In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Acquisitions Editor Margaret Lovecraft writes about Loyal Forces.
With the recent observance of Memorial Day as well as V-E & D-Day anniversaries, our gratitude swells for those men and women who have served to keep our country safe and our freedom secure. Until working on the book Loyal Forces, though, I had no idea of the important role animals played in assisting American soldiers during the Second World War.
In 2010, the World War II Museum in New Orleans mounted an exhibit on this subject. When curators Toni Kiser and Lindsey Barnes gave me a tour, we saw the potential for a book that could reach people across the country and beyond. The World War II Museum and LSU Press partnered to bring Loyal Forces into being, with authors Toni and Lindsey expanding upon their existing research to offer even more information and images than were featured in the exhibit.
Dogs, mules, pigeons, horses, bats, and spiders aided the war effort in various capacities on battlefront and home front. Loyal Forces explores each species’s contributions in fascinating detail, including recruitment, training, deployment, care, achievements, and postwar life. Period images vividly capture these creatures and their activities, as do photos of their special equipment, certificates, medals, and other artifacts.
Take dogs: Over 10,000 were trained for duty, almost all of them volunteered by their civilian owners. Most served on the home front to patrol the borders, though some 3,000 were sent into combat as sled pullers, messengers, scouts, and mine detectors. Individual stories of bravery and heroism abound, including that of Smoky, a Yorkshire terrier who endured 150 air raids and a typhoon. Because of her small size, she was able to run a telegraph wire through a seventy-foot-long, eight-inch-diameter pipe within a few minutes—something that would have taken humans three days to accomplish. Another example is Caesar, a German shepherd who took a bullet close to his heart but survived and returned to duty three weeks later.
One of the running jokes at the Press is that given the popularity of cats and of the subject of the Civil War, if we could publish a book on “Cats of the Civil War,” we would have a guaranteed best seller. Well, there are cats in Loyal Forces! See them in the chapter on pets and mascots, those animals who provided companionship and moral support to the troops.
Words that come to mind regarding the American animal forces of World War II are respect and admiration: respect and admiration for their amazing and various abilities, for the human ingenuity to utilize those abilities in defense of liberty, for the trust between handler and animal, and for the dedication—sometimes unto death—in seeing a mission through to completion. Loyal Forces keeps alive the memory of these animals’ special service to our country.
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