During World War II, the Front Royal, Virginia, Remount Depot raised, trained, and shipped Horses, Mules, and Dogs with handlers for military use. Of all these animals trained during the second world war, Chips was probably the most famous. Chips entered military service at the age of two. He was a mix of German Shepherd, Collie, and Siberian Husky, and he belonged to Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York. The military needed dogs to aid in the war effort, so they asked people to loan the War Department their dogs to be trained as War Dogs. Chips was a well-loved family pet but he was very protective of the Wrens’ two daughters, Gail and Nancy. In his role as family guardian he was known to be aggressive. After biting a local garbage man, the Wren family decided that perhaps the right thing to do was to let Chips be trained by the military. Chips was accepted into the Army, and he went to Front Royal, Virginia to begin training as a sentry dog.
Chips was trained at the Front Royal Remount Depot in 1942, and was among the first dogs to be shipped overseas. Chips and his handler, Pvt. John P. Rowell were assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division and served with that unit in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. His assignments included high level security duty at the Roosevelt-Churchill conference in Casablanca in January 1943. While in Italy, Chips and his handler were on the beach when out of nowhere Italian soldiers started shooting at them from a hidden pillbox. Chips and Pvt. Rowell couldn't go anywhere because they might get shot if they moved. In an act of bravery, Chips broke loose and ran to the pillbox to attack the soldiers thus forcing their surrender. Chips received a minor head wound in addition to minor powder burns. Later that same day, he helped his platoon capture 10 more Italian prisoners. He was also credited by the units to which he was assigned as having been directly responsible for capture of numerous enemy combatants by alerting to their presence.
In recognition of his service Chips was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, both of which were later revoked due to politics.
When the war was over, Chips was re-trained for civilian life at the Front Royal Remount Depot. Chips then received an honorable discharge and went home to live with the Wren family. Sadly, Chips only lived a few months after he got back home. He passing away at age 6 due to complications from injuries he had received in battle and kidney failure. He was buried at The Peaceable Kingdom Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Later on, a book, Chips the War Dog, was written about his service. In 1990 Walt Disney Television produced a TV movie about him called "Chips the War Dog".
Today, all branches of our Armed Forces, Police Departments and the Department of Homeland Security use trained working dogs to take part in patrols, guard bases, perform security duties, and aid in the protection of the United States and those who serve our country.
Text courtesy of Phil Gibbons, 4-H Center Animal Committee, Remount Depot Historian
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