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On This Day In History...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mar 13, 1942:
U.S. Army Launches K-9 Corps

~~"On this day in 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army begins training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or "K-9 Corps."

Well over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and providing some measure of psychological comfort to the soldiers. The most famous dog to emerge from the war was Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned puppy of German war dogs found in France in 1918 and taken to the United States, where he made his film debut in the 1922 silent film The Man from Hell's River. As the first bona fide animal movie star, Rin Tin Tin made the little-known German Shepherd breed famous across the country.

In the United States, the practice of training dogs for military purposes was largely abandoned after World War I. When the country entered World War II in December 1941, the American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense began a movement to mobilize dog owners to donate healthy and capable animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. Training began in March 1942, and that fall the QMC was given the task of training dogs for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well.

The K-9 Corps initially accepted over 30 breeds of dogs, but the list was soon narrowed to seven: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, collies, Siberian Huskies, Malumutes and Eskimo dogs. Members of the K-9 Corps were trained for a total of 8 to 12 weeks. After basic obedience training, they were sent through one of four specialized programs to prepare them for work as sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs or mine-detection dogs. In active combat duty, scout dogs proved especially essential by alerting patrols to the approach of the enemy and preventing surprise attacks.

The top canine hero of World War II was Chips, a German Shepherd who served with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender. The wounded Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart--all of which were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals."
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Mar 13, 1992:
Quake Rocks Turkey

~~"A 6.8-magnitude earthquake near Erzincan, Turkey, and an unusually powerful aftershock two days later kill at least 500 people and leave 50,000 people homeless.

Erzincan was a provincial capital city of 90,000 people 600 miles east of Istanbul in Central Turkey. The people of the area were no strangers to earthquakes--deadly quakes had struck the area in 1047, 1547, 1583, 1666, 1784 and 1939. It was a Friday evening during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when the 1992 earthquake struck; most people in Erzincan and the surrounding area were sitting down for their evening meal. Seventeen seconds of powerful jolts and rocking began at 7:19 p.m., bringing down buildings and all electricity in the region.

One casualty of the quake was the minaret on top of the Demirkent Mosque—it toppled and fell, killing 27 people. The Uratu Hotel and the Vakif Business Center, both four stories tall, were completely demolished by the tremors and several tall apartment buildings also collapsed because of the earthquake. Approximately 200 other large buildings were demolished, in addition to hundreds of homes. Survivors made their way outside to the pitch-dark streets searching for enough flashlights so that rescue efforts could begin, but little could be done until the light of the next day.

The Turkish military, which had a large presence in Erzincan, spearheaded the relief effort. Thousands of homeless residents fashioned temporary shelters from plastic covering. Many in the region were just returning to their damaged homes on March 15 when a 6.1-magnitude aftershock centered in Pulumur, 43 miles southeast of Erzincan, struck, exacerbating the damage.

In total, authorities claimed that approximately 500 people died from the two quakes. Many observers and relief workers at the scene, though, estimate that the true count may have been closer to 2,000 people."

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Mar 13, 1865:
Confederacy Approves Black Soldiers

~~"On this day in 1865, with the main Rebel armies facing long odds against must larger Union armies, the Confederacy, in a desperate measure, reluctantly approves the use of black troops.

The situation was bleak for the Confederates in the spring of 1865. The Yankees had captured large swaths of Southern territory, General William T. Sherman's Union army was tearing through the Carolinas, and General Robert E. Lee was trying valiantly to hold the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, against General Ulysses S. Grant's growing force. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis had only two options. One was for Lee to unite with General Joseph Johnston's army in the Carolinas and use the combined force to take on Sherman and Grant one at a time. The other option was to arm slaves, the last source of fresh manpower in the Confederacy.

The idea of enlisting blacks had been debated for some time. Arming slaves was essentially a way of setting them free, since they could not realistically be sent back to plantations after they had fought. General Patrick Cleburne had suggested enlisting slaves a year before, but few in the Confederate leadership considered the proposal, since slavery was the foundation of Southern society. One politician asked, "What did we go to war for, if not to protect our property?" Another suggested, "If slaves will make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong." Lee weighed in on the issue and asked the Confederate government for help. "We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves." Lee asked that the slaves be freed as a condition of fighting, but the bill that passed the Confederate Congress on March 13, 1865, did not stipulate freedom for those who served.

The measure did nothing to stop the destruction of the Confederacy. Several thousand blacks were enlisted in the Rebel cause, but they could not begin to balance out the nearly 200,000 blacks who fought for the Union."
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