28 Replies Latest reply: Aug 20, 2009 7:54 PM by anoreo RSS

War Dogs: How Were They Really Used in WWII?

In COD4 we had helicopters; in COD5 WAW, we have dogs.  We all have our gripes and opinions about the dogs in WAW and this begs the question: “Were there really packs of attack dogs during WWII?”  The short answer is no.  But each nation had their own use of dogs during WWII and much of the history of the use of dogs for war really begins with Germany in the 1930s.  Here’s a breakdown of how dogs were really used by the Germans, Russians, Japanese and Americans:


The Nazis were the first military force to actually use dogs in war when they invaded Poland.  But Germany’s use of dogs started as far back as the 1920s for policing train stations.  But because Germany got spanked by allied forces during WWI, they were bound by the Treaty of Versalles to have only a small German civil and police force, in which some K-9 units were established. Germany’s High Command secretly began building a dog army in 1930 before Hitler came to power.    Later, the Germans secretly formed more k-9 units (in violation of the treaty).  When the Nazis and Hitler came to power, these K-9 units quickly became active Army units.  The Germans used K-9 units in occupied territories for policing cities, Jewish ghettos and concentration camps created by the Nazis.  Every concentration camp had its SS dog units (primarily German Shepherds) which were trained to attack the inmates.  By the end of WWII, Germany had up to 200,000 dogs trained as sentries, scouts and messagers.  The sentry dogs would alert German soldiers to the presence of enemy forces by standing silently erect with tail straight as if pointing.   The Nazis used dogs to such an extent that by the end of WWII, none of the breeding stock remained.   So it seems that dog attacks occurred primarily in prison camps and/or during the deportation of prisoners.


The Russians had as many as 50,000 trained dogs by WWII and were used primarily for transporting the wounded on dog sleds during severe Russian winters.  This was key as Russian vehicles were not as mobil in snow covered conditions as the dogs were.  These dogs also had 1st aid packs strapped on and a wounded soldier could bandage his own wounds if he was able to.  The Russians also used dogs for guard duty, blowing up German tanks, mine sniffing, and the transport of ammo and food.  White Samoyeds were used during Russian winters to tow soldiers closer to enemy lines without being detected.  One sad thing (in my opinion) was that the Russians trained suicide dogs to blow up tanks.  Half starved, these dogs were trained to sniff out food underneath German tanks.  The pack of explosives had a trigger device that would get depressed beneath the tank and then boom!...  No more tank.  These dogs eventually became so feared by the German tankers that the sound of their barks was enough for the tankers to retreat.


The Japanese actually received about 25,000 dogs from the Germans well before their attack on Pearl Harbor.  These dogs were used for patrols, scouting and guard duty, but unfortunately, the Japanese used the dogs for suicide missions.  The suicide dogs would tow about 50lbs of high explosive close to American positions and when close enough, the explosive was detonated.  It was also reported that Japanese also used some untrained but ferocious dogs in the Malay Peninsula campaign against some Australian commandos on Timor.  But for the most part, Japanese dogs appeared to be pretty unhealthy and not very well trained.


Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Quartermaster Corps began training dogs and by 1945, there were about 10,000 trained dogs dispersed throughout all the armed forces including the Coast Guard.   These dogs were called the” K-9 Corps”.  In the beginning, there were more than 30 different breeds of dog considered for the K-9 Corps but about 45% of the dogs were rejected from the training program.  Americans initially used the dogs for guard duty at civilian war plants.  Of the 10,000 dogs trained, over 9,000 were used as sentries. By 1944, dogs were used as scouts, walking point on patrols with its handler.  These scout dogs could detect enemy forces up to 1,000 yards away.  Like the German dogs, these American scout dogs would stiffen its body with tail straight to warn the presence of enemy forces.  These dogs greatly decreased the possibility of ambush and helped soldier moral while on patrols.