Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top 10 Animals Used in War

The first time I saw the Animals In War Monument  in London, I thought it was peculiar but it certainly made me think and the latest box office release, War Horse has made me think again.

The inscription under "Animals in War"

"This monument is dedicated to all the animals
that served and died alongside British and allied forces
in wars and campaigns throughout time"
The second, smaller inscription simply reads:
"They had no choice"

How many can you name without looking at the list first?

1.  Domesticated animals such as dogs, pigs, oxen, camels and horses are used for functions such as transport and bomb detection.

2. The horse was the most widely-used animal throughout the recorded history of warfare. Early mounts could pull a chariot or carry lightly armored skirmishing forces. With the appearance of heavier mounts and the invention of the stirrup, the horse-mounted cavalry became the most prestigious military arm in Europe for several centuries. A knight's warhorse was trained to bite and kick. The combination of the horse-mounted warrior armed with a bow made the steppe people's armies the most powerful military force in Asian history. With the appearance of modern ranged weapons and motorised vehicles, horse use for military purposes fell into decline. However, the horse and the mule are still used extensively by various armies today for transport in difficult terrain.

3. Elephants can be trained to serve as mounts, or for moving heavy loads. Sanskrit hymns record their use for military purposes as early as 1,100 B.C. A group of elephants was notably employed by Hannibal during the Second Punic War. They were employed as recently as World War II by both the Japanese and Allies. Elephants could perform the work of machines in locations where vehicles could not penetrate, so they found use in the Burma Campaign. War Elephants were used by India, Burma, Persians, the Hellenistic kingdoms, Carthage, the Numidian Kingdoms, and Rome and Carthage

4. Camels have typically seen use as mounts in arid regions (Camel cavalry). They are better able to traverse sandy deserts than horses, and require far less water. Camels were employed in both world wars. Camels are used by the Indian Army and Border Security Force for patrolling in the desert regions of Rajasthan.

5. Mules were used by the U.S. Army during World War II to carry supplies and equipment over difficult terrain. Pack animals that are innately patient, cautious, and hardy, mules could carry heavy loads of supplies where Jeeps and even pack horses could not travel. Mules were used in North Africa, Burma, and in Italy. They are also used for transporting supplies in mountainous regions.

6. Oxen have been used widely in war as beasts of burden, especially to transport heavy or siege artillery through heavy terrain. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more tractable, this I did not know.

7. Dogs were used by the ancient Greeks for war purposes, and they were undoubtedly used much earlier in history. During their conquest of Latin America, Spanish conquistadors used Mastiffs to kill warriors in the Caribbean, Mexico and Peru. Mastiffs, as well as Great Danes, were used in England during the Middle Ages, where their large size was used to scare horses to throw off their riders or to pounce on knights on horseback, disabling them until their master delivered the final blow. More recently, canines with explosives strapped to their backs saw use during World War II in the Soviet Army as anti-tank weapons. In all armies, they were used for detecting mines. They were trained to spot trip wires, as well as mines and other booby traps. They were also employed for sentry duty, and to spot snipers or hidden enemy forces. Some dogs also saw use as messengers.

8. Pliny the Elder wrote about the use of war pigs against elephants. As he relates it, elephants became scared by the squeal of a pig and would panic, bringing disaster to any soldiers who stood in their path of flight.

9. As living bombs, the Soviets used dogs to carry explosives to tanks and armored vehicles. During World War II, Project Pigeon (later Project Orcon, for "organic control") was American behaviorist B. F. Skinner's attempt to develop a pigeon-guided missile. Bat bombs were bomb-shaped casings with numerous compartments, each containing a Mexican Free-tailed Bat with a small timed incendiary bomb attached. Dropped from a bomber at dawn, the casings would deploy a parachute in mid-flight and open to release the bats which would then roost in eaves and attics. The incendiaries would start fires in inaccessible places in the largely wood and paper construction of the Japanese cities that were the weapon's intended target. According to Pr. Shi Bo, in "Trente-six Stratagèmes Chinois" (in French, ISBN 2-911858-06-9), monkeys were used in the beginning of the Southern Song Dynasty, in a battle between rebels of the Yanzhou province and the Chinese Imperial Army, led by Zhao Yu. The monkeys were used as live incendiary devices. The animals were clothed with straw, dipped in oil and set on fire. They were set loose into the enemy's camp, thereby setting the tents on fire, and driving the whole camp into chaos.

10. In 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War, when Paris was surrounded by Prussian troops, the French military used hot air balloons to transport homing pigeons past enemy lines. Microfilm images containing hundreds of messages allowed letters to be carried into Paris by pigeon from as far away as London. More than one million different messages travelled this way during the four month siege.  Pigeons

Without looking this up in wikipedia, I would have said, horses, pigeons, mules and camels strictly from my recollections of movies.  It was definitely something I have overlooked and never even took into consideration. It seems, we owe a lot to these creatures who were our allies and in many cases saved a lot of lives.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that so many animals were involved in wars