My upcoming novel Heart of a Hero was inspired by my mom's dog, Lady, who was a WWII War Dog. I thought that I would share a little about the War Dog program during WWII.
The US Marine Corps began the War Dog Training program in the summer of 1942. Dogs had been used by the military prior to this time, but this was the first time that they were going to be trained specifically for combat roles. They trained dogs to be either scout or messenger dogs. The training lasted approximately 14 weeks. The first phase of the training was spent on basic obedience and the second phase of the training was advanced combat training. Each scout dog had one handler and each messenger dog had two handlers. The messenger dogs were trained to travel between the two handlers.
The US Marine Corps accepted dogs donated by civilians from about 1942-1945. The requirements were that the dog needed to be between 1-5yrs old, either sex, max 50lbs, and not gun-shy. The most successful breeds were the Doberman Pinscher and the German Shepherd. However, they took any breed that fit the requirements. Lady, the hero in my novel, was an Irish Setter.
The 1st Marine War Dog platoon went in to Bouganville and was very successful. Many dogs were cited for their bravery and heroism. They also participated in the battles at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.