The Vietnam Era | The German Shepherd
Noise. Chaos. The incredible heat of the tropics. The shadows and tangles of the jungles. The image that many people have in their mind of the Vietnam War – regardless of their political opinions – is of a mire of chaos and confusion. And the presence of dogs in the war made these struggles over unfriendly, enemy terrain easier. Dogs – both Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherd dogs – were used as scouts and combat trackers and sentry dogs alike, serving as the “eyes and ears” of their commanding officers as they crept through the jungle underbrush with celerity and agility, exhibiting far more stealth than a human being would be capable of.
There were between 3,747 and 4,900 dogs used in Vietnam – the former is a number obtained by Dr. Howard Hayes, the Veterinarian of the National Institute of Health, by tracing the records of “brand numbers” of dogs – tattoos placed in the dogs' left ears. The military only began keeping records in 1968, however; thus the actual number is thought to be much higher than the extant figures.