be found among the World War II holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Still Picture Branch in College Park, Maryland.
In 1993 NARA opened "Buddies: Soldiers and Animals in World War II," a display of thirty-six of those images. Part of the NARA commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of World War II, the exhibit was traveling to museums throughout the country.
Workers and Warriors
Horses, mules, and dogs were regularly employed by American forces to work on the battlefields of World War II. Horses carried soldiers on patrol missions in Europe and into battle in the Philippines. Mules, trained in the United States and shipped by the thousands into war zones, contributed their strength and sweat to the fight. Their backs bore the food, weapons, and sometimes the men of entire infantry units.
Some twenty thousand dogs served the U.S. Army, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. They guarded posts and supplies, carried messages, and rescued downed pilots. Scout dogs led troops through enemy territory, exposing ambushes and saving the lives of platoons of men. In the throes of combat, war dogs proved their intelligence, courage, and steadfast loyalty time and time again. Many photographs in National Archives holdings document the exploits—and the sacrifice—of America's animal warriors.
Comrades and Companions
Many U.S. military units in World War II adopted animal mascots. Though traditionally considered bearers of good luck, these mascots were really pets who belonged to all the men of a squad, company, or ship. Military photographs show that individual soldiers also had their own pets. A few men smuggled them from the United States, but more often soldiers' pets were local animals left homeless by the war. For the adopted dog, cat, or bird, being in a soldier's care meant survival; for the soldier, a pet meant comfort and companionship on war's brutal battlefields. "Buddies" commemorates the heartfelt, enduring relationships between soldiers and animals during World War II.
Information thanks to National Archives and Records Administration Exhibits
WORLD WAR I
Over 16 million animals served in the First World War. They were used for transport, communication and companionship. When the war began, Europe's armies had an understanding of warfare that put the use of cavalry in high regard. Soon, however, the deadly terrain that evolved around trench warfare rendered cavalry attacks nearly useless on the Western Front. But the need for constant resupply, movement of new heavy weaponry, and the transport of troops demanded horse power on a massive scale - automobiles, tractors, and trucks were relatively new inventions and somewhat rare.
However, animals remained a crucial part of the war effort. Horses, donkeys, mules and camels carried food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to men at the front, and dogs and pigeons carried messages. Canaries were used to detect poisonous gas, and cats and dogs were trained to hunt rats in the trenches. Animals were not only used for work. Dogs, cats, and more unusual animals including monkeys, bears and lions, were kept as pets and mascots to raise morale and provide comfort amidst the hardships of war.
Dogs were some of the hardest and most trusted workers in World War One. The most popular dogs were medium-sized, like Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds. A dog is seen here alongside soldiers in a trench in 1914.
Ambulance horses carried wounded soldiers and artillery horses carried weapons, ammunition and other heavy loads. They had to be strong. Here allied cavalry troops' horses are lowered down in a sling onto the quayside as they arrive in Salonika, Greece.
Sentry dogs stayed with one soldier or guard and were taught to give a warning sound such as growling or barking when they sensed a stranger in the area or close to camp. Many Dobermans were also used as sentry dogs.
This is a casualty dog - they were trained to find wounded or dying soldiers on the battlefield. They carried medical equipment so an injured soldier could treat himself and they would also stay beside a dying soldier to keep him company.
Animals were also often the most reliable way to transport messages. 100,000 carrier pigeons were used as messengers during the war. Pigeons always flew home when released, so the troops made sure the pigeons' nests were in places they needed to send messages.
Winnipeg, known as Winnie for short, was an American black bear who was a mascot to Canadian soldiers. The Canadians gave Winnie to London Zoo in 1914. The writer AA Milne took his son Christopher Robin to see Winnie at the zoo. Christopher liked Winnie so much, it inspired his father to write the famous series of stories about Winnie the Pooh.
Thanks to BBC.CO.UK - The role of animals during World War One
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