The 7 greatest animal war heroes
War heroes can emerge from plenty of unexpected places, and that includes kennels, lofts, and stables. Here are seven awesome war heroes who didn’t let being an animal get in the way of winning human conflicts.
1. The pigeon who saved 194 American lives after being shot through the chest.
Cher Ami was a messaging pigeon serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry Division when the battalion of 550 soldiers she was with was completely cut off by German forces. After four days of heavy fighting, friendly artillery decided the battalion must have surrendered already and began firing on the 77th.
Since the 77th just refused an offer to surrender and was very much still in the position, this was a problem. Maj. Charles Whittlesey ordered a message sent back to headquarters, but the group’s three pigeons were quickly shot down. Cher Ami, despite a hole in her chest and a nearly amputated leg, got back into the air and delivered her message. 194 soldiers made it out alive thanks to her actions.
2. Sgt. Stubby
In 1917, Stubby joined a group of American soldiers training for the trenches of World War I. He deployed with the men overseas and proved himself in battle multiple times, waking soldiers as he sensed incoming artillery attacks and infantry assaults that human sentries hadn’t yet detected.
His most heroic moment came when he found and seized a German spy moving near the American position. He bit into the German’s pants and raised a ruckus, holding the spy in place until the infantrymen could relieve him of his prisoner.
Despite being caught in multiple gas attacks, Sgt. Stubby survived the war and the supreme commander of American Forces in World War I, Gen. John Pershing, personally awarded him a gold medal in 1921 for his efforts.
Wojtek the bear was bought and adopted by Polish soldiers making their way back east after they were released from a prison camp in Siberia in 1942.
When the unit re-entered the war in Egypt, they had to make Wojtek a soldier since pets weren’t allowed. As an official member of the unit, the 440-pound bear became an ammo carrier that ferried heavy artillery rounds to the guns. He survived the war and lived out his days in a zoo in Edinburgh.
4. The horse that ferried ammunition and wounded Marines despite two wounds from enemy fire.
Sgt. Reckless was a Marine in an anti-rifle platoon during the Korean War. She served in a few battles as an ammo carrier and evacuated wounded troops when necessary. In the Battle of Vegas in early 1953, Reckless carried rounds for three days straight.
Moving over difficult terrain, she moved 386 rounds and traveled 35 miles despite suffering two wounds on the fiercest day of fighting. The first injury occurred when a piece of shrapnel struck her above her eye and the second was a cut to her flank.
5. Simon continues catching rats during a siege after nearly dying of injuries from artillery fire.
In April 1949, the HMS Amethyst was ordered up the Yangtse to guard the British embassy in Nanking during the war between Communists and Nationalists in China. As the Amethyst moved up the river, it came under heavy fire from a Communist shore battery and ran aground.
Besieged by Communist forces, the Amethyst was trapped for a total of 101 days. The ship’s cat, Simon, was riddled by shrapnel and partially burnt by artillery fire in the initial attack but forced himself back into service to combat a surge of rats that were damaging the limited rations in the ship. His efforts allowed the men to just barely survive the siege as rations nearly ran out. He was the first member of the Royal Navy to receive the Dickin Medal for animal valor.
6. The duck that fought the Japanese at Tarawa.
When the U.S. invaded the island of Tarawa, thousands of Marines clashed with thousands of Japanese soldiers in an effort to control the two-mile wide speck of land. Amidst the fierce fighting on the beach, an American duck flew from ship to shore to attack a Japanese rooster.
Despite suffering multiple pecks to the head, Siwash the Duck of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines continued her assault and eventually overcame her adversary, according to her Marine Corps citation published in Life magazine. She refused medical aid until the rest of her gun section was cared for. She later saw action at Saipan and Tinian.
7. Nemo the dog fights off attackers after being blinded.
Nemo and his handler, Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg, were patrolling a cemetery near their base in Vietnam on Dec. 4, 1966 when they were attacked by the Viet Cong. Nemo was shot in the eye while Throneburg took a round to the shoulder.
Throneburg was able to kill two of the guerrilla attackers but would have fallen to the rest if Nemo hadn’t ignored his own injuries to attack the remaining guerrillas while guarding his handler. Nemo bought enough time for reinforcements to find and rescue the pair. He was allowed to retire to a personal kennel after the firefight.