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Friday, February 28, 2014

Pooches, canaries, pigeons and horses: Animals who served in World War One

Canaries who sang to wounded on hospital trains!

French Blue Cross Hospital for sick and wounded horses.
     We talk so often of the millions who died during la Grande Guerre. Twenty-two million soldiers and pilots. Six million civilians whose homes and farms were shattered, traipsed over, bombed, exploded in mines. Entire towns were obliterated, all  their residents fleeing the carnage. Many of those towns never were reinhabited. In fact, in eastern France, on many hillsides only a placard marks the site of where a prosperous village one stood.
     But animals served the war too. Millions of them. Canaries not only sang to wounded, but also pidgins carried messages. Dogs ran No Man's Land with messages, aiding chaplains whose grim duty was to find the wounded and the dead amid the hideous debris in the killing fields. Horses too served by the hundreds of thousands. These noble animals not only rode in early cavalry charges, but also pulled huge guns and hauled thousands of pounds of shells, bullets, rifles and even food to those in the front lines. One endearing photo here shows the hundreds of ill and wounded horses in the Blue Cross Hospital of the French.
     In the American Army was one extraordinary Sergeant. A terrier named Stubby served first in the Chemin des Dames area in 1917. Yes, he was an American pooch who even captured a German soldier in the Argonne all by his little ferocious self!
     With acute hearing, he warned his comrades about in-coming shells and often ran with men into No Man's Land. For all these feats and more, Stubby earned the Medal of Honor from the American Humane Society. Shown above in his uniform, he wears his medals proudly. After all, a guy must dress correctly when he is to stand in review…or meet the president, as he often did!

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