Animals Across the Wars
The 4th of July is often celebrated with fireworks, parades, BBQ, family time, and (hopefully) some sun. Growing up I remember asking my Grandpa, who served in the Navy during the Korean War, what the 4th of July meant to him. He said it reminded him of the reasons why he served in the first place: to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I just wanted to say thank you to all veterans and active military for contributing to our continued independence and freedom. I have had the honor of working with and adjusting search and rescue dogs and horses which inspired my research of animals serving in the military. I knew of dogs and horses being involved in the military but was surprised to hear camels, elephants, mules, pigeons, and even cats have served a purpose as well.
Camels were actually used in World War I as ambulances. Two stretchers were attached to the camel so they could transport wounded soldiers across the desert. I didn’t realize this, but camels are actually smarter than horses. Elephants were also used in WWI and WWII to move heavy loads. One elephant can do the work of three horses. Elephants carried weapons, helped build bridges, and carried soldiers across rivers. Horses have been used for easy transport of people, weapons, and messengers. Unlike vehicles, horses are better navigators of uneven, very narrow, rough terrain. Horses are also almost completely silent. Mules aren’t as pretty or as celebrated as equines but they do their fair share of moving heavy equipment. (They can also be more stubborn than their cousin the horse.)
As far as most unique animals used I think pigeons are at the top of the list. I know how finicky current communication is with cell phone signals and WiFi. Back in WWI and WWII, pigeons were used to carry messages back and forth. These pigeons were released from planes and even from sea and actually made it to the correct place on land. Over 90% of US Army messages sent by pigeons were received. I can’t even imagine the type or amount of training involved to accomplish this.
The animal that automatically came to mind for me is the dog. In the World Wars, dogs carried messages, wires for radios, and medical gear to injured soldiers. Most recently dogs have been trained to find and detect explosives even from quite a distance. K9's are trained to work side by side for special missions with their humans- dogs are after all a man’s best friend. The other house pet used in the military is cats to boost morale and catch rats. Officially pets can’t be kept by soldiers overseas but these cats are kept very busy doing their job of catching hundreds of mice.
It’s amazing how each of these animals fulfilled a unique role in different types of terrain around the world. This 4th of July I want to honor and thank all the human men and women service members as well as the furry and feathered ones too for all they have done to keep us safe!
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