September 11, 2015 | Posted in War Dogs
The story of Chips, the most decorated war dog of World War II, is the kind that soldiers would give an arm and a leg to live. During his service in the American armed forces, Chips manage to cover himself in glory with a number of documented feats of bravery.
Edward Wren, a civilian from Pleasantville, NY, was the original owner of this German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky mix. Wren donated his pet to serve in the war. After receiving training at Fort Royal, Virginia, Chips began his military career as a sentry dog. As a sentry dog, Chips saved the lives of soldiers on sentry duty by alerting them to the threat of enemy soldiers who would sneak up on them under the cover of darkness. As part of the 3rd Infantry Division, this brave dog saw action in North Africa, Italy, and also Germany. The 3rd Infantry Division was a part of the seventh army under the illustrious General Patton and Chips was often in the thick of the action as a tank guard dog in both Europe and North Africa.
Chips was handled by Pvt. John P. Rowell and it was under him that he executed acts that have endeared him to generations of knowledgeable dog lovers. On the morning of July 10, 1943, Chips and his master landed on the shores of Sicily to the sound of machine gun bullets and screaming shells. Pvt. Rowell saw a hut and tried to head toward it in hope of getting shelter but the hut turned out to be a pill box manned by Italian soldiers. Both man and dog came under heavy fire. Chips decided to settle matters in his own way and rushed toward the pill box; pretty soon a strange sight greeted the soldiers who only moments before had been under accurate fire from the pill box. An Italian solider stumbled out with Chips’ teeth locked on to his jaws. He was followed by three other soldiers who exited their shelter with their hands behind their heads. One of the soldiers had managed to get off a shot at Chips, but the dog was leading a charmed life that day and he escaped with a grazing wound. In fact, his injuries were not even considered serious enough to send him to the rear; he stayed on the frontlines and during that very night saved the lives of his master and other soldiers by warning them of the approach of ten Italian soldiers that were approaching them.
The action that Chips saw on this day resulted in his name being recommended for a citation for “single-handedly eliminating a dangerous machine gun nest and causing the surrender of its crew.” Chips was decorated with a Silver Star and a Purple Heart; however, this was contrary to military conventions and after a three-month deliberation by a body no less than the U.S Congress, these medals were taken away. Not that it mattered to Chips.
Chips participated in eight campaigns and was awarded battle stars by his unit for each of them.
Perhaps the best part of Chips’ saga is that after the war he was re-united with the Wren family. That’s akin to winning the highest medal for bravery and living to tell the tale. Chips lived for seven months more and left this world at the age of six; his demise hastened by the injuries he sustained in the line of duty. Chips, the War Dog is the name of a Disney film released in 1990; it was based on the life of this heroic dog.