With K-9 Veteran’s Day approaching on March 13th, I was thinking about the role of our furry friends in conjunction with the military over the years. While I can’t even get my dogs to go out and do their business when it’s cold or rainy, some served through many hardships as companions or fellow comrades over the generations, and today there is certainly a collectible market for “War Dog” material.
There wasn’t an “official” K-9 corps in the U.S. Army until 1942, but many dogs served as mascots within units. One of the very interesting items in the collection of famed military artist Don Troiani is a brass dog collar for a smaller-sized dog with a purported Bunker Hill provenance. It’s engraved “Daniel Munroe, Soldier, 43rd Regt. 1773.” A search of the muster rolls of this British regiment confirm that Daniel Munroe was with the 43rd regiment at Boston in 1773 and died in late-1774, a year before the famous battle in Charlestown, Massachusetts. According to family lore, it was captured by a soldier from Connecticut during the fight. Maybe the dog ran into Provincial lines, who knows, but it’s a very cool reminder of a dog’s time with the military just prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution.
By the Civil War, many units had canine mascots. One of the most famous was Sallie, a brindle-coated terrier who joined the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment at the start of the war as a puppy. She would be with the unit through some of the most tumultuous battles of the war. On July 1, 1863, during the fighting of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the unit had heavy casualties who were left behind Confederate lines. Sallie stayed with the dead and wounded of the regiment until the Confederates had retreated. She was wounded during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House but was nursed back to health by the soldiers in her unit. In February 1865, Sallie was killed during the Battle of Hatchers Run. She was so important to the unit that in 1890 when their monument was placed at Gettysburg, a life-sized bronze sculpture of Sallie was included as a part of the monument. There are other monuments on Civil War battlefields that include canine mascots.
During World War I, a stray was snuck into the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Infantry Division. “Stubby” as he was called, went to France, and served in 17 battles with his unit and was given the rank of sergeant. A great picture of Stubby survives wearing a jacket with his Yankee Division patch, rank insignia, and medals. He survived the war and came home a hero. When he died in his sleep years later, his remains were sent to a taxidermist; You can still see him on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
It wasn’t until March 13, 1942, a year after the start of World War II, that the U.S. Army K-9 Corps was formed, with dogs with handlers in battles all over the Pacific and European theaters of the war. During this time, gear was made by the military for the dogs and has become collectible on the market today.
Our dogs are like kids to us. They play and sit on the couch and watch TV, but there were and are many dogs over the years that were out fighting with service men and women helping to protect our country. This K-9 Veterans Day take a moment to honor and remember them!
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