Brian (military callsign “Bing”) entered service in World War II as a young family dog loaned to the British government; he served for about 18 months, jumping into Normandy and leading his fellow paratroopers across Nazi-held Europe and the Rhine River before returning to his civilian family after Germany’s surrender.
Bing jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the British 13th Parachute Battalion and two other airborne canines, Monty and Ranee. Bing, Montee, and Ranee were specially chosen and trained to jump from planes wearing parachutes designed for bicycles.
But Bing actually stumbled on his combat jump. He was supposed to be the “stick pusher,” the last one out of the plane. But he refused to jump into the flak-filled clouds over Normandy and one of the onboard jumpmasters had to throw him from the plane.
The 13th Parachute Battalion later found their dog hanging from a tree with two deep cuts to his face that they estimated were from German mortar fire.
Worse, Monty suffered severe wounds on D-Day that ended his involvement in the war and Ranee was lost soon after the jump. Bing stayed with the paratroopers and two captured German Shepherds (German by both breed and national service) who replaced Monty and Ranee.
Together, the dogs led the paratroopers during their advance across Europe, sniffing for minefields and other traps and pointing out probable ambushes.
Just like a pointer drawing a hunter’s attention to game, Bing would freeze up and point with his nose when he found a potential batch of Germans expected to make trouble for his paratroopers.
Other British forces, including the SAS (Special Air Service), took dogs on airborne operations — as did a small number of American troops.
After the war, Bing returned to his civilian life as Brian the family dog, but was recognized in 1947 with a Dickin Medal — an award for animal valor — bestowed by Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Bowhill. He lived to the age of 13 before dying in 1955.