The United States Armed Forces had an extensive K-9 program during World War II, when private citizens were asked to donate their dogs to the war effort. One such dog was “Chips”, a German Shepherd/Collie/Husky mix who ended up being the most decorated K-9 of WWII.
Chips belonged to Edward Wren of Pleasantville, NY, who “enlisted” his dog in 1942. He was trained at the War Dog Training Center, Front Royal, Virginia, and served in the 3rd Infantry Division with his handler, Private John Rowell. Chips and his handler took part in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. He served as a sentry dog for the Roosevelt-Churchill conference in 1943, and the team was part of the Sicily landings later that year.
The Allied invasion of Sicily was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, beginning this day in 1943 and lasting through the 17th of August. Six weeks of land combat followed, in an operation code named “Operation Husky”.
During the landing phase, private Rowell and Chips were pinned down by an Italian machine gun team. The dog broke free from his handler, running across the beach and jumping into the pillbox. Chips attacked the four Italians manning the machine gun, single-handedly forcing their surrender to American troops. The dog sustained a scalp wound and powder burns in the process, demonstrating that they had tried to shoot him during the brawl. In the end, the score was Chips 4, Italians Zero. He helped to capture ten more later that same day.
Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart, but the awards were later revoked. At that time the army didn’t permit commendations to be given to animals. His unit awarded him a Theater Ribbon with an Arrowhead for the assault landing anyway, along with eight Battle stars. One for each of his campaigns.
Chips was discharged in December, 1945, and returned home to live out his days with the Wren family in Pleasantville. Disney made a TV movie based on his life in 1990. They called it “Chips, the War Dog”.