Earning the label of a hero is not confined to the human race. Dogs have also earned that badge when you look into history, with many stories of bravery and valor. Dogs are hardwired to protect and are known to perform great acts of genuine bravery, provide warnings of danger, and soothe and comfort. They truly are man’s best friends, and they are heroic patriots on the battlefield.
Military dogs serve vital roles, and while they are varied, their strong and healthy physiques, loyalty, obedience, and sense of smell and hearing make them highly ranked members.
Let’s look at just some of the four-legged heroes that became famous for their brave and important work. From finding injured soldiers, detecting landmines, or simply scouting, they should all be honored for their heroic sacrifices.
The 11 Most Popular & Famous Military Dogs
1. Sergeant Stubby – WW1
Sergeant Stubby was a brave Boston terrier that served America in World War I. He was known as the most decorated war dog with his numerous hard-earned medals and was loved by everyone that knew his name. Sergeant Stubby earned his title by serving in the trenches in France, alerting troops of incoming attacks, and locating and rescuing wounded soldiers. He even captured a German Soldier by holding onto his pants until he was found. This heroic canine was so respected and admired that he became the team mascot for Georgetown University, and presidents lined up to meet him. In 1926, Stubby crossed over from old age, but his legacy lives on.
2. Nemo – Vietnam War
Nemo was a German shepherd that served the U.S. air force in the Vietnam war. He was on guard duty with his handler Robert Throneberg when he sensed enemies approaching and warned him. They were able to prepare for the fight, but unfortunately, both were shot. Nemo protected his handler until medics arrived and still needed persuasion to stand down so that his handler could get help. Nemo required skin grafts and a tracheotomy, and his right eye was removed due to the gunshot wound.
On veterans’ day, he is celebrated as one of the most heroic dogs of the U.S. K9 Corps.
3. Lex – Iraq War
Lex was an eight-year-old German shepherd that was a companion to the United States Marine Corps handler Corporal Dustin J. Lee. His companion was killed in a mortar attack, and Lex didn’t want to leave his side. Lex had to spend twelve weeks in rehab and was left with shrapnel permanently embedded in his spine. He was the first fully active military dog to be granted early retirement in order to be adopted by Lee’s parents. He lived out the rest of his life in comfort while serving a heroic memory to Lee’s parents and was awarded an Honorary Purple Heart for his brave work.
4. Smoky – WWII
Smoky was a fully grown Yorkshire Terrier that was found by an American soldier in an abandoned foxhole. She traveled in the backpack of her new companion for two years during WWII. The two flew a dozen air and sea rescue missions with the 5th Air Force, where she survived 150 air raids and a typhoon. Smoky is known for her accomplishment in assisting military engineers in running telegraph wire through a narrow pipe that was filled with soil. Her small size allowed her to fit through the small pipe and complete the task, which meant the engineers could avoid a three-day dig exposed to bombings. Smoky is also honored as the first recorded therapy dog as she would visit the wounded soldiers returning from the Biak Island invasion.
5. Gander – Canadian Army
Gander was a beloved pet named Pal and earned the new name Gander after his family gave him away to The Royal Rifles of Canada. He was soon promoted to Sergeant and loved by all the members of the Canadian regiment. Gander helped The Royal Rifles fight the Japanese forces on three occasions. During the battle of Lye Mun, a grenade landed near a group of wounded Canadians, and the heroic dog picked it up and ran away with it in his mouth. Gander tragically died when it exploded, saving the lives of seven soldiers. Enemy troops referred to him as “The Black Beast’ because his fur was so dark, making him difficult to see at night.
6. Lucca – Iraq
Lucca was a German shepherd/Belgian Malinois that served the United States Marine Corps for six years. Her skill involved detecting explosives. In over 4000 missions, she had no fatalities under her observation. When Lucca found a hidden IED, she was searching for more when one exploded. She saved several nearby marines by taking most of the hit, which resulted in the amputation of her leg. A fellow marine awarded Lucca an honorary Purple Heart for her brave service.
7. Sallie – Civil War
Sallie was a Stafford Terrier that served on the front lines of many battles. She was the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and mysteriously disappeared for three days during the Battle of Gettysburg. She was later found guarding wounded soldiers on the battlefield. A statue of Sallie was raised at Gettysburg by soldiers to honor her loyalty and dedication.
8. Chips – WWII
Chips was a unique mixed breed that started as a pet until his owners gave him to the Dogs for Defense program. Chips saved his soldiers twice in one day by capturing enemies from a pillbox and saving his men from gunfire. That evening, he notified his soldiers of an ambush by waking them when he heard the enemies approaching. Chips was awarded several medals that were later taken away because the military decided he was not eligible to receive medals.
9. Cairo – Operation Neptune Spear
Cairo, the Belgian Malinois, was a modern military dog, Navy Seal, and the only dog to play a part in the operation that took down Osama Bin Laden. During Operation Neptune Spear, he guarded the perimeter and captured any soldiers that tried to retreat. Cairo spared a baby’s life, even though he was never trained to distinguish between adults and babies. He instinctively knew the baby was not a threat, which amazed his owner and inspired him to write a book about his companion.
10. Valdo – Afghanistan
Valdo’s skill in Afghanistan was to sniff out bombs. He was a part of joint-service patrols that searched for roadside bombs. In 2011 he shielded four soldiers from the impact of a grenade during a brutal fight and was critically injured by the shrapnel. His handler Ryan Lee believes he would not be alive if it weren’t for Valdo. His injury led to the end of his military career, but he lived a happy life after Lee adopted him.
11. Conan – Syria
Conan is a brave Belgian Malinois that served in the United States 1st SFOD-D and was involved in 50 combat missions. He was honored at the White House for his help in killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He helped the military track him down a tunnel during a raid in Syria, where he detonated his suicide vest. Conan was injured during the mission but fully recovered and has since returned to duty.
Dogs have provided loyal, brave, and selfless service to people for more than a century and continue to do so today. While some are remembered and honored for their heroism on the battlefield, others play important roles as service dogs for veterans and first responders with disabilities. They are not only man’s best friends but also brave and selfless heroes.
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Featured Image Credit: PEPPERSMINT, Shutterstock