Before the 1830’s, food was preserved by salting, spicing, pickling or smoking. The people back then had no refrigerators, so butchers slaughtered meat only for the day’s trade, as preservation for longer periods was not practical unless you made jerky or something. Dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables subject to spoilage were sold in local markets since storage and shipping farm produce over any significant distance or time was impossible. Milk was often hauled to city markets at night when temperatures were cooler. Ale and beer making required cool temperatures, so its manufacture was limited to the cooler months. The solution to these problems was found in the harvesting of natural ice.
Before the invention of refrigerators in the early twentieth century, ice was harvested every winter from the lakes and stored in large ice houses, the proprietors then sold the ice to shippers of fresh fish, waterfowl, and produce for train deliveries to large cities. The ice harvesting process was labor intensive, requiring 20-100 men for one to four weeks. I suppose it was good temporarily, but was not permanent work.
Nineteenth-century ice harvesting began well before the actual cutting. As soon as the ice was strong and thick enough to support horses and equipment, work forces cleared away the insulating snow, sometimes many times, if necessary, to encourage the formation of stackable, thicker blocks. When the ice was thick enough, the field was marked in squares, using a horse-drawn marker, which scored slightly deeper into the ice, and finally the blocks were cut by hand with the use of large-toothed one-man saws. The blocks were then floated to the large adjacent commercial ice house for stacking, or to a railroad loading ramp for shipping. The system worked pretty well, and lasted throughout the century, the major change being the late introduction of rotary saws that replaced hand-cutting, making the job much easier.
The latter half of the 19th century saw many attempts to perfect manufactured ice methods. The Louisiana Ice Manufacturing Company appears to have been the first one to operate regularly, one of its claims being a price considerably lower than that of natural ice. Others followed. By 1925 factory-made ice had entered the realm of big business, and natural ice had become a thing of the past…just like that. In the 19th century commercial ice houses were constructed to provide ice for general use, to stock private ice houses when supplies from the local pool were scarce and later to produce “frozen” food. Some of these ice house’s were really a barn within a barn, with 3 feet of sawdust and hay between the inner and outer walls. City dwellers had ice delivered to them by horse and wagon. The iceman had to lift from 25 to 100 pound blocks, according to the order, which was placed by the consumer putting a numbered card in the window that corresponded with the number of pounds of ice they wanted. The ice was weighed on a spring scale on the truck, but an experienced delivery man could estimate the weight. The ice was carried to a kitchen using ice tongs, and chipped with chisels to fit the compartment of the ice box.
Delivery men were known for their brawn, as they hauled heavy blocks of ice all day long, and often up flights of stairs. Nevertheless, occasionally two women teams delivered the ice. They often had access to the kitchen when no one was home, and they simply placed the ice appropriately. Some city apartments used a suspended box (a small version of the ice box) outside the kitchen window, its contents available to the cook through the raised window; others kept an ice chest outdoors on the porch, or a handsome oak refrigerator in the kitchen. Ice wagons were great for children playing in summer’s heat. They loved when the iceman dropped his ice tongs and used his ice pick to chop a small piece of ice for them to suck on, similar to today’s ice cream trucks.
Residential ice boxes, many home-made, were of oak, pine, or ash wood lined with zinc, slate, porcelain, galvanized metal or wood. The insulator between the walls was charcoal, cork, flax straw or mineral wool. Still, the ice lasted only one day. Wooden boxes lined with tin or zinc and insulated with various materials including cork, sawdust, and seaweed were used to hold blocks of ice and “refrigerate” food. A drip pan collected the melt water…and had to be emptied daily. Electric refrigerators and freezers seriously hurt the ice industry. Although the first models were marketed before 1920. It would be a while before everyone had them, so ice delivery continued to be used, but declined yearly.
The Blitz was a German bombing offensive against Britain in 1940 and 1941, during World War II. The term was first used by the British press and is the German word for lightning. When the Germans bombed London in the Blitz bombing, the nerves of the people were very much on edge. They spent most of their nights in hiding in the subway tunnels. When they emerged, they had no idea what to expect. Most of them knew that their beloved city would be very different than it was before, and they knew that, in reality, it may never be the same. Yes, it could be rebuilt, but it would never…never be the same. The adults felt sick a they looked at the city they loved, but the adults were not the only people who were looking at the devastation.
Some of the saddest pictures taken after the Blitz bombings, were those taken of the children. I can’t imagine what must have been going through their minds as they looked at the devastation that was once their home. They had spent so many wonderful hours playing in their bedrooms, and now they had no bedrooms, or even a house for that matter. Their home had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Sitting there looking at what little is left, some children find a little bit of solace in the fact that a doll or something similar managed to survive the carnage…and they feel somehow blessed. And, of course, they are blessed, because for so many others, there is nothing left.
I’m sure that those little ones looked to their parents, hoping to see a spark of hope, or a little bit of encouragement, but all they saw was a look of shock and disbelief on the faces of their parents. That only served to create a deeper sense of concern in the children. What was going to happen to them now? Where would they live? And the really sad thing was that their parents are wondering the same things. These are the faces of war. We often think of the soldiers, usually facing off with the enemy. Yes, sometimes we think of the civilians, but most of us almost try not to think of them, because we can imagine what they are going through. The news photographers, however, have to see the civilians. They have to photograph the destruction. It is their job, but when we see those stories, with their necessary pictures, we really see how war affects the civilians, especially the children. And we are horrified.
The Schienenzeppelin or rail zeppelin was an experimental railcar which resembled the Zeppelin airship. It was designed by the German aircraft engineer Franz Kruckenberg in 1929. The Schienenzeppelin was powered by a propeller located at the rear. The railcar accelerated to 143 mph setting the land speed record for a petroleum powered rail vehicle. Only one Schienenzeppelin was ever built due to safety concerns. It was never really put into service and was finally dismantled in 1939. The propeller, which powered the railcar, was also the source of concern for its safety. It was exposed, and so the concern was that someone might be hit by he propeller.
Anticipating the design of the Schienenzeppelin, the earlier Aerowagon, an experimental Russian high-speed railcar, was also equipped with an aircraft engine and a propeller. On 24 July 1921, a group of delegates to the First Congress of the Profintern, led by Fyodor Sergeyev, took the Aerowagon from Moscow to the Tula collieries to test it. Abakovsky was also on board. Although they successfully arrived in Tula on their maiden run, the return route to Moscow was not successful. The Aerowagon derailed at high speed near Serpukhov, killing six of the 22 people on board. A seventh man later died of his injuries.
The Schienenzeppelin railcar was built at the beginning of 1930 in the Hannover-Leinhausen works of the German Imperial Railway Company. The work was completed by Fall of that year. The vehicle was 84 feet 9 3/4 inches long and had just two axles, with a wheelbase of 64 feet 3 5/8 inches. The height was 9 feet 2 1/4 inches. It had two conjoined BMW IV 6-cylinder petroleum aircraft engines. The driveshaft was raised seven-degrees above the horizontal to give the vehicle some downwards thrust. The body of the Schienenzeppelin was streamlined, having some resemblance to the era’s popular Zeppelin airships, and it was built of aluminum in aircraft style to reduce weight. The railcar could carry up to 40 passengers. Its interior was designed in Bauhaus-style.
On May 10, 1931, the Schienenzeppelin exceeded a speed of 120 miles per hour for the first time. Afterwards, it toured Germany as an exhibit to the general public throughout Germany. There was still some concern due to the trains speed. On June 21, 1931, it set a new world railway speed record of 143 miles per hour on the Berlin–Hamburg line between Karstädt and Dergenthin, which was not surpassed by any other rail vehicle until 1954. The railcar still holds the land speed record for a petroleum powered rail vehicle. This high speed was attributable, in addition to other things, to its low weight, which was only 44800 pounds.
While several modifications were attempted, ultimately the Schienenzeppelin was scrapped. Due to many problems with the Schienenzeppelin prototype, the Deutsche Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft decided to go their own way in developing a high-speed railcar, leading to the Fliegender Hamburger (Flying Hamburger) in 1933. This new design was much more suitable for regular service and served also as the basis for later railcar developments. However, many of the Kruckenberg ideas were based on the experiments with Schienenzeppelin and high-speed rail travel, found their way into later DRG railcar designs.
The failure, if it could be called that, of Schienenzeppelin has been attributed to everything from the dangers of using an open propeller in crowded railway stations to fierce competition between Kruckenberg’s company and the Deutsche Reichsbahn’s separate efforts to build high-speed railcars. Another disadvantage of the rail zeppelin was the inability to pull additional wagons to form a train, because of its construction. Furthermore, the vehicle could not use its propeller to climb steep gradients, as the flow would separate when full power was applied. Thus an additional means of propulsion was needed for such circumstances. Safety concerns have been associated with running high-speed railcars on old track network, with the inadvisability of reversing the vehicle, and with operating a propeller close to passengers.
For a long time, people in the 19th century, living in urban apartments, didn’t regularly take their children outside so they could get some fresh air. Then, the doctors started to recommend that these children really needed to get outside for fresh air. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that the parents were real excited about the idea of loading up their child and taking them for a walk…just to get the recommended amount of fresh air. Nevertheless, it was important, as the doctors told them that it would strengthen their immune system, and with the number of pandemics that had gone around, the parents really tried to do whatever they could to make this happen.
While physicians such as Dr. Luther Emmett Holt advised simply placing an infant’s basket near an open window, some parents took it a step further. Enter the Baby Cage. The baby cage was just what it sounded like. It was a platform, with chicken wire all around it to keep the baby in. This whole contraption was then suspended outside the window…even if the window was on the sixth floor or something. Personally, I can’t imagine hanging my baby outside my window for a dose of fresh air, but it was an actual thing in those days.
Eleanor Roosevelt, who by her own admission “knew absolutely nothing about handling or feeding a baby,” bought a chicken-wire cage after the birth of her daughter, Anna. She hung it out the window of her New York City apartment and placed Anna inside for her naps…until a concerned neighbor threatened to report her to the authorities. I would think so. If the brackets that suspended the cage to the window came loose…so long baby. I couldn’t find any incidence of such a thing happening, however. The first commercial patent for a baby cage was filed in 1922 by Emma Read of Spokane, Washington. The cages became popular in London in the 1930s among apartment dwellers without access to backyards. Ultimately, their popularity declined. It is possible that this was connected to safety concerns. As I said, I can imagine. I would have nightmares about that if it were my child.
Seldom, if ever, do you see a minor political party that is able to obtain national support for their way of doing things, but that did happen in the 1920s. The Prohibition Party (PRO) is a political party in the United States best known for its historic opposition to the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. It is the oldest existing third party in the US. The party was an integral part of the temperance movement. I suppose it depends on which side you were on, as to how you feel about alcohol, but the reality is that they most likely didn’t have the support of the majority of the American citizens.
Nevertheless, on Saturday, January 7, 1920, the Manchester Guardian reported with a level of mild shock on one of the most extraordinary experiments in modern democratic history. “One minute after midnight tonight,” the story began, “America will become an entirely arid desert as far as alcoholics are concerned, any drinkable containing more than half of 1 per cent alcohol being forbidden.” In fact, the Volstead Act, which prohibited the sale of “intoxicating liquors,” had come into operation at midnight the day before. But the authorities had granted drinkers one last day, one last session at the bar, before the iron shutters of Prohibition came down.
I don’t really know how I feel about the comparison between the prohibition of alcohol, and the war on drugs (specifically Marijuana), but one thing can be said for sure. With the law that made these things illegal, came, by natural progression, the gangs or gangsters, who illegally made a way for those things to be obtained by the people. As to Prohibition, the 20s were filled with bootleggers, gangsters, and illegal purchases of alcohol…hence the Roaring Twenties.
Across the United States, many bars and restaurants marked the demise of the demon drink by handing out free glasses of wine, brandy and whisky. Others saw one last opportunity to make a killing, charging an eye-watering “20 to 30 dollars for a bottle of champagne, or a dollar to two dollars for a drink of whisky”. In some establishments, mournful dirges played while coffins were carried through the crowds of drinkers. In others, the walls were hung with black crepe. And in the most prestigious establishments, the Guardian noted, placards carried the ominous words: “Exit booze. Doors close on Saturday.” It was like an Irish wake for the deceased.
The prohibition of alcohol lasted for almost 14 years, and with it came a violent era in out country’s history. Gangsters like Al Capone, Bugsy Segal, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Johnny Torrio, Arnold Rothstein, Bugs Moran, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, and the mafia sprung into action…refusing to be railroaded. Prohibition’s largely Protestant champions, a large proportion of whom were high-minded, middle-class women. were the do-gooders of the day. Often deeply religious, they saw Prohibition as a kind of social reform, a crusade to clean up the American city and restore the founding virtues of the godly republic. The gangsters, gangs, and the mafia saw it as a declaration of war, and acted accordingly. Stills were built, and bootleggers financed. Before long violence broke out as the runners were caught and the gangsters lost their product. Nevertheless, for 14 long years, Prohibition persisted, until there was finally enough pull in Congress. The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified on December 5, 1933, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in America. At 5:32pm EST, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier in the day.
The other day I watched a documentary about the Yukon Gold Rush. Each prospector was required by the Canadian authorities, to bring a year’s supply of food in order to prevent starvation. In all, their equipment weighed close to a ton, which for most had to be carried in stages by themselves. Together with mountainous terrain and cold climate, this meant that those who persisted did not arrive until summer 1898. It wasn’t that the border patrol was being difficult, but rather that they knew that if these prospectors were to survive the extreme weather of the Yukon Territory, they were going to need every bit of those supplies, and sometimes more. It is estimated that 100,000 prospectors who headed north to the Yukon Territory between 1897 and 1898. Of those 100,000, it is estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 actually arrived in the gold fields, and of those who actually reached Dawson City during the gold rush, only around 15,000 to 20,000 finally became prospectors. The odd were certainly stacked against them.
On man, in particular, was of interest to me. His name was Albert J Goddard. Goddard was an American politician in the state of Washington. He served in the Washington House of Representatives from 1895 to 1897, but he also made the gold rush run during the stampede years. He had a very unique way of doing this, however. Goddard built a sternwheeler-utility boat, for use in the Yukon gold rush. The boat was named for him…the A. J. Goddard. What really interested me was that Goddard made several trips north with parts for the boat. The border patrol basically looked at him as if he was crazy. His load was extremely heavy, and they were certain that he would not make it. Nevertheless, when he got to the headwater lakes, he proceeded to put together his boat. Many of the people who met there to build their boats, were very inexperienced in boat building, and consequently, many of the boats didn’t fare well. The A. J. Goddard was the exception to the rule. Albert Goddard was the exception. He knew what he was doing, and his ship was a good one for all the years he used it. For Albert, the gold rush was not about prospecting for gold. I don’t know if he instinctively knew that very few people would be successful or not, but his plan was to be a transport boat to bring other prospectors to the gold fields. The A. J. Goddard made one trip to Dawson during the gold rush, was sold, and sank in a storm on Lake Laberge in 1901. I guess Goddard go out just in time, or maybe the endeavor was just not what he had in mind. The boat was rediscovered largely intact in 2008. On board the boat were artifacts of the period such as a gramophone with ontemporary recordings.
The reasons that Britain decided to start a Penal Colony at Botany Bay, Australia are not fully agreed upon. Some say that that there were deeper motives than just a place to house their criminals. The soil at Botany Bay was perfect for growing flax. I suppose that the prisoners would need to be doing some kind of work as penance for their crimes. Nevertheless, Britain would be making a profit from the flax that was produced thee, and the bay was perfect for a port, which would be necessary to assist with trade. All in all, Botany Bay seemed like the best option for a penal colony for Britain, so the plans were put in place, and before long the penal colony became a reality.
When Governor Phillip arrived in 1788, he asked for carpenters, masons, bricklayers to help set up the colony, along with many tools of the trades. In January of 1788, the first 736 convicts banished from England to Australia arrived in Botany Bay. Over the next 60 years, approximately 50,000 criminals were transported from Great Britain to the Botany Bay in one of the strangest episodes in criminal-justice history. I think many of us have thought that some criminals should be place on a deserted island, but Britain basically did just that…with every criminal, it seems.
The accepted wisdom of the upper and ruling classes in 18th century England was that criminals were inherently defective. They did not believe criminals could be rehabilitated and that they simply required separation from the genetically pure, law-abiding citizens. Consequently, lawbreakers had to be either killed or exiled, because prisons were too expensive, and they criminals were not worth the money. With the American victory in the Revolutionary War, transgressors could no longer be shipped off across the Atlantic, so the English had to look for a colony in some other direction.
Captain Arthur Phillip, a tough but fair career naval officer, was charged with setting up the first penal colony in Australia. The convicts were chained beneath the deck during the entire hellish six-month voyage. The first voyage claimed the lives of nearly 10 percent of the prisoners, which remarkably proved to be a rather good rate. On later trips, up to a third of the unwilling passengers died on the way. These were not hardened criminals by any measure; only a small minority were transported for violent offenses. Among the first group was a 70-year-old woman who had stolen cheese to eat.
Although not confined behind bars, most convicts in Australia had an extremely tough life. The guards who volunteered for duty in Australia seemed to be driven by exceptional sadism. Even small violations of the rules could result in a punishment of 100 lashes with a whip. It was said that blood was usually drawn after five lashes, but they didn’t stop there. Convicts usually ended up walking home in boots filled with their own blood, if they could walk at all. Convicts who attempted to escape were sent to tiny Norfolk Island, 600 miles east of Australia. The conditions there were even more inhumane. The only hope of escape from the horror of Norfolk Island was a “game” in which groups of three prisoners drew straws. The short straw was killed as painlessly as possible and a judge was then shipped in to put the other two on trial, one playing the role of killer, the other as witness. I guess the only hope of escape was, in reality, death. There were no second chances for them.
Most of us think of Saint Patrick’s day as a day to celebrate being Irish, and to celebrate even if you aren’t Irish. But this day is actually dedicated to a man who was considered legendary by the Irish people. Born in Great Britain, probably in Scotland, to a well-to-do Christian family of Roman citizenship, Patrick was captured and enslaved at age 16 by Irish marauders. For the next six years, he worked as a herder in Ireland, turning to a deepening religious faith for comfort. Following the counsel of a voice he heard in a dream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship to Britain, where he was eventually reunited with his family.
Much of what is known about Patrick’s legendary life comes from a book he wrote during his last years, called the Confessio. According to the Confessio, while in Britain, Patrick had another dream, in which an individual named Victoricus gave him a letter. The letter was entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, Patrick seemed to hear the voices of Irishmen pleading him to return to their country and walk among them once more. After studying for the priesthood, Patrick was ordained a bishop. He arrived in Ireland in 433 and began preaching the Gospel, converting many thousands of Irish and building churches around the country. After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling, and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church.
Since Patrick’s passing, countless legends have grown up around him. The Irish made him the patron saint of Ireland. They say he baptized hundreds of people on a single day, and that he used a three-leaf clover…the famous shamrock…to describe the Holy Trinity. He is often portrayed in art as trampling on snakes, a picture that came with the belief that he drove those reptiles out of Ireland. For thousands of years, the Irish have observed the day of Saint Patrick’s death as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. It was a day to be thankful for the man who bought them to the Lord. As holidays often do, the ways of celebrating changed over the years. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland, but the United States, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762. I’m sure they were doing their best to keep with the tradition of their country. As the years went on, the parades became a show of unity and strength for persecuted Irish-American immigrants, and then a popular celebration of Irish-American heritage.
The rest of the world observed it differently…probably due to the Irish tourism’s efforts to promote their country. The party went global in 1995, when the Irish government began a large-scale campaign to market Saint Patrick’s Day as a way of driving tourism and showcasing Ireland’s many charms to the rest of the world. Today, March 17 is a day of international celebration, as millions of people around the globe put on their best green clothing to drink beer, watch parades and toast the luck of the Irish, but it was never really about luck, you know…it was about blessing. Happy Saint Patrick’s day…and cheers!!
The old West as a wild place with very little law enforcement, and there was a lot of distance between lawmen. That also left room for may forms of lawlessness. I can’t say for sure that the gun for hire started in the old West, but it seems plausible. One such “gun for hire” was Thomas “Tom” Horn Jr, who often used the alias of James Hicks. Horn was born in Memphis, Missouri on November 21, 1860. He would become one of the most celebrated hired guns of the Old West, winning national fame for his freelance work, due in large part to his autobiography. Nevertheless, he wound up on the gallows for practicing his trade.
Tom was the fifth of 12 children, and his father, Tom Horn Sr, was a strict disciplinarian. Apparently, Tom didn’t like his dad’s strict ways, so he ran away in 1874 at the age of 14. Horn headed west…first to Santa Fe, then on to Arizona. By the time he was 15, he was an army scout and involved in many campaigns for more than a decade, including Geronimo’s surrender in 1886, in which Horn said he played a major role. During that time he also learned Spanish. As to his own account, Horn writing that he played a big role in the surrender of Geronimo, many historians doubt that, and actual accounts of that day indicate that Tom was there solely as a Spanish to English interpreter. After the surrender of Geronimo, Horn was discharged as a scout and reportedly mined for a while in Aravaipa, Arizona. Other than his autobiography, little is known about this period of his life for sure. We know that he was involved somehow with the Pleasant Valley War between Arizona cattlemen and sheepmen, but for which side is not clear.
It was during this time he decided to give law enforcement a try. In 1890, after proving himself during a short stint as a deputy sheriff in Arizona, Horn joined the Pinkerton Agency as a roving gunman, and using his gun with lethal effectiveness, tracked down dozens of outlaws, reputedly killing 17 men. He was pressured to resign by the agency, even though he was respected as a tracker. It seemed that with Horn came bad publicity. Horn decided to go it alone as a cattle detective, turning up in Wyoming in 1894 working for the beef barons. Horn denied killing anyone for the Pinkertons. Nevertheless, he was offering the same lethal services to the cattlemen, who were engulfed in what is known as the Johnson County War. As a “Stock Detective”, for each cattle rustler he shot, he charged $500-$600 and proved himself to be a methodical manhunter and ruthless killer. Horn once said “Killing men is my specialty. I look at it as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market.”
After a short stint in Tampa, Florida working as a packer during the Spanish American War in 1898, Horn contacted Malaria and once mended, he headed back to Wyoming and returned to his dealings as a “gun for hire”. Records show that he was hired to stop cattle rustling in Brown’s Hole, Colorado in 1900, at which time he was going by the name James Hicks. He would boast in a letter, “I stopped cow stealing in one summer”, this being after he killed two area ranchers and scared the rest of the rustlers out of the area. In mid July, 1901, William Nickell, the 14 year old son of a sheep rancher, was ambushed and killed in the Iron Mountain region, allegedly due to a case of mistaken identity, as the bullet was meant for his father. About a week later, the boy’s father, Kels Nickell, was shot in the arm and hip during another ambush. U.S. Deputy Marshal Joe LeFors suspected Horn’s involvement. LeFors, wanting to gain a confession out of Horn, pretended to be in need of someone to take on a rustler clean up job in Montana. During this famous interview, Horn admitted to the Nickell’s shootings, not knowing that there was a court reporter hiding and taking notes. Ultimately, the interview would be his undoing. Although Horn alleged at his trial that he was drunk during the interview, he was found guilty on October 23, 1902, with the Wyoming State Supreme Court denying him a new trial. He was sentenced to hang, which was carried out in Cheyenne, Wyoming on November 20, 1903.
Dogs have long been used in everything from rescue to law enforcement. In fact, their use easily dates back to the 14th century. Dogs have a keen sense of smell, and the ability to be trained to track things that are lost. They were very good in every form of rescue, tracking, and even law enforcement activities, but they weren’t really used for law enforcement.
Then, on March 13, 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army began training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, also known as the “K-9 Corps.” Over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and also providing some measure of psychological comfort to the soldiers. There is nothing better than petting a dog to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. The most famous dog to emerge from the war was Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned puppy of German war dogs found in France in 1918 and taken to the United States, where he made his film debut in the 1922 silent film The Man from Hell’s River. As the first bona fide animal movie star, Rin Tin Tin made the little-known German Shepherd breed famous across the country.
In the United States, the practice of training dogs for military purposes was, for the most part, abandoned after World War I. When the country entered World War II in December 1941, the American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense began a movement to mobilize dog owners to donate healthy and capable animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. Training began in March 1942, and that fall the Quartermaster Corps was given the task of training dogs for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well.
The K-9 Corps initially accepted over 30 breeds of dogs, but the list was soon narrowed to seven: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Collies, Siberian Huskies, Malumutes, and Eskimo dogs. Members of the K-9 Corps were trained for a total of 8 to 12 weeks. After basic obedience training, they were sent through one of four specialized programs to prepare them for work as sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs, or mine-detection dogs. In active combat duty, scout dogs proved especially essential by alerting patrols to the approach of the enemy and preventing surprise attacks.
The top canine hero of World War II was Chips, a German Shepherd who served with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender. The wounded Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart–all of which were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals. Then, 71 years after his death, Chips’ medals were restored to him. He was always a hero, now the world knew it too.