July 9, 1943 The Most Decorated K-9 of WW2

The machine gun episode ended with a final score of Chips 4, Italian machine-gun team 0, but he wasn’t done. Before the day was over, Chips had helped to bag ten more.

By the end of the “Great War”, France, Great Britain and Belgium had at least 20,000 dogs on the battlefield, Imperial Germany as many as 30,000. Some sources report that over a million dogs served over the course of the war.

Dogs performed a variety of roles in WWI, from ratters in the trenches, to sentries, scouts and runners. “Mercy” dogs were trained to seek out the wounded on battlefields, carrying medical supplies with which the stricken could treat themselves. Sometimes, these dogs simply provided the comfort of another living soul, so that the gravely wounded should not die alone.

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French propaganda postcard of WW1

The famous Rin Tin Tin canine movie star of the 1920s was rescued as a puppy, from the bombed out remains of a German Army kennel, in 1917.

Leaders of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) discussed the use of dogs as sentries, messengers and draft animals, but the war was over before US forces put together any kind of a War Dog program.  America’s first war dog, “Sgt. Stubby”, went “over there” by accident, serving 18 months on the Western Front before coming home to a well-earned retirement.

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Sergeant Stubby

In March 1942, the US Army Quartermaster Corps began training dogs for an American “K-9 Corps.” In the beginning, the owners of healthy animals were encouraged to “loan” their dogs to the Quartermaster Corps, where they were trained for service with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

Chips.jpgOne such dog was “Chips”, the German Shepherd/Collie/Husky mix who would become the most decorated K-9 of WWII.

Chips belonged to the Wren family of Pleasantville New York, who “enlisted” their dog in the “Dogs for Defense (DfD) program in 1942. He was trained at the War Dog Training Center in Front Royal Virginia, and served in the 3rd Infantry Division of Patton’s 7th Army, along with with his handler, Private John Rowell.

Tip of the hat to my son-in-law Nate who also served in the 3rd ID in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan, partnered as handler and “battle buddy” with a four-year-old German Shepard and Tactical Explosives Detection Dog (TEDD) named “Zino”.

Back to WW2.  Chips and his handler took part in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany.  He served as a sentry dog for the Casablanca Conference of 1943, where he met the American President Franklin Roosevelt and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

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.  The Rowell/Chips team was part of the landings, beginning six weeks of land combat in an action code named “Operation Husky”.

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Chips

During the night landing phase on July 10, Private Rowell and Chips were pinned down in the darkness by an Italian machine gun team, operating out of a nearby hut. The dog broke free from his handler as the platoon dived for shelter, covering the beach in a flash and jumping into the building.

Private Rowell described the scene.  “There was an awful lot of noise and the firing stopped. Then I saw one soldier come out of the door with Chips at his throat. I called him off before he could kill the man.”

Three others were quick to follow, hands up.  Chips had grabbed the Italian’s machine gun by the barrel, knocking the gun off its mount before turning his attentions on the team. The dog sustained a scalp wound and powder burns, demonstrating that someone had tried to shoot him during the brawl.  How many lives were spared by the actions of a single dog, is anyone’s guess.

That episode ended with a final score of Chips 4, Italian machine-gun team 0, but he wasn’t done. Before the day was over, Chips had helped to bag ten more.

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“Chips” goes to war, 1942

Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart, but those 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 the rest of his days with the Wren family in Pleasantville, New York.  In 1990, Disney produced a made-for-TV movie based on the life of the most highly decorated K-9 of WW2, calling it “Chips, the War Dog”.

Afterward

In 1917, the British animal welfare pioneer Maria Dickin founded the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), to “provide care for sick and injured animals of the poor”. Today, the PDSA is the largest veterinary charity in England, carrying out a million or more free veterinary visits every year and employing the largest number of veterinary surgeons and nurses in the United Kingdom.

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Dickin_Medal

The Dickin Medal was established in 1943, to recognize animals displaying “conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units“.  Sometimes referred to as “the animals’ Victoria Cross”, the Dickin medal has been awarded only 75 times as of November 2017, plus an honorary Dickin Medal for all animals who served during WW1.

On January 15, 2018, seventy-five years to the day following the Casablanca Conference, Chips was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal.  John Wren, who was only four when Chips went to war, accepted the award in Chips’ honor.  United States Army Lieutenant Colonel Alan Throop and Military Working Dog (MWD) Handler Staff Sergeant Jeremy Mayerhoffer of the United States Air Force were also there, along with MWD Ayron, who stood in for Chips to wear his Dickin Medal.

The medal reads “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve.” Previous recipients include 33 dogs, 32 messenger pigeons, four horses and a ship’s cat.

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“John Wren (left), who was four years old when Chips the family pet returned from the war effort, with military working dog Ayron and his handler Staff Sergeant Jeremy Mayerhoffer (centre) and US Lieutenant Colonel Alan Throop (right) in London today”  H/T Daily Mail
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July 6, 1863 Sallie was a Lady…

There was barely a man in the regiment, who wouldn’t have walked over the proverbial “bad road & broken glass”, for that dog.   

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Irish Brigade Memorial sculpted by William R. O’Donovan, a former Confederate soldier who fought at Gettysburg  H/T Gettysburg.stonesentinels.com

Sallie was four weeks old in 1861, when she was given as a gift to 1st Lieutenant William Terry, of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.  Terry made her the regimental mascot, a post she would hold for the duration of the Civil War.

Sallie was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or possibly a Pit Bull, brindle in color.  She would tag along on long marches, and kept the men of the regiment company in their camps.  She learned the drum roll announcing reveille, and loved to help wake the sleeping soldiers in the morning.

If you’ve ever had a dog in your life, you know how that goes.

There was barely a man in the regiment, who wouldn’t have walked over the proverbial “bad road & broken glass”, for that dog.   Sallie’s first battle came at Cedar Mountain, in 1862. No one thought of sending her to the rear before things got hot, so Sallie took up a position along with the colors, barking ferociously at the adversary.

There she remained throughout the entire engagement, as she would do at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania.

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Sallie, the smallest member of the 11th PA Infantry Regiment, is one of only two dogs so memorialized at Gettysburg, the only dog who was actually In the battle.

It was said that Sallie only hated three things:  Rebels, Democrats, and Women.

Sallie marched with “her” soldiers in review, in the spring of 1863.  Abraham Lincoln was reviewing the army at the time, when he spotted the dog from the center of the reviewing stand, and raised his famous top hat in salute.

At Gettysburg, Sallie was separated from her unit in the chaos of the first day’s fighting. They found her five days later, on July 6, parched with thirst and weakened by hunger.

She’d been standing guard over her dead and dying comrades, since July 1.

It’s been said that only a dog is capable of that kind of loyalty, yet virtue in one is capable of inspiring virtue in another. So it was on February 5, 1865. Sallie was struck in the head by a bullet at Hatcher’s Run. She was killed instantly.  Several men of the 11th PA laid down their arms and buried her, right then and there.  Even though they were still under fire from the Confederate side.

There is a tale about Sallie, I don’t know if it’s true.  Probably not but it’s a nice story.

After the battle in which Sallie was killed, the soldiers were moving out when a small whining was heard from within a hollowed-out tree.  Someone went to the tree and found several small puppies, believed to be Sallie’s.  They’d had no idea that she was pregnant, or how puppies came to be in that hollowed out tree.  The soldiers gave them to local civilians, so that Sallie’s bloodline might live on.

Sallie statueTwenty-seven years after Gettysburg, surviving veterans of the regiment returned to dedicate a memorial to those members of the 11th Pennsylvania, who lost their lives on that field of battle.

Today, 1,320 memorial statues, monuments and markers dot the landscape of the Gettysburg battlefield.  Among all of them there are only two, raised in the memory of a dog.  The first is a Celtic cross, erected in honor of New York’s Irish Brigade.  Ironically, it is sculpted by a Confederate veteran of the battle.  At the foot of the cross rests a life-sized likeness of an Irish wolfhound, symbolizing honor and fidelity..

66be53833fa8c6663ee4542b2d28d73cThe other includes a brindle colored Terrier, named Sallie.  The only one of the two to have actually participated in the battle.

The monument depicts an upright Union soldier, rifle at the ready.  By unanimous consent of the veterans themselves, Sallie’s likeness looks out from the foot of the statue, where she guards over the spirits of “her boys”, for all eternity.

“Sallie was a lady,
she was a soldier too.
She marched beside the colors,
our own red white and blue.
It was in the days of our civil war,
that she lived her life so true”.

Feature image, top of page:  Only known picture of Sallie, herself.  Photographer unknown.
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July 1, 1916 Jersey Shore

Media response to the second incident was altogether different.  Newspapers from the Boston Herald to the San Francisco Chronicle ran the story front page, above the fold. The New York Times went all-in: “Shark Kills Bather Off Jersey Beach”

As Spring gives way to Summer, kids of all ages exchange school bags for beach bags. Sports practices and homework are over, for now. We grown-ups can enjoy the last hours of the weekday, under the warmth of the sun. Gone are the days when the warmth of summer brought with it, the horrors of polio.  We have no idea how lucky we are.

health-polio-1916-c-swscan02773In pre-1955 America and around much of the world, Summer was a time of dread. TIME Magazine offered what solace it could, in 1946: “for many a parent who had lived through the nightmare fear of polio, there was some statistical encouragement: in 1916, 25% of polio’s victims died. This year, thanks to early recognition of the disease and improved treatment (iron lungs, physical therapy, etc.) the death rate is down to 5%.”

Polio afflicted the nation for generations.  1916 was particularly severe. Nationally, some 6,000 died of the disease that summer. New York City alone suffered 9,000 cases of polio, forcing a city-wide quarantine.

Making matters worse, the epidemic took place during one of the hottest Summers in memory, the twin threats of heat and disease driving millions to seek relief at nearby lakes, streams and beaches.

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On July 1, 1916, twenty-five-year-old Charles Epting Vansant of Philadelphia was vacationing with family, at the Engleside Hotel on the Jersey shore. Just before dinner, Vansant took a swim with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who was playing on the beach. Vansant began to shout and bathers thought he was calling to the dog, but shouts soon turned to screams. As lifeguard Alexander Ott and bystander Sheridan Taylor pulled the man to shore, they could see the shark, following.

5017802db4ff6102b80da58beb964440Charles Vansant’s left thigh was stripped to the bone. He was brought to the Engleside hotel, where he bled to death on the front desk.

Despite the incident, beaches remained open all along the Jersey Shore. Sea captains entering the ports of Newark and New York reported numbers of large sharks swarming off the Jersey shore, but such reports received little attention.

The next major shark attack occurred five days later, on July 6. Forty-five miles north of Engleside, Essex & Sussex Hotel bell captain Charles Bruder was swimming near the resort town of Spring Lake. Hearing screams, one woman notified lifeguards that a red canoe had capsized, and lay just below the surface.  Lifeguards Chris Anderson and George White rowed out to the spot to discover Bruder, legless, with a shark bite to his abdomen. The twenty-seven year old Swiss army veteran bled to death before ever regaining the shore.

NjsharkattackmapLike some earlier, real-life “Jaws”, authorities and the press downplayed the incident. The New York Times reported that Vansant “was badly bitten in the surf … by a fish, presumably a shark.” Pennsylvania State Fish Commissioner and former director of the Philadelphia Aquarium James M. Meehan opined that “Vansant was in the surf playing with a dog and it may be that a small shark had drifted in at high water, and was marooned by the tide. Being unable to move quickly and without food, he had come in to bite the dog and snapped at the man in passing“.

Response to the second incident was altogether different.  Newspapers from the Boston Herald to the San Francisco Chronicle ran the story front page, above the fold. The New York Times went all-in: “Shark Kills Bather Off Jersey Beach“.

A trio of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History held a press conference on July 8, declaring a third such incident unlikely. Be that as it may, John Treadwell Nichols, the only ichthyologist among the three, warned swimmers to stay close to shore, and take advantage of netted bathing areas.

Rumors went into high gear, as an armed motorboat claimed to have chased a shark off Spring Creek Beach.  Asbury Park Beach was closed after lifeguard Benjamin Everingham claimed to have beaten a 12-footer back, with an oar.

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New Jersey resort owners suffered a blizzard of cancellations and a loss of revenue estimated at $5.6 million in 2017 dollars.  In some areas, bathing declined by as much as 75%.

Even so, scores of people died in the oppressive heat.  Newspapers reported twenty-six fatalities, in Chicago alone.  Air conditioning, invented in 1902, would not be widely available until the 1920s.  Rural areas had yet to be electrified.

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Today, some sharks are known to be capable of living for a time, in fresh water. Bull sharks have been known to travel as much as sixty miles up the Mississippi River. Researchers report that the Neuse River in North Carolina has been home to bull sharks, possibly arrived in pursuit of young dolphins.

That information wasn’t available in 1916.

As the heat wave dragged on, lakes and rivers crowded with bathers from Gary, Indiana to Manchester, New Hampshire.  In New Jersey, ocean beaches remained closed with the exception of the 4th Ave. Beach at Asbury Park, enclosed with a steel-wire-mesh fence and patrolled by armed motorboats.

Locals sought relief from the heat in Matawan Creek, a brackish water estuary in the Marlboro Township of Monmouth County.  With fresh waters flowing from Baker’s Brook through a salinity gradient to the full-salt waters of Keyport Harbor, Matawan Creek seemed more at risk for snapping turtles and snakes, than shark attack.

Matawan_Creek_mouth
“Photo showing the Matawan Creek near its mouth in Keyport and Aberdeen Township, New Jersey. Photo taken from the Front Street / Amoby Road (County Route 6) bridge looking north”. H/T Wikipedia

On July 12, several boys including eleven-year-old epileptic Lester Stilwell were swimming near Wykoff Dock when the boys spotted an “old black weather-beaten board or a weathered log.” The boys scattered when that old log grew a dorsal fin, but Lester Stilwell wasn’t fast enough.

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Many dismissed the rantings of five naked, hysterical boys, believing that no shark could be this far inland.  Twenty-four year old tailor Stanley Fisher came running, knowing that the boy suffered from epilepsy.  Arthur Smith and George Burlew joined in the effort, by now clearly a recovery and no longer a rescue. The trio got in a boat and probed with an oar and some poles, but…nothing. They were about to give up the search when Fisher dove in the water.  He actually found the boy’s body, and began to swim to shore.

Matawan Creek
Matawan Creek

Townspeople lining the creek must have looked on in horror, as Fisher was attacked.

Stanley Fisher made it to shore though his right thigh was severely injured, an eighteen-inch-wide piece of his thigh gone, and an artery severed. Fisher would bleed to death at Monmouth Hospital, before the day was done.

The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 claimed a fifth and final victim thirty minutes later, when Joseph Dunn of New York city was bitten a half-mile from the Stilwell and Fisher attacks. A savage tug-of war ensued between Dunn’s brother Michael and sixteen-year-old Jeremiah Hourihan, and local attorney Jacob Lefferts, who jumped in the water to help. 12-year old Joseph Dunn would survive but the damage to his left leg was severe.  The boy would not be discharged from hospital, until September 15.

shark-attackBased on the style of the attacks and glimpses of the shark(s) themselves, the attacks may have been those of Bull sharks, or juvenile Great Whites.  Massive shark hunts were carried out all over the east coast, resulting in the death of hundreds of animals.  Whether all five attacks were carried out by a single animal or many, remains unknown.

635930279184222386-shark-2At the time, the story resulted in international hysteria.  Now, the tale is all but unknown, but for the people of Matawan.  Stanley’s grave sits on a promontory at the Rose Hill Cemetery, overlooking Lester’s grave, below.  People still stop from time to time, leaving flowers, toys and other objects.  Perhaps they’re paying tribute.  Homage to the courage of those who would jump into the water, in the face of our most primordial fear.

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

June 1 (hypothesized) 10,000BC Domesticated Animals

There are stone engravings depicting teams of hogs hauling war chariots. I wonder what that sounded like.

The first dog may have approached a campfire looking for a morsel, or someone could have taken in a sick or wounded pup.  A wolf pack may have learned to shadow human hunting parties, the two groups learning to work together for their mutual benefit.  Two social, hierarchically organized species such as humans and wolves, would have found themselves on familiar ground.

The earliest known evidence of a domesticated dog comes to us from a cave in Iraq and dates to about 12,000 years ago. The specimen differs from that of a wolf, in that it was bred to have smaller jaws and teeth

1417509_origIt may be hard to imagine but, Canis lupus, the wolf, is the ancestor of the modern dog, Canis familiaris.  Every one of them, from Newfoundlands to Chihuahuas.

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Ovis aries, sheep, were the next to be domesticated, probably in the Middle East. They provided milk, meat and the warmth of wool from around 8000BC.

Pig Drawn CarriageSus scrofa (the pig) was domesticated around 6000 BC throughout the Middle East and China. Pigs were originally used as draft animals.  There are stone engravings depicting teams of hogs hauling war chariots. I wonder what that sounded like.

Bossie made her debut at a couple of points in history, females providing milk and meat and castrated males providing the massive strength and capacity for work, of the ox.  Over time, different branches of Bos primigenius came into domestication. The branch which came to be known as Bos taurus, the domestic cattle seen in the US today, began about 8,000 years ago in the Middle East. Bos indicus, the familiar humped cattle seen throughout modern day India and Pakistan, came around about 2,000 years later.

The animal making the greatest impact on Mankind entered the picture around 4000-3500BC on the Eurasian steppes near Dereivka, in central Ukraine. Equus caballus, the horse, provided milk, meat, shelter and transportation, as well as an endless capacity for work. From farm carts to war chariots, the horse could haul a load faster and over a greater distance, than any animal of its time.

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Heck Horse

The first domesticated horse was called a Tarpan, a steppe sub-species which is now extinct, at least in the wild. The “Heck Horse” is a breed claimed to resemble the extinct wild Tarpan or Equus ferus ferus, created by the German zoologist brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck. The first Heck horse, a stallion named Duke, was exported to the United States in 1954, followed by two mares in 1955 and a third in 1962.

Today most camels are domesticated, except for a few of the Bactrian (two humps) variety surviving in the Gobi Desert. Wild camels originated in North America, and were wiped out during the spread of Native Americans from Asia into North America between 8000 and 10000BC.

Camelid_origin_and_migrationEarly camelids spread across the Bering land bridge, moving the opposite direction from the Asian immigration to America, surviving in the Old World and eventually becoming domesticated and spreading globally by humans. The first “camelids” became domesticated about 4,500 years ago in Peru: The “New World Camels” the Llama and the Alpaca, and the “South American Camels”, the Guanaco and the Vicuña.

Of the only two surviving true camels, Dromedaries may have first been domesticated by humans in southern Arabia, around 3000 BC, and the Bactrian in central Asia, about five hundred years later.

Cats-in-History-2

Genetic analysis of the modern house cat, Felis silvestris catus, suggests that every one of them descends from one of five wild feline ancestors: the Sardinian, European, Central Asian, Subsaharan African, or the Chinese desert cat.

The first depiction of a cat wearing a collar appears on a tomb in the ancient Egyptian burial ground of Saqqara, dated 2500-2350 BC, however there is archaeological evidence of domesticated cats on the Greek island of Cyprus, as early as 7500BC.

 

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

March 18, 2011 No Ordinary Donkey

For the family who now owned him, the  neglected, half-starved pack animal out back suddenly became a “beloved pet”.  They couldn’t possible let him go for anything less than $30,000.  (But, of course).

Al Taqaddum Airbase, “TQ” in military parlance, is a military airbase, 45 miles west of Baghdad, on the Habbaniyah Plateau of Iraq. In 2008, Al Taqaddum was home to the 1st Marine Logistics Group, under the command of Colonel John D. Folsom.

wwfs-colonel-folsom-smallEarly one August morning, Colonel Folsom awoke to a new sound. The thwap-thwap-thwap of the helicopters, the endless hum of the generators, those were the sounds of everyday life. This sound was different – the sound of braying donkey.

Folsom emerged from his quarters to find the small, emaciated animal, tied to a eucalyptus tree.  Standing all of 3′ tall, a sergeant had spotted the donkey roaming outside Camp Taqaddum, and thought it would be amusing to catch him.  Folsom thought it might be fun to have one around. Time would tell they were both right.

Smoke visits Sgt Lonnie Forrest
Smoke visits Sgt Lonnie Forrest

The website for a UK donkey sanctuary recommends a diet of highly fibrous plant material, eaten in small quantities throughout the day. I read the list twice and nowhere will you find bagels yet, for this little Iraqi donkey, there was nothing better.  Preferably frozen.  He’d hold them in his mouth and walk along, scraping the bagel in the dirt before eating it.  He liked to play the same game, with a deflated rubber ball.

You won’t find cigarettes on the list either, but he stole one once, and gobbled it down.  It didn’t seem to matter that the thing was lit.  For that reason and because of the color of his coat, the Marines called him “Smoke”.

Smoke-the-donkey-MattShelatoBefore long,  Smoke was a familiar sight around Camp Taqaddum.  After long walks around the wire, Smoke learned to open doors and wander around.  If you ever left that candy dish out on your desk, you were on your own.

SmokeRegulations prohibit the keeping of pets in a war zone.  A Navy Captain helped get Smoke designated as a therapy animal, and he was home to stay.  As it turned out, there was more than a little truth to the label.  For young women and men thousands of miles from home in a war zone, the little animal was a welcome reminder of home.

The humor of the situation was hard to resist, and the “ass jokes” all but told themselves.  (Sorry, but we’re talking about Marines, here).  Dozens of Marines laughed uproariously in that mess hall in 2009, belting out a mangled version of an old Kenny Rogers song: “Yes, he’s once, twice, three times a donkey…. I loooooovvvvvveeeeee youuuuuuuuu.”

That was the year when Folsom’s unit cycled out of Camp Taqaddum, to be replaced by another contingent of Marines.  These promised to look after the 1st MLG’s mascot, but things didn’t work out that way.  A Major gave the donkey away to a Sheikh who in turn dumped him off on an Iraqi family, and that was the end.  Except, it wasn’t.

Smoke-Home-LowerColonel Folsom couldn’t get the little animal out of his head and, learning of his plight in 2010, determined to get him back.  There were plenty of kids who had survived trauma of all kinds in his home state of Nebraska.  Folsom believed that the animal could do them some good, as well.

There ensued a months-long wrangle with American and Iraqi authorities, who couldn’t understand why all the fuss over a donkey.  For the family who now owned him, the  neglected, half-starved pack animal out back suddenly became a “beloved pet”.  They couldn’t possible let him go for anything less than $30,000.  (But, of course).

900 donors pitched in and, despite seemingly endless obstacles and miles of red tape, Smoke the Donkey slowly made his way from al-Anbar to Kuwait and on to Turkey and finally, to his new home in Nebraska.

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Smoke the Marine Corps Donkey, at his new home in Omaha

ABCNews.com broadcast this announcement on May 18, 2011. Smoke the Marine Corps Donkey, “mascot, ambassador, and battle buddy”, was now, an American.  Semper Fi.

May 16, 1938 Buddy’s Eyes

Dorothy Eustis called Frank in February 1928 and asked if he was willing to come to Switzerland. “Mrs. Eustis, to get my independence back, I’d go to hell”.

Written references to seeing eye dogs date back to the Tudor era, when a bit of children’s doggerel began “A is for Archer…B is a Blind-man/Led by a dog.”

German researchers began working with Alsatians (German Shepherd Dogs) in the 1920s, to serve as guides for WWI veterans blinded by gas.  An American breeder living in Switzerland, Dorothy Harrison Eustis, wrote an article about the work in a 1927 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.  US Senator Thomas Schall from Minnesota, who was legally blind, was paired with a German service dog that same year.

Morris Frank of Nashville lost the use of an eye in childhood.  His vision was destroyed altogether in a boxing accident, at the age of 16.  Frank hired a boy to guide him around, but the young man was easily bored and sometimes wandered off, leaving Frank to fend for himself.

SeeingEyeDog_MorrisFrank_Buddy

Frank’s father saw Eustis’ article in 1927, and read it to him.  The twenty-year old was electrified.  Morris wrote to Eustis pleading with her to train a dog for himself. “Is what you say really true? If so, I want one of those dogs! And I am not alone. Thousands of blind like me abhor being dependent on others. Help me and I will help them. Train me and I will bring back my dog and show people here how a blind man can be absolutely on his own. We can then set up an instruction center in this country to give all those here who want it a chance at a new life.

Dorothy Eustis called Frank in February 1928 and asked if he was willing to come to Switzerland. “Mrs. Eustis, to get my independence back, I’d go to hell”. She accepted the challenge and trained two dogs, leaving it to Frank himself to decide which was more suitable. Morris came to Switzerland to work with the dogs, both female German Shepherds. He chose a dog named “Kiss” but, feeling that no 20-year-old man should have a dog named Kiss, he called her “Buddy”.

Seeing Eye Dog Statue
Morris Frank was a founder of the first guide-dog school in the United States. He was the first person to be partnered with a seeing eye dog and the co-founder of The Seeing Eye, a guide-dog school.

Man and dog stepped off the ship in 1928 to a throng of reporters. There were flash bulbs, shouted questions and the din of traffic and honking horns that can only be New York City, but Buddy never wavered. At the end of the day Eustis received a single word telegram: “Success”. Morris Frank was set on the path that became his life’s mission: to get Seeing Eye Dogs accepted all over the country.

On January 29, 1929, Frank and Eustis established the first American guide dog training school in Frank’s home town of Nashville:  “The Seeing Eye“.  Frank was true to his word, becoming a tireless advocate of public accessibility for the blind and their guide dogs. In 1928, Morris was routinely told that Buddy couldn’t ride with him in the passenger compartment. Seven years later, all railroads in the United States had adopted policies allowing guide dogs to remain with their owners while on board.

By 1956, every state in the Union had passed laws guaranteeing access to public spaces for blind people and their dogs.

Frank told a New York Times interviewer in 1936 that he had logged 50,000 miles with Buddy, by foot, train, subway, bus, and boat. He was constantly meeting with people, including two Presidents and over 300 ophthalmologists, demonstrating the life-changing qualities of a guide dog.

Buddy’s health was failing toward the end of her life, but the team had one more hurdle to cross. One more barrier to break. Frank wanted to fly in a commercial aircraft with his guide dog, and did so on this day in 1938, flying from Chicago to Newark. United Airlines was the first to adopt the policy, granting “all Seeing Eye dogs the privilege of riding with their masters in the cabins of any of our regularly scheduled planes.”

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Morris Frank’s seeing eye dog was all business during the day but, to the end of her life, she loved to end her work day with a roll on the floor with her “Dad”.  Buddy died a week after that plane ride, but she had made her mark. There were 250 seeing eye dogs working across the country by this time, and their number was growing fast. Buddy’s replacement was also called Buddy, as was every seeing eye dog Frank ever owned, until he passed away in 1980.

SeeingeyeToday, The Seeing Eye operates a 330-acre complex in Morris Township, New Jersey, the oldest guide dog school still in operation, in the world.  The primary breeds used for such training are German Shepherds, Labs, Golden Retrievers, and Lab/Golden mixed breeds. Boxers are occasionally used, for individuals with allergies.

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Since 1929, Seeing Eye, Inc. has trained some 16,000 guide dogs, pairing them with blind and vision-impaired across the United States and Canada.  There are currently 1,720 such human/canine partnerships. The organization places an average of 260 guide dogs every year.    The non-profit is primarily funded through private donations, as new students pay only $150, and returning students pay $50.  Military veterans are charged a single dollar.

 

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

May 14, 1856 Red Ghost

The stories became more fantastic and more terrifying with each telling.  One man claimed that he personally saw the beast kill and eat a grizzly. Another claimed that he had chased the “Red Ghost”, only to have it vanish before his eyes.

Long before he became President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis was a young Army Officer.  At one time, Davis was approached with the idea of using camels as pack animals. To Davis, the idea made sense.  The beast’s ability to survive in the desert, its massive strength and great stamina, made him wonder if this wasn’t the weapon of the future.

Twenty years later, then-US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis ordered the creation of the 1st United States Camel Corps. Major Henry Wayne was sent to Turkey to acquire 62 of the animals, along with trainers who could teach American soldiers how to properly handle and care for them.

Camel_from_Harpers_WeeklyThe camels arrived on May 14, 1856, and set out for the newly established Camp Verde in West Texas, with elements of the US Cavalry and seven handlers.

Major Wayne became an enthusiastic salesman for the camel program, putting on demonstrations for cavalry groups. He would order what seemed an impossible load to be placed on a kneeling camel, and then step back and frown, “concerned” that he might have overdone it. Mule drivers would smile and jab each other with their elbows – now he’s done it – then he would step forward and pile on more weight. On command, the camel would stand up and stroll away, completely unconcerned.

One of the handlers, a Syrian named Hadji Ali, (“Hi Jolly” to the soldiers), established a successful breeding program while stationed at Camp Verde.  The program was not without problems. Camels don’t play well with other pack animals, and they don’t accept the whips and prods used to handle horses and mules. They tend to retaliate. A camel will spit or rake your face with its teeth if given the chance, and they can turn and charge in a manner that’s terrifying.

Camp Verde had about 60 camels when Civil War broke out in 1861. The King of Siam seems to have been the only one who grasped the military advantage to the Confederacy.  Seeing a business opportunity, the King wrote to President Abraham Lincoln, saying “here, we use elephants”. It seems that Lincoln never responded to the King’s overture, and the animal arms race got no further than this single letter. It makes the imagination run wild, though, at the idea of War Elephants at Gettysburg.

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The only known surviving photo of the U.S. Camel Corps shows a camel at Drum Barracks, San Pedro, CA. Library of Congress photo

Some of Camp Verde’s camels were sold off.  One poor brute was pushed over a cliff by frustrated cavalrymen. Most were simply turned loose to fend for themselves. The fates of these animals are mostly unknown, except for one who made his way to Mississippi in 1863, where he was taken into service with the 43rd Infantry Regiment. “Douglas the Confederate Camel” was a common sight throughout the siege of Vicksburg, until being shot and killed by a Union sharpshooter. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bevier of the 5th Regiment, Missouri Confederate Infantry was furious, enlisting six of his best snipers to rain down hell on Douglas’ killer. Bevier later said of the Federal soldier “I refused to hear his name, and was rejoiced to learn that he had been severely wounded.”

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Marker for “Douglas The Confederate Camel”. Cedar Hill Cemetery, Vicksburg, Mississippi

The Apache wars were drawing to a close in 1883, but southeastern Arizona could still be a dangerous place. Renegade bands of Apache were on the move, and isolated ranches were in a constant state of siege.

Two men rode out to check on their livestock one day, leaving their wives at the ranch with the kids. One of the women went down to the spring for a bucket of water while the other remained in the house with the children. Suddenly there was a terrifying scream, and the dogs began to bark. The woman inside saw what she described as a huge, reddish beast, being ridden by a devil.

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She barricaded herself inside the house and hysterically prayed while she waited for the men to return. They returned that night and found the body of the other woman by the stream. She’d been trampled almost flat, with huge, cloven hoof prints in the mud around her body and a few red hairs in the brush.

Gold prospectors awakened in the night a few days later, as their tent crashed down around them to the sound of thundering hoofs. They clawed their way out of the mess and saw a huge beast, much larger than a horse, run off into the moonlight. The next day, they too found red hairs in the brush.

The stories became more fantastic and more terrifying with each telling.  One man claimed that he personally saw the beast kill and eat a grizzly. Another claimed that he had chased the “Red Ghost”, only to have it vanish before his eyes.

camelmulesA few months later, a Salt River rancher named Cyrus Hamblin spotted the animal while rounding up cows. It was a camel, and Hamblin saw that it had something that looked like the skeleton of a man tied to its back. Nobody believed his story, but a group of prospectors fired on the animal several weeks later. Though their shots missed, they saw the animal bolt and run, and a human skull with some parts of flesh and hair still attached fell to the ground.

There were further incidents over the next year, mostly at prospector camps. A cowboy near Phoenix came upon the Red Ghost while eating grass in a corral. Cowboys seem to think they can rope anything with hair on it, and this guy was no exception. He lashed the rope onto the pommel of his saddle, and tossed it over the camel’s head. The angry beast turned and charged, knocking horse and rider to the ground. As the camel galloped off, the astonished cowboy could clearly see the skeletal remains of a man lashed to its back.

The beast last appeared nine years later in the garden of a rancher. He aimed his Winchester and fired, dropping the animal with one shot. On the back of the poor, tormented beast was the body of a man, tied down with heavy rawhide straps that cruelly scarred the animal’s flesh. The story of the Red Ghost ends here. How the body of a man came to be tied to its back remains a cruel mystery.

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The tomb of Hadji Ali in Quartzite, Arizona. The inscription reads: THE LAST CAMP OF HI JOLLY BORN SOMEWHERE IN SYRIA ABOUT 1828 DIED AT QUARTZITE DECEMBER 16, 1902 CAME TO THIS COUNTRY FEBRUARY 10, 1856 CAMELDRIVER – PACKER SCOUT – OVER THIRTY YEARS A FAITHFUL AID TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT ARIZONA HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT 1935
If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.