Dwight Eisenhower’s statement to stir the Allied forces before the Normandy invasion had a slight error in it. “The free men of the world are marching together to Victory,” it read, failing to mention the dogs – or, more accurately, the ‘paradogs’ – who were marching with them.
It was Britain’s 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion that first decided to give the wild idea a go. Food rations meant pet owners were struggling to feed their four-legged friends, so the government decided to take the nation’s unwanted dogs and send them to combat preparation at the War Dog Training School in Hertfordshire. There they learned how to follow orders – not just sit and stay – along with how to sniff out mines and explosives and ignore distracting loud noises. Most importantly, they practised parachuting into enemy territory.
By the time D-Day rolled around, the battalion had one paradog accompanying every 20 human paratroopers in each plane. One paradog in particular, an Alsatian-Collie named Bing, distinguished himself with valour. On landing, Bing became tangled in a tree and was injured by artillery fire, but still managed to help his fellow troops by locating German mines. For his service, he was awarded the Dickin Medal, the United Kingdom’s highest award for military animals. Good boy.