Sergeant Frank Praytor and "Miss Hap", 18 October 1952
It was so incredibly meaningful to finally see the reunion video of Sgt. Aaron Yoder and his military dog Bart reunited on 05/03/12. Yoder was Bart's handler who protected his specially-trained dog from enemy fire by taking the bullet himself.
Since Fridays are all about the felines on this blog, it got me wondering: have cats ever played a role in military actions? This was one of the more interesting research projects, let me tell you! Some of it is serious, but some is just flat out funny!
The Skinny on Military Kitties
Cats in the military have traditionally been used to prevent rodents from eating up scarce rations, however, there are incidents recorded where cats have also functioned as a feline version of canaries in the coalmine, able to alert troops to poisonous chemical clouds, thereby saving thousands of lives. Similarly, some have noted the "sixth sense" cats have, able to detect impending attacks. If the cats take cover, it's time to get out of range!
Ancient Military Cats
Ancient Egyptians were known to revere cats, and this reverence was used against them by warring Persians who turned cats loose on the battlefield. The Egyptian ruler preferred to surrender the city rather than have harm come to the cats.
But Herodotus recorded that the Egyptian soldiers themselves would bring cats along not only to prevent vermin from eating their stores, but also prevent rodents from eating their bow strings and shield straps. The Assyrian army they were battling did not have cats and woke to find their weapons and shields disabled from rodents and were forced to flee.
Cats as Military Mascots
In 1949, a cat named Simon was the mascot of a British ship called the Amethyst. This ship became stranded and detained for 101 days, just after WWII on the Yangtze river. The ship was shelled by the Chinese, which killed 17 soldiers and wounded 25. Simon was also wounded yet continued his mousing duties, preserving precious rations and providing companionship throughout the ordeal. He was awarded a medal and a hero's welcome when the ship returned, but unfortunately died in quarantine.
In 2004, Sergent Rick Bousfield, on receiving news of his unit's deployment home, refused to leave "Hammer," an Egyptian Mao cat who was born on the military base in Iraq. The cat provided companionship and obtained rank by being a champion mouser. He endured mortar attacks with soldiers hiding him within their body armor. Through the help of Alley Cat Allies and several donations, Hammer became a media sensation as he was reunited with Sgt. Bousfield at Denver International Airport. He adjusted nicely to his new family and several cat siblings.
As for the Funny Part...
I leave you with this Cats of War Slide Show. All I can say is that some people have way too much time on their hands! Enjoy!