With their fearless and loyal nature, military dogs are often considered the unsung heroes of combat. Yet while their stories aren’t as well-known as those of their human counterparts, that doesn’t mean they’re no less valuable.
Like their human comrades, many brave pooches went above and beyond the call of duty—and risked their lives—to serve their country. Just take these 16 military dogs for example. Their bravery shows that heroes come in all shapes, sizes… and breeds!
1. Smoky: Discovered in a New Guinea jungle and adopted by American soldier Bill Wynne, this four-pound Yorkshire terrier went on to earn a medal of honor after he warned Wynne of an incoming enemy attack on a transport ship during World War II.
2. Lucca: In 2012, while protecting a Marine platoon, this poor pooch lost her leg as the result of a roadside bomb. Nonetheless, the resilient pup went on to live a happy three-legged life!
3. Treo: Many dogs are trained to sniff out explosives, but this British pup’s abilities were particularly exceptional. His skills in detecting roadside bombs ultimately saved hundreds of human lives, and he was awarded with the Dickin Medal, which honors animals in war!
4. Sergeant Stubby: The most highly decorated World War I American dog accomplished quite a bit, like nabbing German spies. But one tale in particular stands out. In 1918, his battalion was attacked with poisonous gas…
Sergeant Stubby miraculously survived the ordeal. Afterwards, he developed an extreme sensitivity to such attacks. So when it happened again shortly after, he managed to wake all of the soldiers in his unit and save their lives in the process!
5. Rags: Private James Donovan found Rags, a carrier dog, while he was stationed in Paris during World War I. Both Rags and Private Donovan became injured in a gas attack. Though the soldier passed away from injuries, Rags survived, and he went on to make rank of Lieutenant Colonel!
6. Gander: Sent to Hong Kong to defend the Royal Rifles of Canada from Japanese attacks during World War II, Gander gained prominence for attacking enemy soldiers. Sadly, during the Battle of Lye Mun, he lost his life after a grenade fell near some soldiers. He picked it up and ran in the opposite direction, saving their lives. For this act, he was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal.
7. Sallie: A mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, Sallie’s job went far beyond its description. In fact, she accompanied soldiers right into battle, and at one point, she became separated from her unit at Gettysburg…
Sallie was eventually found by her unit some three days later, standing over and protecting the deceased and wounded. She lost her life at the Battle at Hatcher’s Run and was ultimately honored with a monument at Gettysburg.
8. Sinbad: A member of the Coast Guard from 1938 to 1949, Sinbad was onboard his unit’s cutter ship when a Nazi U-606 submarine attacked it. Even when his fellow sailors were transferred to a different vessel, he stayed with the ship while it was towed and repaired. He was laid to rest at the Barnegat Light Station.
9. Valdo: In 2011, during a mission in Afghanistan where he was based with his handler, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Lee, Valdo managed to shield four troops from a rocket-propelled grenade attack. He was hit with much of the shrapnel, though everyone involved survived.
10. Nemo: On December 3, 1966 during the Vietnam War, Nemo’s handler, Airman Second Class Robert Thorneburg, was shot in the shoulder. Nemo himself was shot in the muzzle; the bullet entered through his eye and exited through his mouth…
Somehow, despite his injuries, Nemo managed to ignore the pain and run toward the gunmen, allowing reinforcements to be brought in. Both Nemo and his handler survived the horrific ordeal, and it was all thanks to his bravery.
11. Sarbi: This Australian bomb-detecting pup and her unit were struck by a group of Taliban militants in 2008, and nine soldiers were injured. Though she became separated from them, she managed to survive a year in enemy territory. She was reunited with her handler and received the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Purple Cross.
12. Chips: In 1943, Chips and his military handler were caught in machine gun fire during the invasion of Sicily during World War II. Ultimately, he broke free and managed to pin the enemies to the ground…
Thankfully, the enemies surrendered to American troops! For his brave effort, Chips was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. In turn, he became the most-decorated dog in World War II!
13. Lex: After shrapnel from a mortar struck him and his handler, Corporal Dustin Lee, in Fallujah, Iraq, this brave dog crawled to Corporal Lee’s side to protect him until medical assistance could arrive. Unfortunately, Corporal Lee passed from his injuries, but Lex survived.
14. Judy: Among this brave dog’s illustrious military accolades is a story of surviving a torpedoed ship, rescuing soldiers as the ship sank, fighting alligators and tigers on land, and attacking prison guards who were beating captured prisoners of war. Woof!
15. Sam: Sent to aid in the Bosnian-Hertzegovina conflict in 1998, Sam reportedly chased a gunman after he opened fire on a group of civilians. Sam’s efforts allowed his handler, Sergeant Iain Carnegie, to disarm the gunman.
16. Moustache:This French army dog reportedly managed to detect and corner an enemy Austrian spy during the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Despite losing a leg, it was rumored that he still carried the French flag back to his base camp—an act that earned him a medal of honor.
These military dogs all prove that being a hero isn’t limited to people. In their various roles, these good boys and girls all became heroes!
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