A little known fact is that during World War Two the Russians used dogs to blow up enemy tanks. They did this by strapping explosives onto the dogs backs and sending them off to scramble under the tank.

When the dog was under the tank, the explosives would detonate.  The tank would be destroyed and the dog would be killed, war it appears, knows no bounds when it comes to killing the enemy.

THE DOGS OF WAR

It was around 1924 when the Russian Revolutionary Military Council decided to use dogs to assist in military operations, usually to the determent of the dog. A specialist military dog training camp was established in Moscow and was initially run by pet owners, circus performers and hunters.  This was because they had no military dog handlers at that time, so they improvised.

Below, all the misfits and military rejects line up with their pooches at the newly established training facility in Moscow.

The Russians employed veterinarians and zoologists to work out a comprehensive training program where the dogs abilities could be utilized for the military's best advantage.  The canine curriculum initially comprised of training the dogs to carry messages, deliver medical supplies and ammunition and also to attack individuals that were wearing enemy uniforms.

Whole squads of these dogs and their handlers were set up by the Russians and off to war they eventually went...when the war came to them...as it finally did.

It was around 1930 that the Russians realized that they could also train the dogs to destroy enemy armor by strapping explosives to them. Indeed it was deemed to be a good idea and a training program was set up to test the particular feasibility of it. After some quick deliberation, it was indeed thought to be very feasible and the program was pushed forward

The anti-tank dog training program was consequently expanded and eventually 12 training camps were established. Below are seen some of the dog handlers and their dogs as they ride past the Kremlin in 1938. Just to note here that they look like German soldiers as their helmets are quite similar, but they are indeed Russians.

The training, ironically consisted of using amongst other breeds...German Shepherds.  They were trained to run underneath a tank, triggering the explosives that were strapped to their backs.  They did this by starving the dog and then to teach it that food was to be found secreted underneath tanks.

They was accomplished by strapping fresh meat underneath a T-34 tank, the tank was then driven towards the dog who was then walked up to the tank by its handler.  The handler then showed the dog the food under the tank and released to dog, the dog went under the tank and ate its hearty meal.  Below is seen an anti-tank dog being trained to run up to a Russian T-34.

The dog went through this test several times and it was the only way the dog had a meal.  In the end, the dog would automatically associate a tank with food and run to scramble underneath it.

It must be said that the Russians at first tried to get the dogs to release the explosive pack off its back right under the tank by training it to pull on a self release wire that dropped the explosive pack and set a timer.

The explosive pack was then suppose to detonate via the timing device.  However, it took too long to train the dog to do this complex trick and it was not always successful. The dog often happily ran back to its handlers with the explosives still in situ on its back. Luckily the explosives were dummies for the test, or they would all have been blown up.

Below, a German Shepherd awaits instructions from its handler, instructions to dash out and seek out a tank.  This must rank as one of the most cold hearted and uncompassionate acts of World War Two.

Please be reminded though that World War Two was absolute total war, fought to the wire with tooth and nail. 60 million people (soldiers and civilians) died in that conflict, a conflict where any method was devised and instigated to kill the enemy.

The Russians realized that they would indeed have to blow up the dog along with the tank to have any success.  Therefore this was the program that the dogs were trained to do.

LOW TECHNOLOGY

The dogs were trained to ignore gunfire, explosions and other distractions.  They were trained to run under both moving and static tanks, the tanks would also shoot their machine guns in the dogs vicinity to get them used to being shot at.  The dog ended up being conditioned for use in combat.

Below the crew of a  German armored car suspiciously watch a dog as it roams near their vehicle. No panic though as the dog does not appear to have anything strapped to its back.

Special straps were devised to enable the dogs to carry 20 lb mines or explosives.  The explosives were fitted with 8 inch long poles that served as trigger devices.  When the dog ran under the tank the pole would be knocked back, triggering off the explosives. The illustration below depicts the fundamentals of the anti-tank dog.

It has to be mentioned here that 20 lbs of explosives was enough to destroy a tank as its armor was very thin on the underside.  In fact the weakest part of any armored vehicle is the underside of it.  Half an inch of armor plate was usually the normal thickness for the underside of tanks in World War Two.

For all dog lovers, it can be mentioned here that the animal had no idea that the contents of its back pack were going to harm it in any way.  When the explosives detonated, the dog would not have known about it either. The dog would have been instantly vaporized by the blast, the brain would not have had time to register any pain...or anything else for that matter...it was just too quick!

Below is a close up diagram of the explosives that the anti-tank dogs would carry on their backs.  The  explosives would of course be secreted into a pack, attached to a special harness.

After much of the training program had been completed the Russians classed these animals as legitimate weapons of war and they were incorporated into the Russian Army in 1935.

AND THE WAR CAME

The anti-tank war dogs were not put to use until World War Two came knocking on the Russian doorstep, and six years later it finally did.  Operation Barbarossa  was the code name for Hitlers planned invasion of Russia and on June 22nd, 1941, the operation went ahead and Russia was duly invaded.  Over four million German troops crossed into Russia along an 1,800 hundred mile wide corridor.

Therefore the Eastern front now became the Russian theater of war where the Germans advanced rapidly from the Western hemisphere.  The Russians knew that they had to stop the German advance at all costs, as the Germans marched on towards Moscow the heart of Mother Russia.

The anti-tank dog training camps went into overdrive and a conservatively estimated 40,000 dogs were trained to attack the advancing Germans during World War Two.  Just as Russian soldiers were seen as totally expendable, the poor dogs had no chance and they were sent in all the time. All forms of life totally lose their value in times of war, life becomes very cheap and highly expendable.

During training and practice in the friendly and quiet training camps the dogs behaved just as expected.  However in the real theater of warfare with all its confusion, explosions, smoke, smell, noise and men screaming and shouting, the dogs got scared and failed to perform as they should have.

For a start many of the dogs were trained to attack static tanks and they got confused by moving tanks and tended to run back to the handlers.  Other dogs would run in circles around the tank waiting for it to stop.

The German tank crews soon learned that these dogs were a threat and many dogs were shot by the tanks coaxial machine gunners. Sometimes the tank commander would shoot at the dog from the open cupola of the tanks turret.  As stated further up the page, these dogs were hard targets to shoot as they were small and fast, consequently some of the dogs were crushed under the tanks tracks.

The Germans called these dogs "Panzerabwehrhunde" which basically meant "Tank attack dogs" they also called them "Hundeminen" which literally translates as  "Dog mines " which is of course, what they were.

STOP THAT DOG!

Some of the anti-tank dogs simply refused to run out into the noisy battlefield and ran off in other directions.  Some dogs ran into friendly Russian positions and accidentally detonated their explosives.  Some scared and confused dogs even ran under Russian armored vehicles and accidentally blew them up as well.

When the dogs were shot at and got wounded, the half mad animal would run back to the Russians and roll on the ground to show it was hurt...detonating the explosives in the process.

The Russians ended up making the order that any returning dogs were to be shot before they could make it back.  The handlers were often issued with the fast firing PPSh41 sub machine gun with its 72 round drum magazine for this very purpose.  The formidable Russian PPSh41 sub machinegun is shown below.

If the handler refused to shoot the dog if it returned, he could face arrest and a court martial. It wasn't just the dogs that had a hard time, when the Russians sent men into battle, the NKVD (secret police - forerunner of the KGB) shot them if they came back too.  Cowardice in the face of the enemy was punishable by instant death in the Russian Army at that time.

Some of the dog handlers became attached to their friendly canines and refused to send them out, often facing a court martial for neglect of duty.  Also many of the handlers could not shoot their dogs when they came running back and quickly took off the dogs explosives.

UNEFFECTIVE

There was a report that stated that when the first anti-tank dogs were initially used, four actually blew up German tanks, whilst six blew up Russian tanks and Russian soldiers.  Another three dogs were shot by German soldiers and their bodies taken?  A couple of dogs ran straight over to the German lines where they were caught and several other dogs were shot by their Russian handlers when they returned with the explosives still attached.

Other reports that six dogs destroyed five German tanks near Hlukhiv, a historic town in the Sumy region of the Ukraine.  Near the main airport of Stalingrad, dogs with mines strapped to their backs destroyed thirteen tanks and damaged several others.  At the battle of Kursk, the biggest tank battle in history, sixteen dogs put twelve German tanks out of action.  These tanks had actually broken through the Russian lines near Tamarovka.

There was a however a slight oversight in that the dogs were initially trained to go under Russian T-34 tanks and those tanks ran on diesel oil.  The German tanks ran on gasoline, the dogs acute noses got used to the smell of diesel fumes and hence tended to head for tanks that smelt the same...Russian T-34's.  Indeed the dogs destroyed a fair number of Russian tanks during World War Two.

Overall it was not a very successful operation especially as the German propaganda machine kicked in by stating that the Russian soldiers were weak and afraid hence sending in dogs to do a mans work.

It can be noted that the dogs were incredibly difficult for the German tank crews to shoot, as they were so small and fast.  So the Germans made a decree to shoot and kill any dogs they saw when entering villages and towns.  Snipers were also employed to shoot as many as possible.  Prevention rather than cure being the German strategy to tackle the anti-tank dogs.

The anti-tank dogs were actually a very unsuccessful weapon by the Russians and they were rarely used after 1942.  Most of the dog training camps changed their curriculum into training rescue dogs and delivery dogs instead.  These were more successful and were widely used until the end of the war.

FALSE CLAIMS

The Russians claimed that up to 400 German tanks were destroyed by these anti-tank dogs during World War Two. However, modern historians disagree and say it was just Soviet propaganda to justify the whole horrid program.

It is believed that as few as 50 tanks were ever actually destroyed and 40 or so only being damaged by these dogs. Historians state that there are no actual records or evidence to suggest 400 tanks were ever destroyed by anti-tank dogs or anywhere near it.

It is thought that the Russians never actually disbanded their anti-tank dog program but kept a small section of it running.  They apparently kept it running for 50 years after the end of World War Two. Only back to 1996 were anti-tank dogs trained to blow up enemy vehicles and installations.  The program was however fully discontinued in 1997 and never again have the Russians trained dogs to do the work of a soldier.

OTHER COUNTRIES

During World War Two, the Japanese Army also attempted to train dogs to carry and detonate explosives.  The Germans actually delivered about 25,000 dogs to the Japanese with the intention of them becoming mine dogs.  The Germans themselves thought the idea was too insipid and had no use for this program, hence sending many canines to Japan. Most of the dogs that the Germans sent to Japan were German Shepherds (Alsatians)

The Japanese established several military dog training camps in Japan and one in China at the large military base in Nanjing.  The Japanese trained many dogs to get into installations or to get near them and then to explode bombs on a weird cart like contraption that the dog drew behind it.

The operations were basically a dismal failure due to poor training of the men as well as the dogs.  Historians profess that no allied tanks or notable installations were ever destroyed by Japanese war dogs.

In 1995 there were some haphazard attempts to emulate mine dogs in Iraq by the insurgents but again it was a failure, so even they dropped the idea. Either way it is a poor show of how humans can be so dastardly towards our four legged friends, all for the sake of stupid, meaningless, warfare.

It can be noted that Muslim Sarah law prohibits the killing of animals unless for sustenance.  So the hypocritical Taliban would have been guilty of blasphemy or desecration of their own religious doctrination by using mine dogs.

Overall it seamed like a good and  plausible idea to military strategists to use dogs to blow things up, but in practicality it was not very feasible at all. Luckily for all the dog lovers out there, these anti-tank dogs programs are all now defunct and will hopefully never appear again.

FLIPPER

Just a quick note here that since 1960, the U.S Navy have a military agenda called the NMMP (Navy Marine Mammal Program) This is where dolphins are trained to retrieve equipment and carry mine detection apparatus.  More notably dolphins were also allegedly  trained to carry explosives and swim towards enemy vessels where the explosives were either dropped under the vessel or immediately detonated.

Below is seen a trained dolphin apparently carrying mine detection equipment in its mouth. The common census though is that they are trained attack mammals, indeed trained to carry explosives, although it has never been proven.

It is thought that the U.S Navy had the same problems with their dolphins as the Russians had with their dogs.  The animal (mammal) would often come back with the explosives still strapped to their backs. However, the U.S Navy deny training dolphins to carry explosives and say that their research is solely executed in a passive mode.

 "...since dolphins cannot discern the difference between friendly and enemy vessels, or indeed divers and swimmers, this would be a haphazard means of warfare. Instead, the mammals are trained solely to detect mines and divers in an area of concern, and then merely to report back to their handlers, who then in turn decide upon an appropriate course of action in response to the data."

It sounds reasonable...but of course with all the animal rights organizations up in arms over it, they would say that wouldn't they! Remember that military+war=cheapness of life, be it man or beast.

I personally hope that the U.S Navy are not training dolphins to do anything dangerous or detrimental to their health as they are very friendly creatures. Dolphins have a natural infinity towards people and often show great passion and understanding towards us.

The NMMP operation is apparently still running and is expected to last until at least 2017 when the dolphins will be replaced with electronic robotic "fish" that will do the same tasks. Yeah...carrying explosives and blowing stuff up!

-------------------------------------------------

-------------------------------------------------


                                                       



Page created November 8th 2012.  Updated August 21st 2014