8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

Stephanie Schoppert - November 11, 2016

When it comes to animals in the military, they fall into two different categories. They either exist as mascots and morale boosters or they are truly there to be part of the team and work hard. These military animals from around the world served their country well and continue to be recognized and remembered today.

Simon the Cat

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

In March of 1948, a small black and white cat was wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong when he was found by George Hickinbottom. Hickinbottom saw the starving cat and decided to smuggle him aboard his ship the HMS Amethyst. The crew fell in love with the cat who won over everyone, even the commander with his ability to clear the ship of rats. Though Simon would often leave the dead rats in sailors’ bunks as a present.

Simon stayed on the boat even as the commanders changed and Lieutenant Commander Bernard Skinner took over. The HMS Amethyst was given the mission of replacing the HMS Consort which was stationed at Nanjiang. To do this the HMS Amethyst had to travel up the Yangtze River where it ended up trapped by Chinese Communist gun batteries. Simon was badly wounded in the first attack and his commander was killed. Simon was rushed to the medical bay where the team did everything they could to save the beloved cat.

As Simon recovered the trapped ship was overrun with rats who were getting into the ship’s supplies. When Simon was able he took over his old job and not only cleared the rats but boosted the morale of the trapped crew. The ship remained trapped for months and upon its escape, Simon’s story turned him into a national celebrity. Thousands of letters were sent to the cat and at every port, the cat visited from then on, he was showered with gifts and honors. Simon also received the Royal Navy’s honors after feline performance on the HMS Amethyst. Upon his arrival in the U.K., he was placed into quarantine where he developed a virus caused by a complication from his wounds. Despite the efforts of the medical staff, he died on November 28th 1949.

The hero cat was given a full funeral with hundreds in attendance. He was buried in the PDSA Llford Animal Cemetery with the title of Able Seacat.

Chief Air Marshall Foo Foo

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

The King of Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn, is known for having a very lavish and somewhat strange lifestyle. As a prince perhaps the thing he was most known for around the world was his bizarre obsession with his poodle. Foo Foo was adopted by his daughter when it was just a young dog that was malnourished. When it came to the palace it was cared for and kept in the palace kennels until the then-crown prince took a liking to the poodle.

Foo Foo became the prized poodle of the prince and was more important to him that his three different wives and most people he knew. Foo Foo was given the rank of Air Chief Marshall which is the title reserved for the commander of the Royal Thai Air Force. This made the poodle one of the highest-ranking military officials in Thailand. However, the poodle had no real powers and was only brought out for show. The poodle was expected to show up for important dinners even if it was not trained to behave properly.

During one such party Foo Foo was dressed in stately attire but proceeded to jump on the tables and drink from the water glasses of the guests. No one dared to speak out against the actions of the poodle because in Thailand insulting a member of the Royal Family or a high-ranking military official (Foo Foo was considered both) could be punished with years in prison. The poodle also made headlines around the world when the Crown Prince’s wife, Princess Srirasmi was seen on video feeding cake to the poodle wearing nothing but a g-string.

In February 2015, the beloved dog died and was treated to a four-day Buddhist funeral. The dog was placed in a very elaborate coffin and placed upon an altar where mourners could pay their respects and leave offerings.

Lin Wang the Elephant

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

Lin Wang was originally part of the Japanese military forces in 1941. During a battle with the Japanese as part of the Sino-Japanese War, a Chinese Expeditionary Force captured 13 elephants, including Lin Wang in 1943. The Japanese had used Lin Wang to pull artillery pieces and transport supplies. He would serve a similar purpose for the Chinese until the Expeditionary Force was called back to China in 1945. By the time the Expeditionary Force, and the 7 elephants that had survived the journey back to China, arrived at their destination the war was over.

Lin Wang and the other elephants were then put to work building monuments for the martyrs of the war. In 1946, the elephants performed in a circus that was used as a fundraiser for famine relief. Then Lin Wang was sent to a park in Guangzhou. In 1947 three elephants were chosen to go to Taiwan to train new troops. One elephant died on the way and the other two, including Lin Wang, were used to transport logs and other tasks needed at the army base. In 1951, the other elephant died making Lin Wang the only surviving elephant out of the original 13.

So in honor of his endearing service, the army sent him to the Taipei Zoo in 1952. There he was given the name Lin Wang after his original name “Ah Mei” which was considered too feminine by Lin Wang’s zookeeper. At the zoo, Lin Wang met his mate and became a celebrity throughout Taiwan. Many referred to him as “Grandpa Lin Wang” out of love and respect for the animal. In 1983 he was thrown a huge birthday for his 66th birthday, a tradition which the zoo continued every year until Lin Wang’s death in 2003.

Nemo A534

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

Nemo A534 was a sentry dog during the Vietnam War. He was stationed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base when it was attacked by a large Viet Cong force on December 3rd, 1966. Sentries and their dogs were able to alert the base of the approaching Viet Cong and it was believed that by the following morning, all of the attacking Viet Cong were killed or captured. During the first assault, one handler and three sentry dogs were killed while on patrol to find the Viet Cong who were waiting in the dark. The attack was stopped thanks to the alerts of the dogs.

When daylight came sentries went out once again but during the day sentries did not venture out with their dogs. So despite several scans of the area, there were no Viet Cong found. When darkness fell Nemo A534 and his handler, Airman Robert Throneburg set out on their patrol. As they walked through the dark Nemo alerted his handler of hidden Viet Cong. Throneburg set Nemo after them and followed. Both Nemo and his Throneburg were wounded with Nemo losing an eye and being shot in the face. Throneburg was also shot twice. Nemo knowing that there were still Viet Cong in the area laid on the body of his handler and fiercely protected him until help could arrive. Both Nemo and Throneburg survived the ordeal and Nemo was granted early retirement. He was one of the few dogs from the Vietnam War that was given passage home.

He lived out his days at the Lackland Air Force Base where he was given a permanent retirement kennel. He was often used as a recruiting dog to help get men and dogs to join the military. He died in 1972 at the age of 11 and a memorial kennel and stone remain at Lackland Air Force Base in his honor.

Sefton the Horse

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

Sefton the Horse was born in July of 1963 in Ireland. He was taken at 4 years old to be inspected by Army Purchasing Commission who picked him up right away. At training, he was considered a difficult horse and was chosen to join the Blues and Royals in Germany in 1969. He joined the Weser Vale Hunt where he excelled and then began competing in show jumping, earning prize money for the army.

In 1975 he was chosen to be sent to England to join the Household Calvary. He also continued to compete up until 1980 when he retired from show jumping. On the 20th of July 1982, Sefton was walking with 15 other horses in his regiment for the Changing of the Guard. As the procession proceeded down South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park, a IRA nail bomb detonated. The flying nails hit both the horses and their riders with brutal force. Seven of the horses were considered too wounded to be saved. Sefton was badly wounded in the attack but he kept his calm stance in order to not throw his rider.

Sefton was rushed back to the barracks where veterinary officer Major Noel Carding did his best to save the horse as they waited for civilian veterinarians to arrive and assist. Sefton had a severed jugular vein, a wounded left eye, and 34 other serious wounds. It took 8 hours of surgery to patch up the horse – a length of time that was previously unheard of for surgery on a horse. He was given a 50/50 chance of survival but the strong horse pulled through. He was showered with gifts and mints, there were even enough donations given in his name that the Royal Veterinary College was able to build a new surgical wing, the Sefton Surgical Wing.

Sefton returned to his duties for another two years before retiring in 1984. He then lived at the Home of Rest for Horses until his death in 1993 at the age of 30. Sefton, the heroic horse was immortalized in bronze.

Sinbad the Dog

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

Sinbad started his life at sea when a crewman of the USCGC Campbell adopted him in 1937 as a present for his girlfriend. However, his girlfriend was unable to take the dog and neither were any of the man’s crew mates. Even though no one could take the dog, they did not want him to leave the ship or end up on the streets as a stray. So they decided that they would find a way for the dog to remain on board without needing a master. Sinbad was enlisted as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard with his paw print used as a signature on his enlistment papers. He was said to have all the characteristics of a sailor due to his love of coffee and whiskey, the fact that he had regular and general quarters at duty stations and that he demonstrated true seamanship while on board.

The dog was then given his own service and red cross numbers, a service record and a bunk. He was an average sailor getting a few disciplinary notes and promotions throughout his 11 years on the Campbell. Sinbad was always given duties below decks whenever the ship faced combat but he also stayed on board during some tenuous times for the ship, when even most of her crew were left behind. So it became the common perception that the Campbell would never sink as long as Sinbad was on board.

Sinbad received numerous service ribbons that were attached to his collar and whenever the Sinbad would come to port, he was used as a public relations mascot. However, the dog was not always as cooperative as he was expected to be and became the subject of a few “diplomatic incidents.” On September 21st, 1948 Sinbad was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard and lived three more years ashore at Barnegat Light Station in New Jersey.

Nils Olav the Penguin

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

In 1961 the Norwegian King’s Guard visited the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. While there a lieutenant by the name of Nils Egelien visited the Edinburgh Zoo and became fascinated with the penguin colony there. When the Guards returned in 1972 he arranged for his unit to adopt one of the penguins. The penguin was then given the name Nils Olav after Nils Egelien and King Olav V of Norway.

The penguin was given the rank of Lance Corporal and became the official mascot of the guard. Then every time that the guards returned to Edinburgh the penguin was given another promotion. In 1982, he was made a corporal and then a sergeant in 1987. Nils Olav died soon after that promotion and another penguin was chosen to be the mascot. Nils Olav II was promoted to regimental sergeant major in 1993 and then Colonel-in-Chief in 2005. King Harald V himself got into the act when the penguin was granted a knighthood on August 15th, 2008. Nils was the first penguin to receive any such honor in the Norwegian Army. Several hundred joined the 130 guardsmen as a citation from the King declared that the penguin was “in every way qualified to receive the honor and dignity of knighthood.” Following his knighthood, the King’s Guard stood at attention for inspection by their Colonel-in-Chief.

That same year a bronze statue of Nils Olav was given to the Edinburgh Zoo and another was placed at the King’s Guard compound in Huseby, Oslo. Today Nils Olav III has taken over the role of mascot and on August 22nd, 2016 he was promoted to Brigadier in a ceremony attended by 50 guards. The penguin continues to be the mascot of the King’s Guard despite having never served in the military or ever left the zoo.

Sergeant Stubby

8 Famous Military Animals of the 20th Century

Sergeant Stubby is recognized as the most decorated war dog in World War I and the only dog reputed to be promoted to sergeant through combat by the U.S. military. There are no records that confirm his rank but he is widely recognized for his work during the war to protect and aid the soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Regiment. Stubby got his start in the military when he hung around Yale University where the men of the 102nd Infantry were training. Corporal Robert Conroy grew close to the dog and when it was time for the infantry to ship out, he hid the dog on the ship and under his coat so that Stubby would come with him to France. When Stubby was discovered by the commanding officer, the dog delivered a salute just as he had been taught and the commander allowed the dog to stay with the regiment.

Stubby was an intrepid dog who fought on the front lines with the other men. When he was injured by mustard gas, a special mask was designed for him. After that, he was able to warn the men of poison gas attack before the men could detect it themselves. He also helped to find wounded soldiers in No Man’s Land and used his superior hearing to listen for the whine of incoming artillery to warn the men before they could hear it themselves. He got promoted to the rank of Sergeant when he captured a German spy in the Argonne all on his own.

He was hand-made a coat by the women of Chateau-Thierry when American troops retook the town. From then on Stubby’s medals were pinned to his coat. When the war ended Conroy once again smuggled the dog on board the troop ship home. He was welcomed back as a hero and spent the rest of his days with Conroy. Upon Stubby’s death in 1926, his body was preserved and is now displayed at the Smithsonian.