History Nebraska Blog

Major: A Soldier Dog - a Fort Robinson WWII story for kids

illustrated book cover, shows boy kneeling beside dog, Pine Ridge buttes in background

A new children’s book tells the story of a Nebraska-based World War II dog training program. Major: A Soldier Dog is told from a dog’s perspective and filled with colorful illustrations based on a real dog and actual places and events. Published by Six Foot Press, the 40-page book is written for childen in kindergarten through second grade.

More than 17,000 dogs trained for the Army’s K-9 Corps at Fort Robinson in northwest Nebraska. The story fascinated author Trevor Jones, Director and CEO of History Nebraska.

“The war dog program at Fort Robinson is such a captivating part of Nebraska history, and we wanted to share it with children, “ Jones said. “The story of Major is based on the true story of a dog donated to the Dogs for Defense program and gives readers of all ages the chance to experience Nebraska history first-hand.”

The Fort Robinson War Dog Training Center was established in September 1942. Families across the country donated their dogs, which were taught to be guards, scouts, messengers, and sled dogs. Major: A Soldier Dog follows Major through his heartbreaking separation from his family, his training at Fort Robinson, his war service in Italy, his return home, and a tearful reunion with his family.

Jones learned about Major while researching Fort Robinson’s war dog records. The dog had been donated by the Moore family of Wahpeton, North Dakota. Jones contacted Sid Moore, who was only five years old when he climbed into the shipping crate to lure Major inside. Moore’s memories became part of the story.

book illustration, collage of images: wide-eyed dog, dog led by soldier, flaming town, smoke.

Because the story is told from Major’s perspective, the words and pictures reflect the way a dog would perceive the world. Dogs rely first on smell, second on hearing, and last on sight. Illustrator Ming Hai used colors to show what Major would have smelled and heard to help children understand his world and experiences.

“Many of the illustrations are based on photos from our collections at History Nebraska,” said Jones. “We wanted to make sure that the story was not only captivating but as historically accurate as possible.”

illustration: reunion of boy and dog

Major: A Soldier Dog is available at History Nebraska sites, including the Fort Robinson History Center, the Nebraska History Museum, and Chimney Rock, as well as bookstores across the state. Books are also available at history.nebraska.gov/publications/books.

 

Here are a few photos of the Fort Robinson "K-9" facility from History Nebraska's collections:

soldiers with dog, who is sitting on crate

Major arrived at the fort in a crate carrier like these. (RG2731-10-15)

 

rows of dog kennels

Kennels at Fort Robinson. (RG2731-20-1)

 

soldiers training dogs to sit and stay

"Staaaaaaay..." (RG2731-20-1)

 

dog near truck

Not Major, but you can see photos of the real-life Major and Sid at the end of the book.(RG3790-4-3)

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