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War Dog Program at Fort Robinson

More About War Dogs

During World War II, Fort Robinson was one of the key forts tasked with training dogs and soldiers for the War Dog program. Below is more information and images from History Nebraska collections from Fort Robinson during the War Dog Training Program.

Click here to view more pictures from Fort Robinson during the War Dog program.

 

K-9 kennels at Fort Robinson. (Nebraska State Historical Society). RG1517-PH000052-000036_SFN5297

K-9 kennels at Fort Robinson. (Nebraska State Historical Society). RG1517-PH000052-000036_SFN5297

 

For centuries, militaries have used dogs for various purposes. Germany, Japan, and England all had dog units during World War II. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, a group of prominent American civilians created Dogs For Defense, Inc. to convince the military to create its own dog program. The secretary of war created such a program in February of 1942. Almost all of the dogs used in the program, which was coordinated by Dogs For Defense, were donated. By the end of the war, 18,000 dogs were used.

 

Dog and trainer chasing soldier over obstacle course, Fort Robinson, 1943. RG1517-PH000052-000001_SFN18079

Dog and trainer chasing soldier over an obstacle course, Fort Robinson, 1943. RG1517-PH000052-000001_SFN18079

 

Fort Robinson was one of two army bases used to train K-9 units. (The other was Front Royal, Virginia.) Its remote location and connection to the railroad made it an ideal place to train dogs.

On October 3, 1942, the K-9 division of Fort Robinson accepted its first shipment of dogs. Several days later, the first trainees arrived. Both civilian and military trainers were used to train military personnel how to use the dogs. Each trainee had to feed and groom his own set of dogs. After two weeks of basic training, the trainees and dogs were sorted into different groups for specialized training, which took four to six weeks.

The primary use for the dogs was as sentries or attack dogs. These dogs had to be trained to get used to gunfire and violence. Other dogs served as scouts, messengers or sled dogs. The biggest risk of working with dogs was dog bites. Corporal George Henne was bitten several times while at the Fort. “[Corporal Henne] found that it does not pay to hold your hand in front of one of the trained dogs too long,” a newspaper reported. Many of the dogs were sent to guard bases and Prisoner of War camps, while others were sent overseas.

At the height of operations in 1944, Fort Robinson had 1,353 dogs on hand and had deployed 3,565. The people who donated the dogs often wrote to see how their dogs were doing. The staff usually responded to the letters. One eleven-year-old asked, “…if I can put a star in my window because I gave you my dog.”

The program was ended after the war came to a close.

 

Soldier agitating dog before a training run, Fort Robinson, 1943. RG1517-PH000052-000009_SFN18075

Soldier agitating dog before a training run, Fort Robinson, 1943. RG1517-PH000052-000009_SFN18075

 

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