On March 13, 1942, Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson signed a letter that authorized the Quartermaster General to officially induct dogs into the war effort. They arrived by the thousands in all shapes and sizes. Initially there were 30 breeds accepted that were later narrowed down to just five: German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies and Giant Schnauzers.
The Dogs for Defense was successfully developed to solicit donations of dogs from all of the 48 states. Numerous qualified civilian trainers came forward to volunteer their time and expertise, without pay. The program proved overwhelmingly popular; who doesn’t love dogs?
In the fall of 1942, a K-9 Quartermaster Corps training center was established at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Thousands of dogs were trained for war duty and were used to guard facilities, carry messages, sniff out mines, and pull sleds. The Quartermaster Corps trained the dog handlers, most of whom were quartermaster soldiers. Total training time was normally eight to 12 weeks. Basic training included such fundamental commands as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and others. The dogs also were introduced to muzzles, gas masks, gunfire and riding in vehicles. If the dogs passed the basic training routines, they were transferred to one of four specialized training programs where they underwent rigorous military training.
The four classes for these beautiful, heroic animals consisted of sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs and mine dogs; thankfully, mine-detecting missions for dogs have fallen in disfavor, and any man or woman advocating for same should be made to crawl around in a mine field on all fours themselves.
So there’s that.