Doberman Military Service

Dogs Go To War

marine dog from world war IIOne of the more interesting aspects of Doberman history was the use of this breed during war times. Usually, we think of German Shepherds as the military service dog, but the Doberman was also used.  This shouldn’t surprise us since our breed is known to be smart, tough, and loyal.  Dobermans are known for their protective guarding abilities. And because of their intelligence and easy trainability, they were found useful for service in the military.

Dobermans were used in both WWI and WWII assisting soldiers. These war dogs performed various duties. They were trained to find and rescue wounded soldiers, detect enemy locations and mines, act as messengers, sentries, and guard dogs. Unfortunately, there is also mention that dogs were used in the war as “suicide dogs”.  These dogs were packed with explosives that were remotely detonated once the dog was near an enemy tank.  It’s unclear if Dobermans were used for this tactic. But I doubt it was a common practice since trained dogs were a valuable resource.  But it definitely shows the cruelty, wastefulness, and sadness of war.

Dogs-us marine corpsIn WWII, the U.S. Marine Corps had their own K-9 Corps known as the “Devil’s Dogs”,  although not the most flattering name for a heroic group of dogs. These dogs received specialized training. The messenger dogs delivered messages, ammunition, or medical supplies. The sentry dogs were trained to alert handlers of any enemy strangers approaching. These dogs prevented many ambushes as they stood watch protecting their sleeping, tired soldier handlers.

Of these Marine War Dogs, 25 died in 1944 in the Battle of Guam.

In honor of these dogs, a memorial was created on the island of Guam in the South Pacific. Fourteen dogs were killed in action and others died from exhaustion, tropical illness, heat stroke, accidents, and anemia from hookworm. All were buried in Guam in what is now the first war dog memorial. The memorial was created by former 1st Lt. William W. Putney, who was the veterinarian for the dogs on Guam. A beautiful life-size bronze statue, “Always Faithful” was created by artist, Susan Bahary. 

A documentary video was also made in 2009 named “War Dogs of the Pacific“.   It tells the story of the Marine dogs in WWII. 

Here we see a letter of commendation for one Doberman’s “outstanding performance of duty in combat”.

commendation letter to world war dog

Read more about the Marine Dog Platoon, the Marine Corp Dogs and archived war records. The archives preserve their military service applications, performance and even mention the issue of dog PTSD or “battle fatigue”.

14 thoughts on “Doberman Military Service”

  1. There is a fascinating book on this subject of our breed’s heroic history. Dobermans of Valor by Nick LeClair. Any Doberman Pinscher enthusiast or owner should check it out on Amazon. Thanks for the article

  2. Hi…i am a Blue Star Mom Associate. I do not have any children but want to help with the cause. As I have had 9 Dobermans in my life as pets would like to honor them when I ride a float to support the cause. Looking for a great heroic picture to carry on the float of the military doberman. CAN YOU HELP ME WITH THIS?

  3. “In WWII the U.S. Marine Corps had their own K-9 Corps known as the “Devil’s Dogs”. (Not the most flattering name for a heroic group of dogs).”

    I think its actually a very flattering and fitting name actually. The term Devil Dogs was given by the Germans to describe the ferocity of the Marines that fought during a battle during WWI. It has stuck with the Marine Corps ever since. In this light calling the K9 corps during WWII ‘Devil Dogs’ is more of a term of endearment and an honor than anything else. Just wanted to share.

  4. I am a “studentA” of WWII, , and have not uncovered much about dog use in detailed battle descriptions, In the European theater.. But, if you know much about the battles of Leningrad and the German and Russian conflicts in World War II , the situations were extremely dire. I can WELL imagine with the incredible loss of life, starvation, freezing to death, and lack of supplies ,the soldiers of any side did anything they had to do to survive. As much as I hate to see any loss of my beloved Dobermans, I think we also do a disservice to Russia, and do not appreciate the incredible part they played in World War II, or the unspeakable suffering, both her soldiers and civilians endured. Remember that America entered the European war late , if for complicated reasons.. Were it not for the sacrifice of Russia the war would most likely have been lost. The Cold War is over and it’s time we get things historically straight. War is CRUEL, and ALWAYS involves a horrible loss of life of animals and people. In the worst circumstances dogs, horses, and personal pets became the only sources left for FOOD, And those of us who have never starved dare not judge THEM! . Forget explosives. We have become soft in this country , but I still love my Dobies as much is anyone!

  5. Alvaro, As the owner of a purebred Blue Doberman,and a military retiree, it would be a cold day in Hell before I woudl pet an explosives-laden dog of any breed. What were you thinking when you posted this comment?

  6. I believe is just stupid to think of using a doberman or a german shepperd as a “suicide dog” in the meaning used here. Those breeds would never approach the enemy, unless they are trained and sent by their masters, who, I think would never send a dog for this task. Its just absurd to use a trained dog to do this tasks, because you lose a fullbreed, trained dog. It would be more practical to attach explosives to a friendly mixed-race dog and abandom them, so the enemy would pet them and then… BAM!

  7. My dear friends, I’m from the former USSR, and believe me, there were much worse things going on during the World War II. Dogs were used by russians, germans and americans in different ways. But dobermans were and still is very popular breed in Russia. The longest trail in history (115 km) was taken by a doberman named Tref in 1910, who worked in crime investigation department. He solved more than 1500 crimes during his police career! Dobes are considered one of the smartest dogs (4th in rating if I’m not mistaken), but the only disadvantage they have, they do not tolerate extreme cold weather.

  8. Jaki,

    Germany used dogs laden with explosives as well. They used mainly german sheppards.
    I don’t deleive they used Dobermans but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. If you look on YouTube you will find videos of this tactic being deployed on the russians during the retreat of late 43 and 44. It’s a shame that such woundedful animals would be used in such a brutal way and this speaks volumes regarding the hard truth that there are no rules to war.

  9. Thank you for the clafification, that would be absolutely devistating if ANYONE thought we used any dog as a suicide dog!

  10. Dustin provided these comments to clarify further the use of dobermans as suicide dogs. Thankyou Dustin.

    “I was enjoying reading about the use of dogs ( specifically dobermans ) in war time until I ran across misleading, and incomplete historical fact. What I found particularly disturbing was the following:

    A testament to the cruelty, wastefulness and sadness of war, was the use of suicide dogs. These dog victims of war were packed with explosives that were remotely detonated once the dog was near an enemy tank.

    While it is true, ONE COUNTRY did use dogs in this manner. It was ONLY one country ( The USSR ) and it was only for a period of approximately a year. Starting in late 1941/early 1942 and was discontinued by 1943 due to the fact that German troops countered this tactic by shooting every dog that crossed their sights. It is disingenuous to imply that Doberman’s were used for this terrible task. The Soviet Army used ANY & All dogs big enough to carry the required explosive charge. Given the historical origins of the breed, it would be unlikely to think they were used or even available in the Soviet Union. Doberman’s have such a noble history of military service it taints their contributions by suggesting this was a wide spread act and that Doberman’s were commonly used in this way.”


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