War Is Boring
The U.S. Army Had Secret War Dogs in Vietnam
In 1966, the U.S. Army trained sniffer dogs and their human companions to track down guerrillas in Vietnam. The military kept these Combat Tracker Teams secret to hide them from the enemy—and shield reluctant allies from a potential international incident.
The impetus for the canine teams came from frustrated American commanders. The Viet Cong were masters of terrain, camouflage and tunneling—and dictated when and where a fight happened. More importantly, the enemy fighters could decide how long a battle lasted.
“The U.S. command in Saigon [wants] to solve the problem of re-establishing and maintaining contact with enemy forces after they have broken contact with U.S. units,” stated a report by the Army’s private Combat Operations Research Group.
While the Army used scout dogs in World War II and Korea, the new Combat Tracker Teams were different. Instead of just watching for enemy troops, the canines and their handlers would actively chase them down.
In doing so, the soldiers could point friendly troops in the right direction, or help call in artillery and air strikes.
“It was not so much the team that did the engaging, but they would be accompanied by a conventional unit,” says former Special Forces soldier and military historian Gordon Rottman.
The Army’s first problem was a lack of tracking experience. A previous experiment with bloodhounds failed because the dogs made such a ruckus as they followed the scent, according to the CORG review.