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7 Amazing Animals That Played a Key Role in WWII

Did you know that animals played an important role in a lot of wars, especially in WWII?

It should come as no surprise that animals were active during any type of war, and armies have used them as part of their strategies since the dawn of civilization. And while nowadays we wouldn’t think about sending an animal behind enemy lines, back in World War II, when technology was not really as evolved as it is now, it was a common practice.

What’s more, there are a lot of animals that you wouldn’t think of that have been part of various armies, performing some complex jobs and saving lives. We gathered some of the amazing animal war heroes and the stories behind their jobs to satisfy your curiosity, from the expected dogs to some more unusual animals like the camel!

Let us know which one of these animals impressed you the most and why in the comments down below!

Skeoch Cumming, William, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#1 Mongoose

You wouldn’t think an animal such as the mongoose would be wildly employed by the army mongoose, but it was the reality that soldiers from Burma and India lived every day. They were very useful as pets and definitely earned their keep doing nothing out of the ordinary for their kind. They were kept on bases because they could not only find but also fight off poisonous snakes, thus keeping the soldiers out of harm’s way.

Even more, the ones that were kept as pets were more often than not curled up and sleeping with their soldiers at night. If there were any intruders trying to sneak up on the soldiers, the mongoose would wake up and cause a fuss, thus saving a lot of lives because of their instincts!

#2 Elephants

Yes, elephants. This majestic elephant was actively used in many parts of India and Africa for heavy lifting and transport! One such amazing group of elephants has an amazing rescue story attached to their name, including their place of origin. They were already in the transport business before the war even started!

Yet, during the war, the man who owned them heard about a group of refugees that were stranded in the Chaukan Pass, and he set out with his elephants to go save them, despite the horrible weather. Because of the elephants and this man’s big heart, they reached the stranded and starving group, bringing all 100 of them to safety!

We don’t know about you, but elephants are amazing!

National Library of Scotland, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

#3 Beloved animal:  the dogs

How could the animal dubbed “the man’s best friend” miss our list? After all, dogs continue to play important roles in law enforcement and the military, even in the modern era. And back during World War II, it was no different. Because of their keen sense of smell and hearing, they served as watchdogs, warning their owners of approaching enemies!

What’s more, some of them were used in combat, being trained to tackle their targets and help the troops get the upper hand. Others were rescue dogs, who carried important medical supplies to those soldiers who were stranded and wounded. Did you hear about the messenger dogs? They were also used to transmit messages from one base to another. Some amazing ones were trained because of their keen sense of smell to either find land mines or casualties after bombings!

Unless it was using a firearm or cooking, we definitely think these furry friends did all kinds of jobs during wartime!

#4 Cats

If we spoke about dogs, we could not leave cats out of the picture either! After all, where there is one of these two animals, you will probably find the other one close by. Cats were just as useful to the army troops as dogs, but maybe in different ways. They were kept around because of their useful hunting skills, keeping vermin away from storage places, ships, and barracks! Not to mention, having one of them around definitely helped with the morale of the troop.

There is even a famous story about the luckiest cats that were present during WWII. Named Oskar, the British Cossacks destroyer saved him after being found floating around one part of the wrecked German battleship Bismarck. He became the Cossacks’ cat, yet it didn’t take long before they were also torpedoed. Oskar survived, owing up to his previous experience with ship sinkings. The HMS Legion saved him and that’s how he ended up on was on his way to Gibraltar.

Oskar then joined an aircraft carrier, where he earned the nickname “Unsinkable Sam.” Once this aircraft was attacked and sunk, the rescue team that was going there received the location of a part of the ship with a cat on it. You guessed it! It was Oskar who was once again saved from a sad demise at sea!

Between May 1941 and November 1941, Oskar survived three sunken ships, and after being saved that last time, they gave him a permanent home on land with the governor’s offices.

State Library and Archives of Florida, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#5 Mules

If there is one animal to which the British Army owes a lot, it is mules! They were used as a primary way of transporting goods on difficult terrain, having carried almost everything during the war. From medical panniers to ammunition, from equipment to wounded soldiers, the mules traveled thousands of miles to help the army during the war!

They ended up being the backbone of their expeditionary force as well, with about 3,000 mules starting their jobs under the charge of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps and Cyprus Regiment in December 1939! Until the end of the war, mules would assist most troops, regardless of the terrain: from snowy mountains to deserts, you can probably find pictures of them out there. And they were invaluable in infiltration missions because of their small size and strong bodies!

#6 Camels

You wouldn’t think that such a docile-looking animal like the camel used to be part of one of the most feared fighting troops, but we are here to surprise you! Despite the age of automatic weapons already having arrived during the Second World War, there were still a lot of British Imperial units that used camel-mounted troops as their primary mode of combat. And those who were aware of them feared them!

Out of the many countries that had such armed patrols, the most memorable were the Egyptian Camel Corps, the Arab Legion, the Sudan armed camel corps of the Upper Nile, and even the Bikaner Camel Corps, which were part of an Indian troop and also had artillery support from camel riders. Seeing the success of these corps, even the British organized their own Druze Regiment, which used camels.

It may seem silly to you, but there is a famous incident that happened in December 1942 in Tunisia and Tripoli that speaks of the might of these regiments. The Camel Corps of the Free French took charge against the Italian forces, which numbered about 400! With their swords alone, they cut up about 140 of the Italians and sent the rest of them running for their lives in terror.

If you ask us, if you were to see someone riding a camel coming at you at full force, it would be pretty scary!

#7 Pigeons

You may imagine that some animals that were used were more common than others. Yet, if you think about sending messages with the help of pigeons, you cannot help but envision the medieval ages. And while they also served this purpose, these little birds were trained and more useful than you would think during World War II.

The British military had an entire task force that was called the National Pigeon Service which was established during the war and composed of more than 200,000 homing pigeons, which were then assigned a variety of roles. One of the least known jobs of these birds was the fact that some had a camera strapped to their chest and were sent to fly over the enemy territory. Thus, they were used for aerial reconnaissance! Genius!

Not to mention the old-fashioned message-sending that we mentioned before. However, it is not something to discredit, as even RAF bombers used to have these little animals on board with them when they went deep into enemy territory. In case the aircraft was hit and shut down, with no usage of the radio, the pigeons would then be the ones to deliver the message with the crew’s location and get the rescue team to help!

Who knew a bird nowadays many consider a pest in the city was once such a huge helper!

And if you are curious about other fun and interesting facts about wars, be sure to check out our articles on the matter here!


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