Vietnam War Dogs


More than 4,000 dogs served in the Vietnam war. The vast majority of the Vietnam war dogs were German Shepherds.

Vietnam Canine Soldiers

The Soldier Dog

I was trained to use my eyes
to watch and protect you from harm. My ears to alert you of impending danger like an alarm.
My keen sense of smell to detect an enemy close at bay.
Yes I was a soldier who gave my life
so you could fight another day.
So remember me as time goes by
This soldier dog so true.
For I had only one life to give
and I gave that life to you.

~Joe Ferrar

The Vietnam war dogs are believed to have saved the lives of 10,000 US soldiers during the conflict.

Superior Ability

The dense jungle environment limited the capacity of soldiers to see and hear the enemy. This was made even more difficult at night.

Dogs, with their extraordinary sense of sight, smell and hearing, are able to detect danger much more quickly and easily than their handlers. It is estimated that search and rescue dogs can replace humans by a ratio of 1-20 or more. The Vietnam war dogs were invaluable and the soldiers relied on them to extend their own senses.

These military working dogs were so effective that the Viet Cong reportedly offered a $20,000 bounty for their capture. This was twice the amount paid for a GI.

Yet only 204 of those dogs were brought back to the country for which they had devotedly served.

Dark Ages for the Military K9

So what happened to the rest of them?

Despite their remarkable effectiveness, 95% of those four-legged heroes were never sent back to US soil.

The reward for their courageous, life-saving efforts?
Left to die in a foreign land.

Most of them were considered surplus military "equipment" and euthanized. Many were turned over to ARVN, the South Vietnamese Army. The rest were simply abandoned.

The fate of these devoted dogs still eats away at the veterans who say they owe their lives to their canine comrades. They swear leaving them behind was the hardest thing they have ever done.

One would think the Vietnam dog handlers had enough to deal with.

  • Far away from family and friends
  • Fighting a difficult and unpopular war
  • Experiencing the loss of comrades
  • Returning home to a resentful public

And to top it off, they had to leave behind the dog they had bonded with in a war zone. The one that saved their life on many occasions and served to boost their morale.

Vietnam War Dogs

The Discovery Channel showed a powerfully moving documentary called War Dogs: America's Forgotten Heroes.

It portrays the emotional and untold story of the Vietnam war dogs and their handlers.

This video should really be packaged with a box of tissues.

Vietnam War Dogs1

Another tear jerker is a book written by Sgt. John E. O'Donnell, USAF Vietnam Combat Veteran and K-9 Sentry Dog Handler.

None Came Home: The War Dogs of Vietnam is a poignant tribute to these unsung canine heroes and the soldiers that were their handlers.

Better Late Than Never

Finally, a law was passed by Congress in 2000 which allowed for the retirement of military dogs. Even today, dogs in the military are still deemed as "surplus." But, instead of instant euthanasia, they have the chance to be adopted and enjoy a dignified retirement.

Let's all pitch in to help make sure these canine war heroes are never again disposed of as surplus equipment. Ron Aiello, former Vietnam dog handler and President of the U.S. War Dogs Association was instrumental in helping Iraqi born Military K9 Fluffy, leave the country. His website is dedicated to honoring our nation's war dogs as well as their handlers.

Many of the Vietnam war dogs could have listened to their instincts to flee, yet they courageously risked their own lives to protect their soldiers. Humans may fight over politics. But, dogs defend humans out of pure devotion.

That's what makes them heroes.

Please help honor military working dogs with a commemorative stamp.


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