The Dogs of Cat Island
This month - Daisy Mae looks at a bizarre failed WWII experiment that took place on Cat Island: a top-secret attempt to train dogs to sniff out Japanese soldiers.
Dear gentle readers,
I am working on my campaign materials and will have more to share with you for the July Puppy Dog Tales. One of my major concerns and a core item on my platform is in the humane treatment of all animals. The Humane Society of the United States ranks all the states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Mississippi ranks 50th in that listing in the protections offered to animals.
With that in mind, Friends of the Animal Shelter is participating in the Humane Society of the United States Humane Lobby Day. The date for Mississippi is the 18th of June. Friends is hosting meeting on the 18th at the Hancock County government offices from 8:30am until 10:00am. Advocates will be meeting with decision makers to urge them to support bills that protect animals.
Lawmakers see a tremendous number of bills and they may be silent on animal issues not because they don’t care about animals, but because they haven’t heard from constituents. Information on the meeting will soon be available on the Friends of the Animal Shelter website and Facebook page. For more information on the HSUS visit their website at www.humanesociety.org.
The Dogs of Cat Island
Humans and animals have long had a working relationship that for the most part has been of mutual benefit. Sometimes that work involves warfare. History.com has an article entitled War Animals From Horses to Glowworms. It appears that elephants, horses, dolphins, camels, pigeons, mules, bats and pigs have all played a role. Cats never quite worked out – they are kinda hard to train. The best they could do was rodent control and serve as stress reducers. Not a bad role actually. About the glow worms: they were used as a light source in the trenches in World War I. They were caught and placed in jars and handed out to the soldiers.
While doing some local research on dogs in Mississippi, I came across a reference to Cat Island. Do you know about the war dogs on Cat Island? A little aside: there were no cats on Cat Island when the French arrived about 1699. They mistook the large brownish raccoons for oyster eating cats because there are no raccoons in France.
Puppy Dog Tales
Those that passed all the tests went through a basic training of about to eight to twelve weeks. The dogs were trained to wear muzzles and gas masks and conditioned to riding in vehicles and desensitized to loud noises. After the basics the dogs went on to specialized work training in scouting, sentry duty, messengers and to locate missing troops. This was a noble and a good partnering for dog and soldier.
A civilian dog trainer, William A. Prestre, had pushed for the mission. His theory was that ethnic groups smelled different. Dogs could be trained to sniff out and attack the Japanese. Upwards of 30 thousand dogs were to be made ready and then would be dropped in as a first wave of assault on Pacific Islands and would seek out and kill Japanese soldiers. History Detectives has a chilling report on the goings on and an investigation into the training.
The experiment failed after about 90 days and the loyal Japanese-American troops were reassigned. Men from the Signal Corps used the facilities to train messenger dogs with carrier pigeons, as shown in the YouTube video. You can see the special carrying cases the dogs wore to transport the pigeons. This proved very effective and a valuable means of communicating on the battlefield.
Cat Island did not really have the facilities for soldiers and the dogs so it was not practical to keep it open. The training facility closed down in July, 1944.