History professor: Dogs played key roles in WWII


University history professor Aaron Skabelund highlights key roles dogs played in WWII in his recently published book, “The Empire of Dogs.”

“It may be surprising to some that dogs were used in a similar manner by all combatant countries, both Axis and Allies,” Skabelund said. “They ran messages, carried ammunition, guarded prisoners and flushed out enemy soldiers that remained in the aftermath of certain battles.”

In his book, Scabeland illustrates the dog’s contributions to the war effort by telling the story of “Skippy” of New York City and “Aren” of Japan.

In the United States, families would donate their beloved dogs to the military to participate in the war effort.

“Both film and literature at the time are full of stories about children who love their dogs and in the end part with them and give their dogs to the military,” Skabelund said. “Ultimately this prepared children to part with their other loved ones — their father, their brother, their son or even to prepare themselves to go off to war.”

If Toto was too small to fight, then there were other ways he could climb the ranks.

“In exchange for a financial donation, their dog was awarded a military rank,” Scabeland said. “So Rover could become a general at the right price.”

Tessa Taylor, a sophomore elementary education major from Shingle Springs, Calif., said she could never send her dog to war.

“I love Henry too much,” she said. “I don’t want him to die. He is just a cute little Boston terrier.”

But a young Japanese girl living during the war named Teshima Tamie would not agree with Taylor. In his book, Scabeland tells the story of how Tamie felt her dog served as her proxy because she was a woman and was not allowed to fight.

“As a woman, I cannot stand on the front line, so I asked Aren to go fight for me,” Tamie said.

History shows the U.S. becoming a world superpower after the war. But interestingly, Japan became known as a “pet superpower.” This is because the purebread Japanese dogs became a novelty.

Alex Pehrson, a junior Japanese major from Atlanta, said he has seen some of this pure breed obsession in his study of the Japanese culture.

“It’s true,” he said. “Some people are ridiculous about their dogs.”

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