During the American Revolution, George Washington’s troops experienced a crushing defeat at the hands of British General Howe in Germantown in 1777. After the battle General Howe’s pet dog was found frightened on the bloodied battlefield. Having a great love of dogs, our first President refused to kill the dog or seek retribution, instead Washington led his men in honor and allowed the pup to be returned to his enemy. He enclosed a note saying, “General Washington…does himself the pleasure to return to him a dog which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe.”

Washington’s act of mercy set the precedence for Americans as to how enemies are to be honored, and how the lives of canines are to be cherished. In this century, canines are not only valued as pets, but are also considered courageous partners in the protection of our country. In the bleakest of circumstances and in the greatest triumphs, many loyal canines have fought to defend the Americans they serve.  Below are some of the most heroic dogs in American history.

Historical Heroic Dogs to Remember

Sinbad: United States Coast Guard was famous for having a mutt named Sinbad serve for over 11 years during WWII. The pup enlisted in the service and pledged his devotion with an official paw print, and received an ID number with dog tags (pun intended!).  Though Sinbad may have done little more than provide comfort and a morale boost, he was awarded several medals, among which are the American Defense Service Medal and the American Campaign Medal.

Nemo:  A Vietnam War veteran, Nemo once took a bullet to the head while trying to save his master Airman Second Class, Robert Thorneburg.  In spite of his wound, the German Shepherd ran forward toward the four attackers, giving Thornburg the necessary chance to call for backup.  This move not only saved the soldier’s life, but Nemo himself miraculously survived as well.

Appollo:  This brave service dog was on duty in New York City, jumping to work only 15 minutes after the brutal terrorist attacks of September 11th. Hundreds of search-and-rescue dogs and their dauntless handlers dug through the rubble, up to 16 hours a day in hopes of finding survivors.  Appollo’s dedication to the task, in spite of near-death experiences himself, caused him to be awarded the Dickin Medal (similar to the Victoria Cross).

Riva and Salty:  Two other notable service dogs, were with their owners in the World Trade Center buildings just moments before it began to collapse in the 2001 attacks.  Amid the panic and frenzied crowd, Riva and Salty led their disabled owners Mr. Roselle and Mr. Hingson down nearly 71 flights of stairs to safety.

Just Nuisance: This Great Dane fought with the Americans, serving in the Allied Forces during WWII. The bold pup worked courageously in Great Britain as “Able Seaman Just Nuisance,” the only dog to ever be enlisted in the Royal British Navy. When he died in 1944, Just Nuisance was awarded numerous military honors.

Chips: Another beloved mutt ( a talented mix of German Shepherd, Collie and Husky) was donated to the army for service by his owner Edward J. Wren during WWII.  Though he was trained as a sentry dog, during a 1943 attack in Sicily, Chips and his handler found themselves trapped by machine-gun wielding enemies.  Chips courageously broke free and raced towards the onslaught, attacking the gunmen, who eventually surrendered to the Americans stationed there.  Not only was Chips honored with the Purple Heart and 8 battle stars, but he was reunited with the Wren family when the war was over.

Smoky:  This plucky Yorkshire Terrier was a companion to American soldier named Corporal William A. Wynne in New Guinea during WWII.  Smoky shared Wynne’s food, bedding and all of his dangerous missions by hiding in his backpack.  She lived through over 150 air raids, and a dozen rescue and reconnaissance missions. Smoky entertained wounded soldiers with tricks, and would warn the men in active duty of incoming attacks.  When the war ended, Smoky returned home hidden in an oxygen mask and toured veterans hospitals and convalescent homes to visit recovering soldiers.  With the chipper companionship and the comfort she brought to the military, Smoky was considered the first therapy dog.