Over the years, people have trained dogs to perform many tasks that were too dangerous for their human counterparts…knowing that the very act of doing their duty would likely cost the dog its life. I think many of us would be sickened by the things these loyal animals went through, but I suppose that in the eyes of their trainers, they were heroes. During World War II, Joseph Stalin approved the use of “canine killers” to fight against German tanks. I think that in most ground wars, the tank is probably the most dreaded weapon there is. In many ways, it is like fighting a robot…it’s almost impossible to kill. The tanks could go right into the middle of the battle, and in fact, right over the people in front of them. They could also shoot from a distance. They were a major weapon against the ground troops. Stalin wanted a weapon to use against them, and decided that the dogs were just the right weapon.
The dogs, usually Alsatians, called “Hundminen” or “dog mines” were trained by the Russians to run under German tanks, at which point the bomb strapped to their backs would explode, destroying the tank…and the dog too, of course. The dogs were going to be their secret weapon, but there was just one problem, at least with the first batch of Kamikaze Dog trainees. The dogs had been trained with Soviet tanks, not German ones. Soviet and German tanks used different types of fuel, and some of the dogs sniffed out the fuel they were used to and trotted off to blow up the tanks used by the very military that trained them. I’m sure that must have been quite a shock to their trainers. The dogs were initially trained to transport explosives to tanks, armored vehicles and other various targets, and then retreat before the bomb exploded, but when that didn’t work well, the routine was replaced by impact detonation, which resulted in the dog’s death. The training began in 1930, and whether they were useful or not the dogs were used in battle. Kamikaze Dogs started to be used less and less from 1942 onwards, though there were Kamikaze Dogs that continued to be trained until 1996.
I find myself feeling horrified by the picture this practice paints. Dogs are usually very loyal, and all they want to do is please their master. They trust their master, or in this case, their trainer, only to be rewarded with death. I’m sure that the Russians eventually got the dogs to the point where they recognized the right targets, or the practice wouldn’t have continued until about 1990. The Soviets have said that about 300 tanks had been destroyed by Kamikaze Dogs, but that number has been questioned by many. Most people think the number was probably made up by the Soviet government in an effort to justify the program, and particularly to justify killing so many dogs with so few results. What a horrible practice.