What do an elephant, dove, dog and cat have in common? They all participated in battles and were trained for specific missions. GEO magazine looks back at five emblematic species.
For a long time horses were the staple of battlefields, but over the centuries other animals came along and played a specific role.
Dogs, cats, pigeons … It’s not just horses that go in front. “These animals, essential to the war effort, make it possible to save many human lives”insisted Florentin Letissier, during his speech before the municipal council of the 14th arrondissement of Paris in 2018, a few days before the affixing of a commemorative plaque for the war beasts of the borough.
To honor them, a medal was made in 1943 in England. The beasts of war continue to be decorated, most recently “Boss”, this 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier who was awarded the Medal of Courage by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, for his bravery, after being spotted- more than 236 dangerous explosive devices. .
Dogs, true multifunctional soldiers
GEO magazine starts with man’s best friend, the dog! Whether combat, guard or tracking, the dog is a real ally up front.
During World War I, messages and medicines were hung on their backs, and they carried some light weapons. The dogs have civil status, military booklet, identity plate and equipment.
They are also particularly useful for locating buried people, thanks to their hearing qualities, the magazine specifies.
Today dogs continue to be used in the military and especially during custom control.
According to 30 million friendsthere were, in 2016, nearly 500 dogs participating in various canine units: 450 in the army, 12 in RAID and 4 in GIGN.
There was a great demand for the animal as part of the spy mission between the Americans and the USSR. The CIA has created an “acoustic kitty”, with a microphone plugged into its ear and radio transmitters plugged into its tail, to retrieve information, once it is dropped in strategic places.
However, the tests were less conclusive, concluding this practice.
Also during the Cold War, sea animals were also recruited along with American and Russian soldiers.
“Dolphins have the most sophisticated sonar known to science. They are more likely to spot mines and other dangerous objects on the sea floor, which is difficult to detect using electronic sonar”explains on its website the Naval Information Warfare Centeroperating the U.S. Navy Mammal Program.
In Russia, there is no question of completing this project. Five new dolphins were purchased in 2016 and a beluga with the stamp “Saint-Petersburg” was found in Norwegian waters in 2019 …
Widely known as “homecoming dove”, they were a privileged means of communication during World War II, according to information reported by GEO magazine. France would have used about 60,000 pigeons and the British army no less than 100,000!
The Kamikaze pigeon was also considered in the United States, but the project was ultimately unsuccessful. The bird would have been placed on the bomb warhead and guided a missile to a specific target … well, not very conclusive or very convincing!
The mammal has long been considered a life-size tank to fight alongside males.
Thousands of years ago, the elephant was an important weapon, able to trample on opponents by laying on the front line. They are also especially useful for carrying and heavy loads.
As warfare became mechanical and the power of weapons improved, the use of elephants in war was gradually abandoned in the 20th century. Pachyderms are still used in Asia to carry cargo, whether ammunition or building materials, especially during World War II through the Vietnam War, GEO magazine reports.