Americans paid tribute to four-legged heroes on Wednesday in honor of K9 Veterans Day. March 13, 2019, was the 77th anniversary of the founding of the K9 Corps, also known as the War Dog Program. Since that time, thousands of dogs have been through the rigorous training program and been battle-tested alongside their human counterparts in every major conflict since.
Dogs have played a notable roll in history by serving alongside military personnel and law enforcement officers. Like their human counterparts, many have died in service and for the safety of others.
Over 1,500 dogs served in Korea, over 4,000 deployed to Vietnam, and thousands more have served honorably in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. The National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, put a unique spin on the holiday by hoisted a specially-made American flag — colored the way dogs see it.
While dogs have only officially served on the battlefield since 1942, one of the most famous war dogs in history actually served three decades earlier in World War I.
Sergeant Stubby was the name given to the stray pit bull mix who became the first dog ever given military rank. The tenacious terrier, after being stowed away on a ship to France by a Private Robert Conroy, soon became a hero. He sniffed out incoming enemy fire and gas attacks on the battlefields of France. He even reportedly sniffed out a German soldier disguised in a U.S. military uniform.
The story was retold in Sgt. Stubby’s New York Times obituary:
“In the Chemin des Dames, Stubby captured a German spy and saved a doughboy [slang for a United States infantryman] from a gas attack. Hearing a sound in the stillness of the night, the dog, who guarded sleeplessly, stole out of the trenches and recognized–a German. Attempts by the German to deceive the dog were futile. Seizing his prisoner by the breeches, Stubby held on until help arrived.”