During the First World War, dogs attached to the Medical Corps and the Red Cross lived up to the title “Man’s Best Friend” by helping to rescue soldiers.
Medical Corps dogs were trained to enter No Man’s Land (an unoccupied zone between the trench systems of the Allied and Central Powers) at night and locate fallen soldiers. These dogs could recognize the scent of blood, check for a man’s breath, and–if the soldier were alive–deliver his hat to a Medical Corps officer. (The hat’s insignia was an important identification method for the officer.) Stretcher-bearers were then dispatched to rescue the soldier at daybreak.
Indeed, dogs have participated in warfare for thousands of years. According to some Egyptian murals, dogs were unleashed against enemies in Egypt as far back as 4000 B.C.E. Dogs make excellent companions in modern war because of their superior auditory sense, which allows them to hear artillery fire before humans. They also have superior night vision, making them valued message-bearers.
Included in the Ransom Center’s exhibition The World at War, 1914-1918 is Mildred Moody’s propaganda poster, reading “Even a Dog Enlists, Why Not You?” Also, explore other World War I-era posters in the Ransom Center’s new digital collection.
The World at War, 1914-1918 runs through August 3, 2014.