In World War II, dogs and United States Army began to be closely related. The first step in this direction was done by Dogs for Defense, Inc. (DFD), a national civilian organization whose was intended to train dogs to perform sentry duty for the army along the coast of the United States. Aware of this effort United States Army began using the sentry dogs at supply depots. From the moment K-9 Corps was created and the war dog training program became commonly known as the “K-9 Corps” or “K-9 (Canine) Section”. Other names were “WAGS” or “WAAGS”. The US Marine Corps liked to call their war dogs “Devil Dogs” (They initially had a preference for male Doberman Pinchers).
Military working dogs first entered the service in March of 1942 to serve in the Army’s K-9 Corps (courtesy from: http://www.defense.gov/)
Trained dogs were to be given to the Quartermaster General. In August 1942 five dog training were created by the Quartermaster Corps. Thirty-two breeds of dogs were initially accepted for training. In 1944 that list had been reduced to seven (German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Siberian huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs, and Malamutes). Approximately 18,000 dogs reached training centers after examinations by Dogs for Defense. Almost 8,000 of those animals failed exams given at the centers (reasons for dismissal were different, among them: excitability when exposed to noise or gunfire, disease, poor sense of smell, and unsuitable temperament).
Dogs trained were used on the Home Front for sentry duty, however, more than 1,800 dogs were sent into combat starting in 1942. In 1943, the QMC sent a detachment of six scout dogs and two messenger dogs to operate in the Pacific Theatre as a test of their value in combat conditions. The Quartermaster Corps established war dog platoons in March 1944 to assist American military forces conducting offensive operations in Europe and the Pacific. Seven Quartermaster Corps (QMC) War Dog Platoons were sent to the European Theatre of Operations, but they did not have much success. Of the fifteen such platoons organized, seven served in Europe and eight in the Pacific. It has been said that, in the latter theater, the Japanese never ambushed or made a surprise attack on a patrol led by one of the war dogs.
This photo shows one the first scout dog patrols to be used on Luzon in World War II (courtesy from armylive.dodlive.mil)
But, how were dogs trained? The Quartermaster Corps trained dog handlers as well as the dogs themselves. Technical Manual 10-396 (1 July 1943) outlined the doctrine to be followed in the training. Normal training time for a dog was eight to twelve weeks. First the animals went through what might be called "basic training" to become accustomed to life in the military. Then the dogs received assignment to a specialized training program--sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs, or mine dogs.
This film shows war dogs as they were trained by the Remount Section of the Quartermaster Corps. Scenes show dogs as they were being trained to lead patrols, to silently warn of the presence of enemies, and to seek out intruders. Scenes also show a messenger dog demonstrating how to deliver a message and return with needed ammunition; messenger dogs delivering carrier pigeons; laying wire on a battlefield; and a casualty dog helping his master locate wounded soldiers on a battlefield (Creator: Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer)
The Quartermaster Corps also experimented with training dogs to locate casualties on the battlefield. Dogs were first tested for this on May 4, 1944. Ultimately, the Army abandoned this program because the dogs did not or could not make a distinction between men not wounded, men who had received wounds, or men who had died.
The top dog in the K-9 Corps and canine hero of World War II, at least in terms of publicity, was Chips, a German Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix who served with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. According to www.philly.com Chips was donated by Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York. Chips shipped out in early 1943. He was a guard dog at the Roosevelt-Churchill conference in Casablanca.
Trained as a sentry dog, he then saw battle during the invasion of Sicily (Italy). Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest, forcing the entire crew to surrender. Chips was wounded in the attack but flushed out four enemy soldiers, who were captured. Chips later helped to capture 10 enemy combatants on another patrol—on the same day. The wounded Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart–all of which were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals.
A war time pseudo-documentary about a canine army unit, "The WOOFs", and their training regime. One dog, though, Private Smiley, just doesn't seem to get the hang of it, though.
You can learn more about the K-9 (Canine) Corps at: