July 9, 1943 Chips

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, indicating that they had tried to shoot him during the brawl.  In the end the score was Chips 4, Italians Zero.

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”.

Chips, War DogDuring 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”.

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July 6, 1863 Sallie

By unanimous consent of the veterans, Sallie’s likeness looks out from the base of the statue, looking out for the spirits of “her boys” for all eternity. 

From contemporary descriptions and the only photograph that’s known to exist of her, Sallie was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, brindle in color. She was four weeks old in 1861, given as a gift to 1st Lieutenant William Terry of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, who made her the regimental mascot.   The men of the regiment were enormously fond of Sallie, as she tagged along on long marches and kept them company in their camps. She learned the drum roll announcing reveille, and loved to help wake sleeping soldiers in the morning.

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

11th PASallie’s first battle came at Cedar Mountain, in 1862.  No one thought of sending her to the rear before things got hot, so she took up her position with the colors, barking ferociously at the adversary.   There she remained throughout the entire engagement, as she did at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Spotsylvania.  They said she only hated three things:  Rebels, Democrats, and Women.

Sallie marched with “her” soldiers in a review in the spring of 1863.  Abraham Lincoln was reviewing the army, 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 was standing guard over her dead and dying comrades from 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 in February, 1865.  Sallie was struck in the head by a bullet at Hatcher’s Run.  She was killed instantly, when 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.Sallie

There is a story.  I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s nice to think that it might be.   Soldiers were moving out after the battle, when they heard whining from a hollowed out tree. There they found several of Sallie’s puppies. They’d had no idea she was pregnant, or how puppies came to be in that hollowed out tree, but they gave them to local civilians so that Sallie’s bloodline could live on.

Surviving veterans of the regiment returned to Gettysburg in 1890, to dedicate a memorial to those members of the 11th Pennsylvania who lost their lives on that field of battle.  The monument shows an upright Union soldier, rifle at the ready.Sallie's Eyes

By unanimous consent of the veterans themselves, Sallie’s likeness looks out from the base of the statue, looking after the spirits of “her boys”, for all eternity.

There are only two dogs so honored on the battlefield at Gettysburg, the other is part of the Irish Brigade monument.  Of the two, Sallie is the only one to have actually participated in the battle.

Irish brigade memorial, Gettysburg“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”.

May 16, 1938 Through Buddy’s Eyes

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. Buddy never wavered.

Morris Frank lost the use of an eye in a childhood accident, losing his vision altogether when a boxing accident damaged the other when he was 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.

German specialists had been working at this time, on the use of Alsatians (German Shepherds), to act as guide dogs for WWI veterans blinded by mustard 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. When Frank’s father read him the article, he 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 EustisDorothy Eustis called Frank in February 1928 and asked if he was willing to come to Switzerland.  The response left little doubt:  “Mrs. Eustis, to get my independence back, I’d go to hell”.  She accepted the challenge and trained two dogs, leaving it to Frank to decide which was the more suitable. Morris came to Switzerland to work with the dogs, both female German Shepherds. He chose one named “Kiss” but, feeling that no 20-year-old man should have a dog named Kiss, he called her “Buddy”.Buddy's Eyes

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.  Buddy never wavered. At the end of that first day, Dorothy Eustis received a single word telegram: “Success”.  Morris Frank was set on the path that would become his life’s mission: to get Seeing Eye Dogs accepted all over the country.

Frank and Eustis established the first guide dog training school in the US in Nashville, on January 29, 1929.    Frank was true to his word, becoming a tireless advocate of public accessibility for the blind and their guide dogs.  In 1928, he was routinely told that Buddy couldn’t ride in the passenger compartment with him.  Seven years later, all railroads in the United States had adopted policies allowing guide dogs to remain with their owners while onboard.  By 1956, every state in the Union had passed laws guaranteeing access to public spaces for blind people and their dogs.

Buddy, 1Frank told a New York Times interviewer in 1936 that he had probably 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 owning a guide dog.

Buddy’s health was failing in the end, but the team had one more hurdle to cross. One more barrier to break. Frank wanted to fly in a commercial airplane with his guide dog. The pair did so on this day in 1938, flying from Chicago to Newark, Buddy curled up at Morris Frank’s feet. United Air Lines 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.”

Buddy was all business during the day, but, to the end of her life, she liked to end her work day with a roll on the floor with Mr. Frank.  Buddy died seven days after that plane trip, but she had made her mark.  By this time there were 250 seeing eye dogs working across the country, and their number was growing fast.  Buddy’s replacement was also called Buddy, as was every seeing eye dog Frank would ever own, until he passed in 1980.

It’s estimated today that there are over 10,000 seeing eye dogs, currently working in the United States.

morris-frank-and-buddy-seeing-eye-dog-promo
The trompe l’oeil painted bronze statue “The Way to Independence” was unveiled on April 29, 2005, on Morristown Green, Morristown NJ. Artist John Seward Johnson, II

May 14, 1856 The Red Ghost

A potential animal arms race got no further than that single letter from the King of Siam, but it makes the imagination run wild. What would War Elephants have looked like, at Gettysburg?

Long before Jefferson Davis became President of the Confederate States of America, he was a young Army Officer who was approached with the idea of using camels as pack animals. To Davis, 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 First United States Camel Corps. Major Henry Wayne was sent to Turkey to acquire 62 of the beasts, along with trainers who could teach US soldiers how to properly handle and care for camels.Camel Corps

The camels arrived on May 14, 1856, and set out for the newly established Camp Verde in Kerr County Texas, with elements of the US Cavalry and 7 Turkish & Arab handlers.

Major Wayne became an enthusiastic salesman for the camel program, putting on demonstrations for cavalry groups. He’d 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 smirk and jab each other with their elbows – now he’s done it – and then he would step forward and pile on more weight. On command, the camel would stand up and stroll away, entirely unconcerned.us_camel_corp_1

One of the Turks, a man named Hadji Ali, (“Hi Jolly” to the soldiers), established a successful breeding program while stationed at Camp Verde, but the program was not without problems. Camels don’t play well with other pack animals, and they don’t accept the whips and prods that were used to drive horses and mules. They tend to retaliate. A cranky camel will spit in your face or rake your skin off with their 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 man who grasped the military advantage to the Confederacy. Seeing a business opportunity, he wrote to President Abraham Lincoln, saying “here, we use elephants”. It seems that Lincoln never responded to the King’s overture.  A potential animal arms race got no further than this single letter, but it makes the imagination run wild.  What would War Elephants have looked like, at Gettysburg?

Douglas, the Confederate CamelSome of Camp Verde’s camels were sold off, one was pushed over a cliff by frustrated cavalrymen. Most were simply turned loose to fend for themselves. Their fates 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.”

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.

She barricaded herself inside the house and hysterically prayed while waiting for the red-ghostmen to return. The pair 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 claiming 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.

A 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.

Camel_from_Harpers_WeeklyThere 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.

Hi Jolly Cemetery
Hadji Ali burial place