August 7, 1782 Purple Heart

For the first time in history, recognition for meritorious service in time of war, was available to the common soldier. George Washington personally bestowed the Badge of Merit on only three non-commissioned officers, though evidence suggests that other such awards were bestowed by subordinate officers.

Prior to the the American Revolution, European armies honored only high-ranking officers who had achieved victory in battle. There was no such honor for the common soldier.

To George Washington, the “road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is…open to all”.  General Washington’s general orders of August 7, 1782, began: “The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth…”

For the first time in history, recognition for meritorious service in time of war, was available to the common soldier. George Washington personally bestowed the Badge of Merit on only three non-commissioned officers, though evidence suggests that other such awards were bestowed by subordinate officers.

The Badge of Merit fell into disuse after the Revolution, though the award was never formally abolished.

PurpleheartIn 1927, Army Chief of Staff General Charles Summerall directed that a bill be drafted and submitted to Congress, “To revive the Badge of Military Merit”.  This badge of merit came to be known as the Purple Heart. General Douglas MacArthur, Summerall’s successor, began work on a new design for the medal in 1931. Elizabeth Will, heraldic specialist with the Quartermaster General’s office, created the design we see today.

A War Department circular dated February 22, 1932 authorized the award to soldiers who had been awarded the Meritorious Service Citation Certificate, Army Wound Ribbon, or were authorized to wear Wound Chevrons on or later than April 6, 1917, the day the United States entered WWI.

At that time, the Purple Heart was awarded not only for wounds received in action against enemy forces, but also for “meritorious performance of duty”.

The first Purple Heart was awarded to Douglas MacArthur himself.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9277 of December 3, 1942, discontinued the award for meritorious service, and broadened service-related injury eligibility requirements to include all armed services personnel.

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII, Military planners put their minds to the invasion of Imperial Japan. Knowing nothing of the atomic bombs which would put a quick end to the war that August, authorities ordered 500,000 purple hearts. To this day, American military forces have yet to use them all up. As of 2003, 120,000 of these Purple Heart medals, remained in inventory.

On November 22, 1944, Time Magazine reported the first Purple Heart awarded to an animal.  “Chips“, a German Shepherd/Collie/Husky mix, also received the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star, for single “handedly” wiping out an Italian machine-gun nest, during the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Lex Purple Heart
Military Working Dog “Lex” with his (honorary) Purple Heart

William Thomas, Commander of the Order of the Purple Heart at that time, complained that giving such medals to a dog “insulted” the men who received them.

History is silent on the matter of precisely which purple recipient was thus insulted.

Accounts differ as to whether Chips was actually stripped of his medals.  Apparently, Army Adjutant General James Ulio ruled that Chips could keep them, but no more such awards would be given to dogs.  To this day, Chips remains the only “official” canine recipient of a Purple Heart.

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Lucca and his (honorary) Purple Heart

Lucca, a German Shepherd–Belgian Malinois mix who lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan, received an “honorary” Purple Heart, donated by a guy who already had two.  German Shepherd “Lex” was injured in Iraq, in an incident which killed his handler, Marine Corporal Dustin J. Lee.   He too was given a medal donated by a Purple Heart recipient. Somehow, neither of those guys appear to have been insulted by the award.

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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”.

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 8, 1877 Westminster Dog Show

1,200 dogs arrived for that first show, in an event so popular that the originally planned three days morphed into four.

westminsterdogshowThe world’s most famous dog show was first held on May 8, 1877, and called the “First Annual NY Bench Show.” The venue was Gilmore’s Garden at the corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street, a hall which would later be known as Madison Square Garden.  Interestingly, another popular Gilmore Garden event of the era was boxing.  Competitive boxing was illegal in New York in those days, so events were billed as “exhibitions” or “illustrated lectures.” I love that last one.

It was originally a show for hunting dogs, mostly Setters and Pointers with a few Terriers.  A group of hunters used to meet at the Westminster Hotel at Irving Place & 16th Street, in Manhattan.  The Westminster Kennel Club was formed by this group when they first decided to hold a dog show.  When you think of the 2nd amendment purgatory that is Warren Wilhelm (Bill) DiBlasio’s New York, it’s amusing to think that original prizes included pearl handled revolvers.

new-westminster-breeds1,200 dogs arrived for that first show, in an event so popular that the originally planned three days morphed into four.  The Westminster Kennel Club donated all proceeds from the fourth day to the ASPCA, for the creation of a home for stray and disabled dogs.  The organization remains supportive of animal charities, to this day.

The Westminster dog show is the longest continuously held sporting event in the United States, with the sole exception of the Kentucky Derby, which began only two years earlier.

Not even two World Wars could stop Westminster.  A tugboat strike cut two days down toWolfhound one in 1946.  Even so, “Best in Show” was awarded fifteen minutes earlier than it had been, the year before. I wonder how many puppies were named “Tug” that year.  The Westminster dog show was first televised in 1948, three years before the first nationally televised college football game.

When the American Kennel Club was founded in 1884, Westminster was the first club to be admitted.  Breed parent clubs such as the German Shepherd Dog Club of America develop breed standards, extensive written descriptions of what the perfect specimen looks like for any given breed.  Some of the traits which distinguished the original working dogs of 1877 are still apparent, while other elements are seemingly arbitrary, such as tail carriage, eye shape and color.

Dogs are judged first against others of their own breed, and then the best of each goes forward into one of seven groups:  Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding.  In the final round, the winners from each of these seven groups compete for “Best in Show”, of which there can be only one.

Mixed breeds have been permitted since 2014, to compete in an agility event.

Warren_remedy
Ch. Warren Remedy

A Smooth Fox Terrier named Ch.(Championship) Warren Remedy won the top award in 1907, 1908 and 1909, the only dog to ever win three Best in Shows at Westminster.  Seven dogs have twice taken the top award, and five owners have won Best in Show with more than one dog.  A Sussex Spaniel named Stump became the oldest winner in dog show history in 2009, at the age of 10.  Judge Sari Tietjen said she had no idea the winning dog was a senior citizen.  “He showed his heart out,” she said. “I didn’t know who he was or how old … I just couldn’t say no to him”.

Stump
Stump

Today, the Westminster dog show runs two days and nights in February.  Entry is limited to 2,800 dogs and fills up on the first day of registration.  Breed judging takes place during the day at Piers 92 and 94. Group and Best in Show competition takes place in the evening at Madison Square Garden. Since 1992, Westminster has invited the top five dogs from each breed to pre-enter, based on dog show performances of the preceding year.

Madison Square Garden generally sells out for the event, the WKC issuing up to 700 press credentials for media attending from no fewer than 20 countries.  Each year the Westminster website www.westminsterkennelclub.org receives 20 million page views from 170 countries.

Algonquin-CatSince the late 60s, the Westminster Best in Show winner has celebrated at Sardi’s, a popular mid-town eatery in the theater district and birthplace of the Tony award.  And then the Nanny State descended, pronouncing that 2012 would be their last.  There shalt be no dogs dining any restaurants, not while Mayor Bloomberg is around.

The Algonquin, the historic hotel at the corners of 59th St. W. & 44th, took in a stray cat sometime back in the 1930s.  A succession of felines have had the run of the place ever since. The males have all been “Hamlet”, and the females called “Matilda”.Staffordshire_Bull_Terrier_Westminster_Dog_Show

Mayor Yourslurpeeistoobig Bloomberg’s Board of Health descended on the Algonquin in 2011, requiring that the cat be kept on a leash.  There ensued a tempest in a cat box, until a compromise was reached later that year. An electronic pet fence would be installed, confining the cat to non-food areas of the hotel.

Not wanting another such drama, Nanny Bloomberg pulled his health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, aside.  By the end of the week, the health department had found a loophole to defuse the standoff:  Dr. Farley would issue a waiver.  Since then, the winner at Westminster is free to enjoy the traditional celebratory luncheon of diced chicken and rice off a silver platter.  Provided that it’s eaten in the back room.

SardisDinner

 

April 14, 1958 Laika

The day before the launch sequence, Vladimir Yazdovsky took her home to play with his kids. “I wanted to do something nice for her,” he explained. “She had so little time left to live.”

At the dawn of the space age, no one knew whether the human body could survive conditions of rocket launch and space flight. The US Space program experimented with a variety of primate species between 1948 and 1961, including rhesus monkeys, crab-eating macaques, squirrel monkeys, pig-tailed macaques, and chimpanzees.

Baker
“Miss Baker”

On May 28, 1959, a squirrel monkey named “Miss Baker” became the first of the US space program, to survive the stresses of spaceflight and related medical procedures.  A rhesus monkey called “Miss Able” survived the mission as well, but died four days later as the result of a reaction to anesthesia.

Soviet engineers experimented with dogs on a number of orbital and sub-orbital flights, to determine the feasibility of human space flight.  The Soviet Union launched missions with positions for at least 57 dogs in the fifties and early sixties, though the actual number is smaller.  Some flew more than once.

Laika
Laika

Most survived.  As with the early US program, those who did not often died as the result of equipment malfunction.  The first animal to be sent into orbit, was a different story.

Three dogs were plucked from the streets of Moscow and trained for the purpose.  “Laika” was an 11lb mutt, possibly a terrier-husky cross.  In Russian, the word means “Barker”.  Laika was chosen due to her small size and calm disposition.  One scientist wrote, “Laika was quiet and charming.”

First, were the long periods of close confinement, meant to replicate the tiny cabin of Sputnik 2. Then came the centrifuge, the highly nutritional but thoroughly unappetizing gel she was meant to eat in space, and then the probes and electrodes that monitored her vital signs.

sputnik-2-launched-a-month-later-and-carried-the-first-living-animal-a-dog-named-laika-into-space
Sputnik 2, Pre-Launch Propaganda

The day before the launch sequence, Vladimir Yazdovsky took her home to play with his kids.  “I wanted to do something nice for her,” he explained. “She had so little time left to live.”

Laika was placed inside the capsule for three days, tightly harnessed in a way that onlyLaika and capsule allowed her to stand, sit and lie down.  Finally, it was November 3, 1957.  Launch day.  One of the technicians “kissed her nose and wished her bon voyage, knowing that she would not survive the flight”.

Sensors showed her heart rate to be 103 beats/minute at time of launch, spiking to 240 during acceleration. She ate some of her food in the early stages, but remained stressed and agitated. The thermal control system malfunctioned shortly into the flight, the temperature inside the capsule rising to 104°, Fahrenheit.  Five to seven hours into the flight, there were no further signs of life.

There were official hints about Laika parachuting safely to earth, and then tales of a painless and humane, euthanasia.  Soviet propaganda portrayed “the first traveler in the cosmos”,  heroic images printed on posters, stamps and matchbook covers.   Soviet authorities concealed Laika’s true cause of death and how long it took her to die.  That information would not be divulged , until 2002.

Mach2Sputnik2In the beginning, the US News media focused on the politics of the launch.  It was all about the “Space Race”, and the Soviet Union running up the score. First had been the unoccupied Sputnik 1, now Sputnik 2 had put the first living creature into space.  The more smartass specimens among the American media, called the launch “Muttnik”.

Sputnik 2 became controversial, as animal lovers began to question the ethics of sending a dog to certain death in space. In the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals received protests before Radio Moscow was finished with their launch broadcast.  The National Canine Defense League called on dog owners to observe a minute’s silence.

Protesters gathered with their dogs in front of the UN building, to express their outrage.  In the Soviet Union, political dissent was squelched, as always. Of all Soviet bloc nations, it was probably Poland who went farthest out on that limb, when the scientific periodical Kto, Kiedy, Dlaczego (“Who, When, Why”), reported Laika’s death as “regrettable”.  “Undoubtedly a great loss for science”.Atomic_Robo_Last_Stop_Sputnik_Poster2

Sputnik 2 and its passenger left the vacuum of space on April 14, 1958, burning up in the outer atmosphere.

It was not until 1998 and the collapse of the Soviet tower of lies, that Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists who had trained the dog, was free to speak his mind. “Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us”, he said, “We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it.  We shouldn’t have done it…We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog”.

Afterward

belka-strelka-2As a dog lover, I feel the need to add a more upbeat postscript, to this thoroughly depressing story.

“Belka” and “Strelka” spent a day in space aboard Sputnik 5 on August 19, 1960, and returned safely to Earth.  The first Earth-born creatures to go into orbit and return alive.

Strelka later gave birth to six puppies, fathered by “Pushok”, a dog who’d participated in

Charlie, Pushinka
Charlie, (l) and Pushinka, (r)

ground-based space experiments, but never flew.  Nikita Khrushchev gave “Pushinka”, one of the puppies, to President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Pushinka and a Kennedy dog named “Charlie” conducted their own Cold War rapprochement, resulting in four puppies.  Pups that JFK jokingly referred to as “pupniks”.  Pushinka’s descendants are still living, to this day.

kennedy-dog-pushinka-puppies
Pushinka and her “pupniks”, enjoying a moment on the White House lawn

April 4, 1926  America’s 1st War Dog

America’s first war dog, Stubby, got there by accident, and served 18 months ‘over there’

sgt_stubby_7By the last year of WW1, the French, British and Belgians had at least 20,000 dogs on the battlefield, the Germans 30,000. General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces recommended the use of dogs as sentries, messengers and draft animals in the spring of 1918. However, with the exception of a few sled dogs in Alaska, the US was the only country to take part in World War I with virtually no service dogs in its military.

America’s first war dog, “Stubby”, got there by accident, and served 18 months ‘over there’, participating in seventeen battles on the Western Front.

He looked like a terrier of some kind, similar to a pit bull.  Nobody knows anything more about him.  He showed up as a stray at Yale Field in New Haven, Connecticut, while a group of soldiers were training. The dog hung around as the men drilled and one soldier, Corporal Robert Conroy, started taking care of him. Conroy hid Stubby on board the troop ship when the outfit shipped out in 1917.sgt_stubby_6

Stubby saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, located and comforted the wounded, and even once caught a German spy by the seat of his pants. The Hun, who’d been prowling behind allied lines at the time, was mapping trenches for artillery bombardment.   He was found spinning in circles with a large, muscular terrier affixed to his behind.  The Bosch was easily disarmed, but it took a considerable amount of coaxing before Stubby could be persuaded to let go of that German’s rear end.

Black Jack Pershing, StubbyStubby saw his first action at Chemin des Dames. Since the boom of artillery fire didn’t faze him, he learned to follow the men’s example of ducking when the big ones came close. It became a great game to see who could hit the dugout, first.  After a few days, the guys were watching him for a signal. Stubby was always the first to hear incoming fire.  We can only guess how many lives were spared by his early warning.

After the Armistice, Stubby returned home as a nationally acclaimed hero, and was eventually received by presidents Harding and Coolidge. Even General John “Black Jack” Pershing, who commanded the AEF during the war, presented Stubby with a gold medal made by the Humane Society, declaring him to be a “hero of the highest caliber.”Stubby on parade

Stubby toured the country by invitation and probably led more parades than any dog in American history:  he was promoted to honorary Sergeant by the Legion, becoming the highest ranking dog to ever serve in the Army.

Old age finally caught up with the small warrior on April 4th, 1926, as he took ill and died in his master’s arms.

Sergeant Stubby and a few of his contemporaries were instrumental in inspiring the creation of the US K-9 Corps, just in time for World War ll.