USMC war dog “Caesar von Steuben” is x-rayed by Navy corpsmen after being wounded on patrol during the fight for Bougainville.
As with most of the dogs that fought with the United States military in World War II, the three year old German shepherd had been a civilian, owned by a family in the Bronx who volunteered him for service, one of thousands of families to offer their pet up for the war effort.
Only a select few were accepted into service, and even then they would undergo rigorous training to prepare them for life in the combat zone. In total, 1,074 dogs were ‘enlisted’ in the Marine Corps, and 29 would die in combat, along with just under 200 fatalities from disease or accidents. After the war, an outcry ended plans to euthanize the remaining veteran animals, and instead they were put through demilitarization training, with almost universal success. Many were returned to their families, although in more than a few cases, the Marine handler would bring the dog back to civilian life with him.
In Caesar’s case, he recovered from his wound quickly, and he received an official commendation for his communication runs prior to his wounding, including completing his ninth and final one while injured. Returned to service however, he would be killed in combat while fighting on Okinawa in 1945.