National K-9 Veterans Day falls on March 13 because that’s the date the U.S. Army K9 Corps was formed in 1942. The corps was created mostly as part of the World War II effort and started with dog experts who scoped out the roles dogs could be trained to do.
Civilian trainers gave way as the Army took over with an expanded role for canines. “The 200 dogs first envisioned grew into more than 10,400. Most were family pets shipped into national service,” according to a story on FidoUniverse.
Today, war dog memorials have sprung up across the country and around the globe. Here are four that honor man’s best friend for battlefield bravery.
The mutt who was secretly taken to war with the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division performed heroically on World War I battlefields in France. Stubby is credited with locating lost soldiers in mud-filled trenches, rousing sleeping troops during a gas attack, and even catching a German spy, which earned him sergeant stripes, according to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington.
Stubby was injured too, catching shrapnel during a grenade attack and recovering at a Red Cross hospital. On the home front, he racked up two visits to the White House before he died in 1926. You can see him standing tall — with a blanket that displays his medals for bravery — at the museum's exhibit "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War." (Look for an animated feature coming out April 13 called “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.” )
Info: Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, 1300 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington; (202) 633-1000
War Dog Memorial
The War Dog Memorial in Riverside is dedicated to all trained dogs and their handlers who served the U.S. in battle. Sculptor Tom Schomberg, who made the "Rocky" statue in Philadelphia, created a column that shows an infantryman with a German shepherd at his side. It was dedicated in 2000.
Visitors can have tiles inscribed with the names of dogs and handlers at the base of the memorial.
Info: War Dog Memorial, March Field Air Museum, 22550 Van Buren Blvd., Riverside; (951) 902-5949
War Dog Memorial and Cemetery
At the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., a bronze shepherd with a Red Cross blanket stands atop a 10-foot-high granite monument that was dedicated in 1923. It was created to honor the 7,000 military dogs that served during World War I.
It still stands today, with an inscription that reads in part: “To man’s most faithful friend for the valiant services rendered in the World War 1914-1918.”
Info: Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, 75 N. Central Park Ave., Hartsdale; (800) 375-5234
The National War Dog Cemetery
The U.S. Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery in Guam honors dogs that lost their lives in securing the island during a 1944 battle.
The names of the 25 dogs that lost their lives are inscribed on the polished granite tablet topped with a bronze Doberman pinscher named Kurt, the first to lose his life in the battle.
“Always Faithful” was created by Susan Bahary and dedicated in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Guam. Castings of the monument can be found at many sites in the U.S., including the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in St. Louis.
Info: U.S. Naval Base Guam