Dogs were probably useful as hell on the battlefield way back when. In the days when wars were fought with swords and spears, a quick dog with sharp teeth was probably as effective as most infantrymen. But as heroic and generally badass as canines can be, there surely wasn't much use for them in war once guns and artillery became the norm.
Or so you'd think. Just don't say that to ...
#5. Rags the Terrier
Some soldiers are just blessed with luck, regardless of species. A prime example of this is a mongrel terrier in WWI-era Paris.
The dog was literally stumbled upon by James Donovan, an AWOL American soldier. When Donovan was confronted by the Military Police about running away from his unit, he saw the little ball of fur as his ticket away from court martial. He bullshitted the way back into his unit with the excuse that he'd been hunting the dog all along ... because it was their mascot. Somewhere along the line he named the dog Rags, using the time honored method of "its name is what it looks like."
The soldier's nickname was "Ears McFlophat."
The bluff worked, largely thanks to the dog, who turned out to be friendliness incarnate and quickly won over the MPs and the commanding officer of Donovan's unit, who promptly made Rags' mascot status official. Rags enjoyed his new gig thoroughly and thanked his new human friends the only way a dog can -- with googly eyes, a wagging tail and impromptu face-licking attacks. Also, by saving everyone's lives on a daily basis and becoming one of the unit's greatest heroes.
When Donovan was transferred to the frontline, he didn't want to risk Rags' life, so he left the little guy behind. The dog, however, wasn't having any of it, and tracked Donovan to the trenches. Realizing that the pup was good at finding his way around, Donovan adapted a secondary strategy: He taught Rags how to run messages between the command and the frontline.
"We'll just ... tuck this into your collar, shall we?"
Rags took his promotion incredibly well, regularly delivering important messages despite constant gunfire, explosions, distracting smells and other stuff custom made to lead a dog astray. He wasn't just doing his part, either -- he constantly watched and studied the things the soldiers around him did. When the men hit the dirt upon hearing a shell, Rags would mime their actions.
Then, one day, he started throwing himself to ground without any incoming noises at all. For a while, everyone around went "Awwww" and said "Look, he's trying to be human." Then, when the first explosions shook the trench, they quickly realized that dogs hear pretty well. Throughout his mimicking antics, Rags had been employing his Pavlovian powers. He now realized that the high-pitched incoming sounds equal explosions, and knew what to do. And so it came to be that the men of his unit soon found themselves imitating Rags.
They even replaced "Oh shit!" with a sort of yelping sound.
His new status as a lifesaver made Rags a celebrity. He capitalized on his fame by circling all the mess halls he could find, cashing in on his reputation for the finest wartime food available and never once returning to a hall if he felt he hadn't received a warm enough welcome there. His freewheeling antics were only limited after he got into a fight with Theodore Roosevelt Jr.'s cat, the survival of which was likely an achievement in itself.
In July of 1918, Rags was charged with delivering yet another important message. Rags was out in the open when the Germans launched a gas attack, catching him without his doggy gas mask. Undeterred, he took all that the Germans could hit him with, and delivered the message ... then passed away.
That is, passed away years later at the extremely respectable age of 20 (which is like 140 in dog years), as a happy, American family dog. He survived the shit out of war, and when old age finally took him, he was buried with full military honors and a gravestone that reads "War Hero."
They came this close to naming him King of Dogs.
The worst injury he ever took in life was a blind eye that resulted from being hit by a freaking car. Which we're pretty sure he ate immediately afterward.
#4. Judy the Pointer
Judy was born in a Shanghai dog kennel in 1937 and presented to the British Royal Navy. She was assigned to the HMS Grasshopper for some good and proper naval life, which was cruelly interrupted by enemy torpedo fire and the ensuing sinking, increasingly wet feeling.
The crew barely managed to save themselves by making their way to an uninhabited island. They found Judy clinging to a piece of the broken ship, alive but exhausted. Despite the fact that they had little food and no water at all, they decided to nurse the dog back to health. This proved to be a good move, as Judy thanked her saviors by finding them a water source and saving the lives of every single survivor.
The refreshed soldiers attempted to reach an Allied-controlled area, only to be almost immediately taken prisoner. This was a crappy scenario for Judy, who the men managed to smuggle in the POW camp with them, as animals possess no wartime rights whatsoever. The camp provided everyone a whole lot of troubles of their own, so she was left to her own devices and would probably have perished ... if it wasn't for one Frank Williams.
Williams took a liking to the starving dog, shared his meager rations with her and looked after her. He also managed to get the enemy camp commandant to give her official POW status in order to protect her. We like to think that the officer took a long, hard look at Judy, who was nonchalantly eyeing the sky and doing her level best to whistle innocuously, and thought: "Eh, what's the worst that could happen?"
Spoiler: Judy. Judy was the worst that could happen.
"Murdock ... I'm coming to get you."
Judy went on to abuse the shit out of her new legal status. She saved the lives of numerous prisoners by actively attacking any and all guards attempting to deliver beatings. She nearly received retribution more than once, but each time Williams managed to talk the guards out of harming her. In exchange, Judy rarely left Williams' side, protecting him with all her might and warning him from impending danger, be it guards, snakes or scorpions.
When Williams was transferred to another camp, he smuggled Judy aboard the boat.
Which was promptly torpedoed and sank.
Via Daily Mail
"Sit back and relax, buddy. I got this."
But this time, Judy was ready. She swam back and forth among the wrecked ship, helping survivors reach pieces of wreckage to hang on to, just like she had done. When everyone was suitably rescued, she disappeared -- only to emerge in the new camp, just in time to tackle the flabbergasted Williams, who had also survived and just arrived there.
With the confidence gained from beating the sea once again, Judy became a veritable wild animal in the new camp. Aside from her usual guard-terrorizing antics, she hunted local fauna, teasing tigers and fighting alligators until the camp was liberated in 1945.
Here, she saves Williams from the lethal jaws of marriage.
Judy and Williams remained inseparable for the rest of her long life, indulging in various adventures -- and you can bet your ass that no wild animal bothered them, nor did any ship dare to sink on them ever again.
#3. Smoky the Yorkshire Terrier
Via William A. Wynne
Found hiding in a foxhole in the New Guinea jungle, and passing from GI to GI in exchange for petty cash, the 4-pound Yorkie named Smoky was the least plausible war dog imaginable. Yet, after finally finding a caring owner in corporal Bill Wynne, she spent 18 straight months in combat, eating combat food and living combat life while technically having all the crappy physical traits of the world's most vulnerable vanity pet.
Yet in the war-dog world, where anything under 50 pounds is considered a cat, Smoky survived better than all other animals, never once falling ill or succumbing to any of the problems that plagued other hounds.
Besides occasionally getting lost inside combat helmets.
Smoky was mostly seen as a troop entertainer and a therapy dog thanks to her seemingly never-ending bag of tricks, ranging from basic upright walking to miniature parachute jumps. Yet she had already saved Wynne's life by warning him of incoming artillery fire when she saw her opening for even bigger heroics.
When Japanese artillery fire cut a key communication line from Smoky's unit, a good 40 fighters and hundreds of men were left as sitting ducks. To get their lifesaving messages through, they'd have to undertake a grueling three-day operation of digging through a 70-foot pile of rubble, under the watchful eyes and hurtful bombs of the enemy. There was simply no way around it. The only other option would be to, hah, run the telephone lines through a 4-inch tunnel in the middle of the rubble, somehow, but honestly, that's just ...
She didn't earn those awards just for being adorable, although that was a factor.
... what, Smoky took the wire and pulled it through that impossible snake-hole within minutes? Never mind.
After saving the lives of her whole unit with the re-established line, Smoky eventually left the service and moved on to civilian superstardom. She rode her war hero status and knack for circus trickery to become a famed performer, once appearing on live TV for 42 weeks straight while never once repeating a trick. The interest she raised was so great, in fact, that she single-pawedly raised Yorkshire terriers from complete obscurity to one of the world's most renowned dog breeds.
What, you thought we were joking about the parachute thing?