Prologue Magazine

Fall 1996, Vol. 28, No. 3

Buddies
Soldiers and Animals in World War II

By Lisa B. Auel

S. Medeiroa, of the Army's 26th Division, holds the unit's mascot, Little Joe. Ottweiler, Germany. March 21, 1945. (111-SC-202435)

When waging war against each other, human armies often enlist the aid of the animal kingdom. In past conflicts, horses, elephants, and camels hauled men and supplies; pigeons carried messages; dogs tracked enemies and protected troops. Their efforts helped to turn battles—and the fortunes of many a combat soldier.

Carrying on this tradition, U.S. forces employed thousands of animals during World War II. They could be found in every theater of the war: They were workers and warriors; they were soldiers' comrades-in-arms and companions in battle. Their widespread presence on the battlefields was documented by government photographers covering the war. Today, hundreds of photographs of dogs and cats and horses can be found among the World War II holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Still Picture Branch in College Park, Maryland.

In 1993 NARA opened "Buddies: Soldiers and Animals in World War II," a display of thirty-six of those images. Part of the NARA commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of World War II, the exhibit is now traveling to museums throughout the country.

Dogs are inducted into the Army at Front Royal, Virginia. August 25, 1942. (111-SC-140929)

Pfc. Rez P. Hester of the Marine Corps' Seventh War Dog Platoon on Iwo Jima takes a nap while Butch stands guard. February 1945. (127-N-110104)

Workers and Warriors

Horses, mules, and dogs were regularly employed by American forces to work on the battlefields of World War II. Horses carried soldiers on patrol missions in Europe and into battle in the Philippines. Mules, trained in the United States and shipped by the thousands into war zones, contributed their strength and sweat to the fight. Their backs bore the food, weapons, and sometimes the men of entire infantry units.

Cpl. Harley Peterson corrals horses of an Army remount squad on New Caledonia. October 20, 1943 (111-SC-336200)

Army Sgt. Richard Wallen poses with his pet donkey Edda in Italy. Edda was named after the daughter of Italy's wartime dictator, Benito Mussolini. April 1944. (111-SC-293361)

Some twenty thousand dogs served the U.S. Army, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. They guarded posts and supplies, carried messages, and rescued downed pilots. Scout dogs led troops through enemy territory, exposing ambushes and saving the lives of platoons of men. In the throes of combat, war dogs proved their intelligence, courage, and steadfast loyalty time and time again. Many photographs in National Archives holdings document the exploits—and the sacrifice—of America's animal warriors.

Cpl. William Wende brushes GI Jenny, the burro mascot of an Army unit in North Africa. The interested terrier is named Pito. Ca. 1943. (111-SC-178224)

The strain of two months of combat shows on the faces of both Pvt. Jesse Fennell, 101st Airborne, and his dog Dud. November 25, 1944. (111-SC-329000)

Comrades and Companions

Many U.S. military units in World War II adopted animal mascots. Though traditionally considered bearers of good luck, these mascots were really pets who belonged to all the men of a squad, company, or ship.

Military photographs show that individual soldiers also had their own pets. A few men smuggled them from the United States, but more often soldiers' pets were local animals left homeless by the war. For the adopted dog, cat, or bird, being in a soldier's care meant survival; for the soldier, a pet meant comfort and companionship on war's brutal battlefields. "Buddies" commemorates the heartfelt, enduring relationships between soldiers and animals during World War II.

Army Pfc. Raymond Gasiorowski takes Leipzig, his company's pet puppy, for a walk in Leipzig, Germany. April 19, 1945. (111-SC-203924)

Marine Cpl. Edward Burckhardt found this kitten at the base of Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, the scene of some of the most brutal fighting of the war. February 1945. (80-G-304862)

A Marine Corps German shepherd is comforted by his partner while being x-rayed. Shot by a Japanese sniper on Bougainville, the dog died of his injuries. Date unknown. (208-AA-121-SS-9)

Marine war dog cemetery, Guam. Ca. 1947. (111-SC-284443)


Lisa B. Auel was on the staff of the National Archives and Records Administration Exhibits Branch and was curator of the 1993 exhibit "Buddies: Soldiers and Animals in Worlds War II."

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.

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