SALT LAKE CITY — In a society which deeply values dogs, Brigham Young University historian Aaron Skabelund's new book tells the story of how many American and Japanese kids faced the challenging task of enlisting their best friends to fight in World War II.
"I argue that this prepares people to go to war themselves," Skabelund said. "It prepares them to send their brothers, their sons to war."
His book "Empire of the Dogs" views World War II through the lens of Japanese and American propaganda. The messages mainly targeted kids under the age of 12 through comic books and cartoons characters, showing how vital dogs were to the war effort.
"They put them to practical use," Skabelund said, "such as they have them run messages, they have them serve as sentries. Some armies have them carry ammunition. They guarded military installations and prisoners of war."
In Japan, Norakura, an orphaned Mongrel became popular in comic books and movies. Here in the United States, the military also used a cartoon dog to appeal to youngsters who proudly donated their pets.
These days, the military still relies on dogs in wars and natural disasters. But recruiters no longer solicit children, and that may be why we no longer hear stories of canine heroism.
"The example of the dog used in the Bin Laden raid, and reports that we hear about dogs in Afghanistan, and soldiers wanting to bring these dogs home with them, and so on." Skabelund explained.
While this breed of soldier is often overlooked, Skabelund says dogs are is just as effective today as in times of old.