Five legendary dogs who were war heroes

Here at Popular Military, we have a soft spot for dogs with a purpose. Heck, we even have our own German Shepherd here at the office.

Despite the fact that everyone knows her name, her handler is still referred to as “hey you”.
Despite the fact that everyone knows her name, her handler is still referred to as “hey you”.

Dogs provide a variety of services to mankind, ranging to security to therapy and even detecting cancer. Their selfless contributions to humankind are testament enough to their deserved place as the “right hand” of humankind.

Still, some canines go above and beyond their role as man’s best friend, accepting the call to service for an entire nation.

Below is a list of five American military dogs who answered that call and became legends that history would never forget.


1. SGT Stubby, US Army

Sgt. Stubby

The most decorated dog of World War I and the only dog to be given a field promotion to Sergeant, Stubby spent 18 months on the Western front with the 102nd Infantry Regiment, participating in 17 battles.

Originally a stray that roamed a Yale University, Stubby found himself dropping out of college, instead volunteering for service when he began drilling and training with the men. When the time came to deploy, Stubby’s “handler” smuggled him in his coat. When he was discovered by the Commanding Officer of the unit, stubby saluted him and was allowed to stay onboard.

Known for alerting his two-legged counterparts of incoming artillery and mustard gas attacks, finding wounded allies and even capturing a German soldier by biting him in the ass, Stubby was a legend on the horrific battlefields of “the great war”, eventually getting media exposure in nearly every major stateside publication. Stubby was even wounded in action, accruing a wound stripe.

Eventually, the war ended- so did Stubby’s service. Ditching his uniform for books, he went to Georgetown University with his handler, eventually becoming the team mascot.

He died peacefully in his sleep about 10 years after he was born.

2. K9C Sinbad, USCG

K9C Sinbad, USCG

No, we aren’t talking about the 90’s comedian (he was in the Air Force). This Sinbad actually sailed the seas (and got in a lot of trouble along the way).

Originally slated to be a live-in Jody deterrent for a sailor’s girlfriend, Sinbad was instead assigned to the USCGC Campbell when it didn’t work out. Needing a reason to justify the pup’s enlistment (and allowing him to operate independently), the crew cited that he drank, was assigned a duty station and demonstrated seamanship- therefore he must be a sailor.

In short order, Sinbad was assigned a rank, Red Cross ID number and bunk.

During his time aboard the Campbell, Sinbad was promoted and demoted several times, being subject to Captain’s Mast on at least two occasions.He was known for misbehaving on leave and sparked two “diplomatic” incidents in Casablanca and Greenland.

No stranger to battle, Sinbad was assigned “damage control” duties when the ship was conducting anti-submarine duties or being strafed by enemy aircraft. On one occasion, the Campbell rammed a German U-Boat, sinking it. Despite taking heavy damage, the Campbell stayed afloat and was eventually repaired. The ship’s Skipper firmly believed that as long as Sinbad was aboard, the ship would stay afloat.

Sticking around on the ship for 11 years, Sinbad was finally retired from the Coast Guard in 1948, with commensurate rank and pay equal to a Chief Petty Officer. He was frequently spotted at the only bar in his small New Jersey town until his death in 1951.

Today, the Campbell’s successor of the same name has a statue of Sinbad in the mess hall, a token of good luck to keep the ship afloat. No crew (with the exception of Chief Petty Officers) are allowed to touch him.

3. Chips, US Army


Drafted for service in 1942, Chips left his family behind to become a sentry dog in the 3rd Infantry Division.

Seeing action North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany, Chips loved to fight. Once, when his unit was pinned down on a beach by an Italian machine gun nest, Chips took it upon himself to break free from his handler and attack the pillbox himself- resulting in four Italians being taken prisoner (and capturing six more later in the day).

Chips also has the distinction for biting General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who thought it was a good idea to pet the wily canine. Not officially possessing a rank, chips abandoned military bearing and informed the general how he felt about the unsolicited touching. Despite this, Chips served on the Protective Service Detail for President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill during a visit to Casablanca in 1943.

Unfortunately, Chips died of combat-related illness shortly after his discharge- though he was happily reunited with his family (and handler) before he left the mortal realm.

4. Nemo (A534), USAF


In Vietnam, there was no “finding Nemo”. Nemo found you.

Despite being in the Air Force, Nemo was one tough S.O.B. Enlisted at two years of age, Nemo was trained at Lackland AFB to be a sentry dog.

In 1966, Nemo and his handler were patrolling an airbase outside of Saigon when they were ambushed by Viet Cong. Watching his handler fall to enemy fire in the ensuing firefight, Nemo went from offensive to defensive. Despite being shot in the snout and missing one eye, Nemo covered his wounded handler with his own body until reinforcements arrived. While Nemo ultimately lost his eye and required a tracheotomy on the spot to breathe until he could get medical care, he and his handler both made it back to the United States alive.

Credited by the USAF as the savior of his handler and the entire airbase, Nemo was retired and given a permanent home at Lackland, where it can only be speculated that he called other dogs “cherries” and told war stories to puppies until his death in 1972.

5. SSG Lex (E132), USMC


As with all stories, not all of them are happy and most are bittersweet. Saving the most recent for last, you may want to grab a tissue or three before you read our final entry on the Heroic K9 list.

Born in Texas, Lex joined the Marine Corps after receiving his education. Assigned to Corporal Justin Lee, Lex geared up to deploy with Lee during the opening stages of the infamous “Surge” campaign of the Iraq War.
In March of 2007, Lee and Lex were hit by shrapnel from a 73mm recoilless rifle round fired at them by insurgents. Lee was mortally wounded, while Lex sustained shrapnel wounds. Lex refused to leave his handler and subsequently had to be dragged away by Marines and Corpsmen to allow both K9 and handler to be treated.

While Lee was killed, Lex was eventually patched up and returned to duty after 12 weeks of rehab.

With the help of Congressmen and special interests groups, Lee’s family eventually convinced the US Marine Corps and USAF to retire Lex so that he could live the rest of his days with the fallen Marine’s loved ones. In December of 2007, Lex was formally released to the Lee family.

Much like any old veteran, Lex suffered from injuries sustained in combat, including 50 pieces of shrapnel that could not be removed from his body. Still, Lex lived a pretty good life until he died of cancer in 2012.

It was once said that dogs have followed men on the battlefield since war began. When man and dog realized their potential as a team, they even started serving together. Though they do not enlist in the sense that humans do, their contribution to the war effort and American way of life are equally priceless and deserving of praise.

We at Popular Military salute all those courageous canines who have answered the call.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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