Last week we learned how animals have been used in the military and conflicts throughout history. This week I wanted to share a few amazing examples of how heroic some of these animals have been, and to remember their exceptional service along with their handlers and fellow service members.
Some of you may have heard of Blackjack, who was the last of the United States Army Quartermaster issued horses.
Born on 19 January 1947, he entered the Third United States Infantry Stables at Fort Myer on 22 November 1953. He was named such in honor of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing and was branded with the Army’s U.S. brand on his left shoulder, and his Army serial number, 2V56, on the left side of his neck.
He was feisty, stubborn and didn’t like to be ridden from the start. He threw anyone who dared into the dirt of the training corral and throughout his career; he never lost his fiery spirit.
While Black Jack never saw combat, his was a special and dedicated service still.
He arrived at Fort Myer on Nov. 22, 1952, and again, he refused riders, so he was drafted into the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. He was the riderless horse in more than 1,000 Armed Forces Full Honors Funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
Black Jack retired on June 1, 1973 to the Third United States Infantry Stables on 1 June 1973. Among thousands of military funerals he most notably served as the Riderless horse in the funerals of presidents Hoover, Johnson and Kennedy, as well as Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Due to marching on black top for most of his life arthritis and other health issues took their toll. Veterinarian Capt. John Burns had to go through the chain of command all the way to the Department of the Army to receive official permission for Black Jack’s euthanasia because of Black Jack’s prominence in the Army.
Black Jack died after 29 years of military service on Feb. 6, 1976, and was laid to rest with full military honors at Fort Myer, Virginia
Reckless was originally bred as a race horse and she belonged to a young Korean boy. He sold her to Marine Lt. Eric Pederson at the Seoul Race Park, so he could pay for an artificial leg for his sister. Lt. Pedersen bought the horse for the Recoilless Rifles Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, of the 5th Marines.
The reinforced 5th Marines served as the ground combat element of the 1st Provisional Brigade that quickly formed and departed from Camp Pendleton in August 1950 and headed for Korea. The Brigade landed at Pusan to help UN forces and stop the advancing North Koreans.
Marines advanced deep into North Korea and fought communist forces during the withdrawal from the Chosen Reservoir, where Reckless ‘officially’ joined the 5th Marines.
She became a legend after the Korean War when Marines who had served with her and others who’d heard about her told about her heroism during the war, including the Battle for Outpost Vegas.
In March 1953, Reckless made 51 trips up to the firing sites, carrying 386 rounds of ammunition which was over 9,000 pounds. She walked over 35 miles up steep hills and open rice paddies, braving minefields and shrapnel, and rescuing fellow Marines. Most of the trips she made to the front lines were by herself.
She was hailed by fellow Marines and Americans as a hero and she was awarded two Purple Hearts for her valor along with being officially promoted to staff sergeant twice.
There is now an official memorial to one of the most famous Marines at Camp Pendleton because she served with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton and lived her last 14 years on base at the Stepp Stables where she was buried in 1968.
Lest we forget our felines, cats have had some military experiences throughout history as well. There are a few cat stories out there, mostly from British Navy ships when they were used as mouse catchers- however this is a cool story.
Iraq War veteran Pfc. Hammer proved his worth when he decided to move in with a U.S. Army unit in Iraq in 2004, killing and chasing away mice that would have contaminated and eaten the soldiers’ food stores. The troops appreciated Hammer’s hard work and affection so much that they made him an honorary member of their unit, and even applied for and received help to bring Hammer home to America after their deployment.
Now for a couple of amazing K-9s; starting with Stubby the American Pit Bull Terrier who was probably the most famous war dog, as he was the only dog to be given the rank of sergeant. Stubby was found as a stray at Yale University’s campus in 1917, and smuggled to France during World War I by Cpl. John Robert Conroy who was his adoptive owner.
Stubby took part in 17 battles, four offenses, sniffed and held a German spy in the trenches and improved troop morale during his service. He also warned his unit of poison-gas attacks, incoming artillery fire, and helped locate injured soldiers on the battlefield.
After his incredible service, Stubby died in 1926 while his owner held him.
Chips was a Collie–German Shepherd–Siberian Husky mix. He was also the most decorated dog in World War II. Chips saw action in Germany, France, North Africa, and Sicily, where he made an assault on an Italian machine-gun nest and helped take 10 enemy Italian soldiers captive.
Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his heroics. The commendations were revoked however, as military policy at the time didn’t allow such recognition for animals. He retired after his distinguished service in 1945 at his home in Pleasantville, New York.
One day in December, 1966, Nemo, a German shepherd and Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg were on patrol near their company’s airbase in Vietnam. The two came under enemy fire. Nemo was shot in his eye, and Throneburg was shot in the shoulder after killing two Viet Cong guerillas. Even while seriously injured Nemo still attacked the enemy, which gave Throneburg a chance to call in reinforcements.
After Throneburg lost consciousness, Nemo laid on top of his handler to protect him, not letting anyone touch his fallen comrade. Finally a veterinarian was able to remove Nemo and both were treated and eventually recovered from their wounds.
Nemo was later given a permanent retirement kennel; where he died when he was 11 years old in December 1972.
I guess people can tell that I love these stories, considering how lengthy this article is getting- but please let me include one more.
A Black Labrador Retriever named Toby was a Specialized Search Dog who was partnered with his handler, Army Specialist Thomas J. Jackson. The pair served an 11-month tour in the worst part of Afghanistan where Toby led the combat patrol searching for IEDs and Taliban insurgents.
During their tour, Toby discovered countless explosives, caches of RPGs and even a 250-pound guided bomb that failed to detonate.
He is most remembered by his unit however when during a raid on a particular Taliban house. Toby started to go in as usual, but instead, he sat at the door refusing to let anyone enter. The patrol called in a bomb squad and they later learned that the entire place had been wired to explode. During the tour, Toby had saved his patrol unit multiple times, earning their ultimate respect, love and gratitude.
For an extra feature, last week I mentioned to Lawngren about a book I have called Trident K-9 Warriors, written by former Navy SEAL, Mike Ritland. It’s an excellent book and shows how much training goes into these Warrior dogs, who are raised and trained from pup hood. Here’s a video with Mike talking a little about the history and use of War Dogs, and also tells a bit about his ‘pet’ project, Warrior Dogs Foundation. It’s worth a watch.
God Bless all our troops and Veterans. Thank you for our freedom.
One more thing- Until they ALL Come Home…
This was sent by Sufferfortribe after I had this article done. US Army Air Corps Airman comes home from WW2 75 years later. He survived the Bataan Death March, but unfortunately not the prison camp….. please read, it’s a special story I hope you can find time for.