Heroic Military Dog Gets Animal Victoria Cross After Losing Her Leg In Afghanistan
Lucca the military dog has been awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross after saving thousands of lives during active service.
The retired 12-year-old German Shepherd and her owner, Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham, served in the U.S. Marines and are in London to receive the PDSA Dickin Medal at a special ceremony.
As a search and explosives dog, Lucca was on duty in Afghanistan for six years, seeking out hidden explosives on over 400 missions. She was so good at her job that there were no human casualties on any one of those outings.
Lucca with owner Gunnery Sergeant Willingham and Corporal Rodriguez, who saved her life [PDSA]
But on her final mission in 2012, Lucca was checking for hidden dangers around a 30lb improvised explosive device (IED) when a second IED went off.
The blast took Lucca’s front leg clean off, and also left the dog with severe burns to her chest. Thankfully Lucca’s handler, Corporal Juan Rodriguez, was on hand to administer the emergency first aid that saved her life.
Cpl Rodriguez didn’t leave the dog’s side throughout her treatment [PDSA]
Lucca and Cpl Rodriguez after Lucca’s surgery [PDSA]
Now fully recovered and adjusted to live with three legs, Lucca is enjoying a happy retirement in the U.S. with Gunner Sergeant Willingham.
He explained what a special dog she is, saying, “Lucca is very intelligent, loyal and had an amazing drive for work as a search dog. She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her.
“In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing moral for the troops we supported.
“In between missions, I took the searching harness off and let her play and interact with the troops. Due to her personality, demeanor and proficiency as a search dog, Lucca made friends wherever she went.
“Today, I do my best to keep her spoiled in her well-deserved retirement.”
Lucca enjoying her new life of leisure [PDSA]
The PDSA has only handed out 65 Dickin Medals (Lucca’s is the 66th), the majority of which went to messenger pigeons in WW2 (32).
The other recipients have been 30 dogs, three horses and one cat - come on, cats. Up your game.
In Burma on 23 June 1944, a Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the Railway Bridge at Mogaung. Immediately the attack developed the enemy opened concentrated and sustained cross fire at close range from a position known as the Red House and from a strong bunker position two hundred yards to the left of it.
The cross fire was so intense that both the leading platoons of ‘B’ Company, one of which was Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun’s, were pinned to the ground and the whole of his Section was wiped out with the exception of himself, the Section commander and one other man. The Section commander immediately led the remaining two men in a charge on the Red House but was at once badly wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur (sic) Pun and his remaining companion continued the charge, but the latter too was immediately wounded.
Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren Gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him. With the dawn coming up behind him, he presented a perfect target to the Japanese. He had to move for thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees.
Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three with his rifle and further five with his kukri knife.
Victoria Cross citation for Ghurka Tul Bahadur Pun, issued in 1944
The citation did not mention that after clearing the house he grabbed a flamethrower and killed a further thirty Japanese troops who were in a locked bunker. He described it as “appropriate reparations”