11 November 2016

Remembering Animals That Served in War

As people remember the men and women who have given their lives in war, it’s also a good time to give thanks for the animals that served.

Animals have been part of the war effort for centuries and the wide variety of animals used may be surprising to some.

(1917, www.imw.org.uk)
The use of horses in battle goes back thousands of years. The earliest training manual for war horses - a guide for training chariot horses - dates back to around 1350 BC.

The Great War was the last time horses were used in war as modern technology forced them from the battlefield.

Donkeys and mules were valued for their stamina and sure-footedness on difficult terrain and used to carry heavy loads to and from the front lines.

Elephants were used as late as WWII to pull heavy equipment, and as early as the 3rd Century BC crossing the Alps with Hannibal.

Camels have been a beast of burden for Arabians and North Africans, but it may come as a surprise that the US Camel Corp operated in America during the mid-nineteenth century.

(carrier pigeons, www.imw.org.uk)
60 camels moved supplies throughout the Southwest U.S., a region thought to be too hot and dry for the horse or mule.

Carrier pigeons have also been partners to humans in war with over 100,000 delivering messages for Britain alone in WWI and double that in the second world war.

While not on the front lines, Gambian pouched rats play an active role in saving lives - they detect land mines.

APOPO, a Belgian organization, trains rats to use their exceptional sense of smell for detection while their light weight stops the mines from being triggered.

(APOPO Gambian rat)
Involvement in war extends to animals that call the ocean home.

The US Navy Marine Mammal Program has been in operation since the 1960’s training dolphins and sea lions.

The sea lion perform as a sentry - on the lookout for enemy swimmers - while dolphins are trained to use their biosonar to detect underwater mines.

Sea lions were used as recently as 2003 in the Persian Gulf to help protect British and US ships.

Last, but definitely not least, the most well-known animal used in war is man’s best friend - the dog.

(US Army photo by Spc. Alex Kirk Amen)
The versatile, eager-to-please canines most commonly fill these roles today:
  • Sentry
  • Scout or Patrol
  • Messenger
  • Mine Detection
  • Casualty
  • Tunnel
  • Explosives Detection.

Animals - proving time and again, even during times of war, what great friends they are to humans.

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