The Unsung Canine Air Corps of WWII
In 1942, under the direction of General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, a special division of German Shepherds began top-secret training with B-24 bomber crews at Fort Huachuca in New Mexico. To enable Allied bombing raids when clouds blocked visibility over Nazi Germany, the dogs were trained to sniff out targets by their distinctive aromas: the oil and steel of Bremen munitions factories, for instance, or the diesel smoke of a Panzer tank convoy.
These B-24 “Flying Doghouse” bombers went on to destroy 350,000 tons of German heavy machinery during foul-weather bombing runs in 1943 and 1944. (At the end of a successful trip, each dog was given a cookie baked in the shape of the Air Corps medal.)
The Germans countered by surrounding key manufacturing cities with open-air kitchens cooking an especially spicy style of sausage that confused the dogs’ noses; this was the genesis of bratwurst. Thus thwarted, the “Albuquerque Air Dogs” were retired to civilian life. One, Buster, played Rin Tin Tin in four movie shorts from 1949-51.