A friend of mine who works for one of the big militaria auction houses recently emailed this to me. He'd found a related grouping on the subject (documents and such) and pointed me to a book with a write-up about the project, which appears to have been one of the military's biggest dumb ideas of World War II.
From Winston Groom's "1942: The Year that Tried Men's Souls":
Quote:One of the most curious schemes was the Dog Army, proposed by a Swiss citizen named William A. Prestre, a resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He managed to persuade the Pentagon to lease an entire island, named, of all things, Cat Island, lying in the Mississippi Sound, just south of Gulfport, and not far from New Orleans. There, Prestre, aided by hundreds of US Army troops, hoped to train - just for starters - an army of 40,000 large attack dogs. (The government had already put out a call for over 125,000 dogs, but Prestre estimated that with some sixteen million dogs available in the United States a much vaster army of up to two million dogs could be organized once the kinks were worked out.)
Prestre's underlying thesis was that, with the Japanese now holding so many Pacific islands, large forces of infantry would have to be employed to invade and eject them. But what about this: when the hundreds of landing craft began streaming into the beaches of one of these enemy islands, and their ramps flopped down, instead of disgorging thousands of marines or soldiers, they would disgorge tens of thousands of vicious dogs, who would race across the beaches and attack the horrified Japanese at their machine guns and mortars.
Prestre worked it all out carefully, as one Private Harold House, a former dog trainer, testified before an army board: "Each dog was to be trained to kill Japanese only. The greyhounds were to lead the attack because of their speed, followed by the wolfhounds who would aid in the confusion, after which Great Dane packs were sent out as the main killers. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers were to be trained for beach landings." Bloodhounds and other tracking dogs would be used for mopping-up operations.
The first problem encountered was how exactly to train a dog to kill only Japanese. Accordingly, discussions began within army circles of how to acquire Japanese persons, with their particular looks and scent, to be trained on as "bait". Someone suggested using Japanese prisoners of war, but as we have seen, the Japanese did not surrender, and thus there were no Japanese prisoners of war. Next, they considered using Japanese aliens, "preferably without families in this country." But that too was rejected on grounds that it "might cause adverse public sentiment." Finally it was decided that twenty five Japanese-American enlisted men and three officers from a US Army post in Wisconsin would be sent as "volunteers" to the Cat Island project.
The Japanese-Americans performed splendidly; the dogs did not. Wearing big padded suits and hockey gloves, the Japanese subjected themselves to being sicced on, over and again. An army report stated that "although their part in the entire project is distasteful" and while "several of them had been bitten severely... [they] continue training without complaint."
The problem, though, was the dogs themselves - and Prestre, himself, too, who, according to Private House's testimony "did not know dogs or how to handle them." (Prestre had decided to use large French horns to incite the dogs to charge across the beaches, but these seemed only to confuse them.) It was also discovered that shellfire terrified most of the dogs, with the result that they became uncontrollable. Others were, well, just too docile. In the event, after millions of dollars had been wasted, the Dog Army idea was abandoned as being incompatible with reality, and Prestre returned to Santa Fe, but not before a "K-9 Corps Marching Song" was composed by the dog editor of the New York Sun.