Wednesday, March 30, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Leading Dogs of WWII

     After watching Patton recently, it dawned on me that a lot of major Second World War leaders kept four-legged friends during the most crucial time of their careers. I decided it would be interesting to introduce you to some of these dogs and discuss their role in the lives of their famous owners!

1. General George S. Patton , Jr. and Willie (USA)

     A young tank commander shortly after the First World War, Patton acquired his first bull terrier as a family pet and quickly fell in love with the breed. Willie was the last of his line and was by his master's side as his famous tank corps raced across Europe to liberate Nazi-held territory in 1944. He was named for William the Conqueror, and Patton's officers wondered if the eccentric general believed the gun-shy pup to have been the courageous warrior in a former life. Being the character that Patton was, he let them wonder. As the Allies closed in on Berlin, Patton boasted, “I will personally shoot that [highly descriptive profanity] Hitler, and Willie hopes the little [more of the same] comes back as a fire hydrant!” The ultimate alpha dog, General Patton was surprisingly doting to Willie. He had special G.I. tags made for the dog and even hosted a birthday party for his "second in command." He continued to spoil Willie until his death in December 1945 following a car accident, and the dog suffered separation anxiety for several months afterward. (

2. William Lyon Mackenzie King and Pat (Canada)
     Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was given an Irish terrier in July 1924 by his good friends, the Pattesons. He named the dog Pat and quickly became extremely fond of him, as evidenced by the fact that he mentioned Pat in his diary almost every day for seventeen years. A close companion, the two shared morning walks on the grounds at Kingsmere and evening snacks of oatmeal cookies and Ovaltine. On the 25th anniversary of his becoming leader of the Liberal party, King was presented with a statuette of himself and Pat. As the dog grew older, he developed several health problems and died on July 15, 1941. King buried him among the ruins at Kingsmere. Looking back on the events of 1941 in his diary, his most significant reflection was not in regard to Canada's involvement in the Second World War, but to the death of his beloved pet:
"As I think it all over tonight, the event that touched me most deeply of all was perhaps the death of little Pat. Our years together, and particularly our months in the early spring and summer, have been a true spiritual pilgrimage. That little dog has taught me how to live, and also how to look forward, without concern, to the arms that will be around me when I, too, pass away. We shall all be together in the Beyond. Of that I am perfectly sure." (Diary, December 31, 1941) (

3. Adolf Hitler and Blondi (Germany)
     Hitler's beloved German Shepard was given to him as a gift in 1941 from Martin Bormann. He had previously owned a Shepard during his years of poverty in the 1920s but was forced to lodge the dog elsewhere. When it managed to escape and return to him, he developed a great liking for the loyalty and obedience of the breed. Blondi played a great role in Nazi propaganda, as photographs of her were used to show Hitler as an animal lover. Dogs like her were considered germanischer Urhund, being close to the wolf, and were highly fashionable during the Third Reich. Blondi stayed with Hitler even when he moved into the Fuehrerbunker under the Reich Chancellory on January 16, 1945. By April 29, Hitler had become strong in his resolve not to have himself or his new wife, Eva Braun captured by the advancing Russians. That afternoon, he expressed doubts about the potency of cyanide capsules given to him by Heinrich Himmler's SS, and ordered them to be tested on Blondi. She died immediately and Hitler became completely inconsolable. In 2005, Hitler's nurse said that Blondi's death had affected the people in the bunker more than Eva Braun's suicide. (Wikipedia)

4. General Dwight Eisenhower and Telek (USA)
     While planning for Operation Torch in 1942, General Eisenhower decided that a dog would complete the unofficial family he had started through an extramarital affair with his driver and assistant, Kay Summersby. Having never owned a dog during his military career, he allowed her to choose the breed, and she presented him with two Scotties. Ike chose one and named it Telek, which he told others was a military secret but to Kay he said, "it's a combination of Telegraph Cottage and Kay, two parts of my life that make me very happy." To his wife, Mamie, he wrote: "I'm trying to get me a little dog-- Scottie by preference. You can't talk war to a dog, and I'd like to have someone or something to talk to, occasionally, that does not know what the word means! A dog is my only hope." (Jean Edward Smith, Eisenhower: In War and Peace)

5. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Fala (USA)
     Originally named "Big Boy," the black Scottie went to live in the White House with FDR in 1940. He renamed the dog "Murray the Outlaw of Falahill," after a Scottish ancestor, with the nickname Fala. Every morning the dog had a bone brought up with the president's breakfast tray, and he was given a full dinner every night. A constant companion to the president, he enjoyed travelling and performing tricks for guests. The dog was present at the Atlantic Charter Conference with Winston Churchill in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, in August 1941, toured defense plants and met the Mexican President in 1942-43, and attended both Quebec Conferences. During a 1944 sea trip to the Aleutian Islands, it was rumored that Fala had been forgotten and the president spent millions of taxpayers' dollars to get him back. The president responded with his famous "Fala Speech," in which he said, "These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them." When FDR died in April 1945, Fala attended the funeral but seemed lost without his master. He went on to live with Mrs. Roosevelt, and died on April 5, 1952. (

     Is your dog more spoiled than Willie and Fala? Do you think of them as your children, like Ike and Kay Summersby did with Telek? Do you believe in the eternal connection between pet and owner like Mackenzie King? Would you be devastated to have to test your cyanide capsules on your beloved pet?? (Okay, that one is slightly less relatable)

Thanks for reading!
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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