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13 Heroic Military Animals You Had No Idea Existed

Updated June 16, 2020 30.6k views13 items

Everyone knows their pet would stand beside them in their time of need, but what if they went above and beyond? History is full of decorated war animals who risked life and limb by sticking by the sides of the soldiers who needed them most. 

These animal war heroes have all been distinguished for going beyond the call of duty and saving human lives, solving impossible challenges, and working their way into the hearts of the soldiers they served with. They performed their jobs with the utmost bravery and conviction, and have been honored with numerous titles and commendations. These are the most decorated war animals that saved the day, animals who exemplified their countries and will be remembered for their honorable actions.

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Sergeant Stubby was an American dog that served as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division in the US Army in World War I. In 1917, he was smuggled overseas to France by his owner, Private J. Robert Conroy, where he won over a commanding officer with his impressive ability to salute. He was injured in a gas attack, but managed to make a full recovery. He would later use his knowledge of deadly gases to warn the sleeping troop of an attack before the alarms could sound, saving countless lives.

    Stubby would also track down injured troops in the trench, listening for English words and barking to alert nearby medics. His most astounding achievement was the capture of a German spy, whom he caught making a map of the allied trenches. He managed to subdue the soldier with bites to the legs until troops showed up. After the incident he was given the rank of sergeant, the first animal in the Untied States to receive and official rank.

    He retired after an injury from a grenade blast put him in the hospital. By the end of his career, Sergeant Stubby had served in 17 battles, won numerous commendations, and met with three different presidents. His body is kept in the collection of the National Museum of American History.

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  • Sergeant Reckless Served Bravely In The Korean War

    Photo: Andrew Geer or another member of United States Marine Corps / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Sergeant Reckless started her life as a racehorse in Korea under the name Ah Chim Hai, a name that translates to “Flame of the Morning.” She was purchased by Lieutenant Eric Pederson, who recruited her into the Marine Corps under the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Antitank Company, Fifth Marine Regiment. Her duty was to carry hefty weapons and ammunition, but she would soon be known for her exuberant personality.

    She loved attention, and was known to enjoy some beers with her fellow soldiers. Reckless had the freedom to wander camp and had a reputation for eating anything offered to her, but her favorite meal may well have been scrambled eggs and Coca Cola. Sergeant Reckless performed bravely in the Korean war, and did far more than an ordinary beast of burden. She helped lay down communication lines and was extensively trained for frontline combat situations. Eventually, she was promoted to staff sergeant and would retire with full military honors.

  • G.I. Joe Saved The Lives Of 1,000 Men

    Photo: United States Department of Defense/Army Fort Monmouth Historical Office / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    G.I. Joe was an American carrier pigeon responsible for saving the lives of an estimated 1,000 men during World War II. During an attempt to take back the German-occupied town of Colvi Vecchia, Italy, American bombers were prepping to unleash a payload to support British troops on the ground. However, and unexpected German retreat meant the British could take the village ahead of schedule.

    The problem was, no one could get a message to the Americans about to bomb the whole town. As a last ditch effort, Joe was sent back to the base with a message to stop the bombing. Beyond anyone's predictions, Joe was able to fly the 20 miles back to base in just 20 minutes. He arrived just before the planes were scheduled to take off, earning him the Dickin Medal for animal gallantry, the only American animal to receive this British commendation.

  • Jackie The Baboon Sacrificed A Limb For His Country

    Photo: Unknown author / WIkimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Jackie the baboon served his country in the trenches of World War I after being shipped out with the 3rd South African Infantry regiment. He was originally the pet of Private Albert Marr, a young South African man who joined the military and asked if he could bring Jackie with him. Jackie partook in drills like any other soldier, and was so respected for his good behavior he was made the official mascot of the unit. 

    He was given a proper uniform, trained to salute and rest at ease, and was even used as a late night watchman. His acute hearing allowed him to warn the regiment of nearby enemy movements. When Private Marr took a bullet to the shoulder, Jackie stayed by his side and even licked the wound in an attempt at some simian first-aid. His military service would come to an end when he was wounded by shrapnel during an enemy bombing run while trying to build a small stone wall for protection. One of his legs would be amputated, but Jackie and Private Marr would both survive the war. Back home, the duo worked with the Red Cross to help raise money for injured troops.