By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
This gem of a Friday flashback
find is a short film produced by the War Department (U.S. Army) in 1943 --
"The Use of War Dogs." The 12 minute bulletin -- now declassified -- takes
viewers on a tour of all the many uses of dogs in war, from messenger dogs to "silent"
scout dogs to casualty dogs.
The film has all the grist and
glory of a 1940s production -- the narrator sounds a little like a two-bit
gangster and the music sounds as if it were from a hybrid soundtrack of The Three Stooges and old episodes of Lassie, but whoever made this film
really understood how important military dogs were to their troops fighting the
As the narrator proclaims early on while detailing the work of one dog:
"it would be the same in frozen wastes or hot jungles, in any kind of
weather or field conditions. The silent scout dog handles his assignment with
The film was made in 1943, only
about one year after dogs were officially inducted into military service as a fighting
force, which gives you a sense of how very quickly these animals were deemed
indispensable. Though you can also tells it's early in the war effort and the
military hadn't quite settled on standard MWD practice. You can still see a
host of different breeds (that they would ultimately cull) and some of the jobs
they showed still had one foot -- or paw -- back in WW I.
But you can also see that some methods of training are still employed (at least
in part) today. For example, they went to great lengths to simulate the chaos
and intensity of the front lines. (Check out around 6:06 where the dog is
running through and around multiple explosions and, as the narrator points out,
"stays the course.")
There was one line that caught
me -- a line thick with layers, especially when you hold it up against war-dog
history and the tendency at the end of wars to shrink military dogs programs
until we lose their readiness and, even worse, their capabilities. We watch a
dog finish his task only to pick up an impromptu one -- the dog's natural
ability and loyalty prevailing to save the day. The narrator's voice comes on:
"Now that you've seen it," he says, as if speaking to a crowd of
war-dog naysayers, "the whole thing appears so obvious."
Doesn't it, though?
Hat Tip: U.S. War Dogs
Association Facebook page via P. Winds