Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

What do Rifleman Khan, G.I. Joe, Simon, and Upstart have in common?

You might think they are all cartoon characters from the popular 80's t.v. series but, they were all very real heroes. Heroes that happened to be animals.

These animals have all been awarded the Dickin Medal for "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defense Units."
Photo from wikimedia
Rifleman Khan was a one of 27 dogs to receive the medal. He was a part of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and paired with Corporal James Muldoon. One night in 1944 the two of them were on a boat together on their way to an important battle when they were spotted and fired upon. Rifleman Khan was able to swim to shore, but he discovered that Muldoon was not a swimmer. The dog went back while still under fire and brought his handler to shore, dragging him far enough out of the water to be safe.

G.I. Joe was one of 32 birds to receive the medal. This pigeon saved an entire town in Italy from being bombed. Calvi Vecchia's bombing was scheduled for October 18, 1943 but G.I. Joe brought the message to the Allied Troops that the town had already been taken by some British Troops just in time. His speed saved over 1,000 lives including both the villagers and the British Troops.

Simon was the only cat to receive the medal. He started as a sickly stray cat that was stowed away on the HMS Amethyst. He quickly earned his keep on the ship by keeping the rat population in check. After an attack by the Chinese that killed Lieutenant Commander Skinner and seriously injured Simon you'd think that he'd retire. Instead Simon raised the men's morale by continuing his job of catching rats.

Upstart was one of 3 horses to receives the medal. He was a police horse on duty when a building was bombed near him. With the glass and other building parts flying around, not to mention the noise, you'd think that the horse would spook. Not Upstart. He was recognized for his ability to remain calm at that time, allowing his rider to direct traffic and maintain order.

If you're interested in reading about the other Dickin Medal recipients, wikipedia has a great list. Keep in mind that the award has been given out 63 times, so if you prefer a shorter list BuzzFeed has chosen 15 they think are the coolest. I previously wrote a post about Roselle, another dog that received the Dickin Medal, after helping her owner get out of the Twin Towers and to safety on September 11th.

Lastly, in my research for this post I found a beautiful poem called "The Soldier's Kiss". It's about a war horse dying and how the soldier responds. Here's a stanza from it:

"Only a dying horse! he swiftly kneels,
Lifts the limp head and hears the shivering sigh
Kisses his friend, while down his cheek there steals
Sweet pity’s tear, "Goodbye old man, Goodbye"."

Please go here to read the whole poem.

Today is a day to remember all of our fallen heroes both human and animal.


  1. Wow, what amazing stories. It makes me want to go hug my dog.

    Thank you.

    1. There were so many stories it was hard to just pick one from each animal. It really is incredible! Go ahead and hug your dog!


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