Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in History



Major Advisor

David M. Walker, Ph.D.


Raymond J. Krohn, Ph.D.


Emily Wakild, Ph.D.


At the beginning of World War I, the only military working dogs the United States owned were sled dogs. In comparison, European nations in World War I used canines as sentries, messengers, ambulance, and draft dogs. In 1942, members of the American public, created Dogs for Defense Inc. to help recruit dogs for military use. By the end of the Vietnam War, dogs no longer were donated by the American public for use, rather the American military owned the dogs they deployed.

This thesis examines the use of dogs by the American military from World War I to the Vietnam War. It explores the idea that the evolution of military technology and tactics are ironically tied to the increased use of military dogs in the period of modern warfare by the United States Armed Forces. The grassroots movement of the American public, and its desire to contribute to the war effort, helped to accelerate the creation of an American war dog program. Even with technology becoming increasingly important in warfare, dogs were needed to fulfill roles that humans and technology could not. The expansion of these duties is evidenced by their continued use in Vietnam. For the infantry soldiers serving on the frontlines, dogs saved lives and instilled a greater degree of confidence on patrol, all the while acting as mans’ best friend.