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On this Memorial Day, I remember nonhuman animal soldiers who served and continue to serve the United States military during times of war, along with the animal victims of military research.

On a personal note, I have a big problem with state-sanctioned warfare.  I don’t want to glorify it with propaganda.  I recognize it for what it is–immense violence that kills many and benefits few.  The main reason I intend to remember those who have fallen is to remember the deadly consequences of warfare.  In this case, I recognize nonhuman animals.


Horses are the oldest group of nonhuman animals in the technological advancements of human warfare, dating back to at least 4,000 years.  Throughout western civilization, they were the main drivers of chariot warfare, cavalry, and artillery.  In the

Two horses drawing carriage in WWI; one carrying fallen solider, the other driven into the mud

United States, men didn’t use horses a great deal in the Revolutionary War but horses endured heavy amounts of battle during the Civil War.  Both horses and mules pulled the heavy artillery, but only the horses fought in battle.  During World War I, being replaced in warfare with tanks, horses did less fighting, so much as they carried supplies to and fro along battlefields undergoing heavy fire.  World War II was the last American war where men used horses.  Many horses died in the American-fought wars.  Just in World War I alone, eight million horses were killed (this includes all sides).  It wouldn’t be too far fetched to state that men’s warfare would not be what it is today without beforehand using horses for thousands of years.


European men have used rock pigeons as homing pigeons in warfare for a really long time.  During World War I, the US

Cher Ami stuffed and mantled on display

alone used 600 pigeons to deliver and receive messages.  Cher Ami was one of the few pigeons awarded for his service in delivering twelve important messages on behalf of the US Army Signal Corps, even while shot in transit.  The US military “honored” him by donating his remains to the Smithsonian where he was stuffed and preserved, and he is now on display to enrich the lives of people nationwide.  During World War II, the US military used 54,000 homing pigeons designated as “war pigeons.” One of the most famous of these pigeons called G.I. Joe was awarded the Dickin Medal for valor, due to his deliveries that saved 1,000 human lives.  If G.I. Joe were a European man, then maybe the Dickin Medal would have mattered, as it would have offered him glory.  But alas, he was not, and so the medal was more an attempt to acknowledge him  in the only way westerners know how (similar to the current desire to recognize certain nonhuman animals as persons) than to reciprocate toward him in ways that were useful to him.


An unknown mexican free-tailed bat in flight

The U.S. military experimented on Mexican free-tailed bats in order to develop them as weapons during World War II.  The project proposed that bats carrying incendiary bombs filled with napalm on their backs would be released across cities of Japan and rigged to detonate, with the objective to cause “widespread fires and chaos.” In 1942, President Roosevelt approved the project’s proposal and this subsequently resulted in “Project X-Ray.”  The project never made it beyond it’s vivisection stage, as it was replaced by the Atomic Bomb.  Unfortunately there is no record of the number of bats who died in these experiments.


After the US-Mexican War, the Secretary of War Jefferson Davis followed the idea of a second lieutenant to use camels

Unknown camel in harness

in place of horses and mules, particularly in desert terrain.  Thus began the U.S. Camel Corps.  Their use was primarily in transporting supplies and light loads across the desert.  It was an experiment, like so many, and ended by the start of the American Civil War.  The number of camel casualties during the trans-atlantic transport or during the experiments is unknown.

Marine Mammals

Dating back to the 1960s, dolphins and sea lions have been used by the U.S. Navy to hunt

Dolphin wearing a location pinger, used for locating mines in the current Iraq War

for mines and disable underwater booby traps.  They are still used in present times.  Today their activities include “protecting ports and Navy assets from swimmer attack, locating and assisting in the recovery of expensive exercise and training targets, and locating potentially dangerous sea mines.” There is no indication as to whether and how many dolphins and sea lions have been injured or killed from their work.


Dogs have been the most widely and most varied used of all animals in western civilization.

Andy, a U.S. army working dog, searches among rubble and trash outside a target building in Rusafa, eastern Baghdad, Iraq

So it is not surprising to learn that dogs have been used throughout U.S. military history as soldiers, supply-carriers, scouts, rescuers, trackers, sentries, medical experiment victims, intimidation toward P.O.W.s, and mine-hunters.  And dogs continue to be used by the military today.  There are dogs currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and dogs exist all over the world where war has scarred the land, sniffing out land mines.

No memorial monument exists in the United States acknowledging the use of and dependence on these animals.  In England, the London Park Lane animals in war memorial was erected in 2004 as “a testament to the extraordinary bond that animals share with mankind in times of extreme adversity.”  And the lack of recognition of animals used in vivisection is even more appalling.  Alas, the one-sided use of nonhuman animals continues in current times under the guise of “animal bond.”