Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Dog Named Chips

This is the true story of a famous dog from World War II.  He won a bunch of awards, had a novel written about him, and also got a movie made about him.  And that's about as famous as a dog can get.

Chips was two years old when America started fighting in the War.  He was a mix of German shepherd, collie, and Siberian husky, and he belonged to the Wren family, who lived in Pleasantville. New York.  The military needed a bunch of dogs to help them fight, so they asked people to give up their dogs to be trained as War Dogs.  Chips got accepted into the Army, and he went to Front Royal, Virginia to learn how to be a sentry dog.  He was very smart, so he learned fast.

Dogs getting weighed at a training camp
When his training was over, Chips and his handler, Pvt. John P. Rowell, went to North Africa with the 3rd Infantry Division.  Chips's main job was to guard tanks, but one time he warned his platoon when they were about to get ambushed.  Then he ran across the battlefield with a phone cable tied to his collar so that the soldiers could call and get some help.

Later on, when General Patton's Seventh Army invaded Italy, Chips and his handler were on the beach, and all of a sudden, Italian soldiers started shooting at them from a little hidden place called a pillbox.  So Chips and Pvt. Rowell couldn't go anywhere because they might get shot if they moved.  But Chips broke loose and ran to the pillbox to attack the soldiers there.  And right after that, they all came out and surrendered.  Chips got wounded a little bit on his head, plus he had some powder burns, but otherwise he was fine.  And later that same day, he helped his platoon capture 10 more Italian prisoners.

Chips gets to meet General Eisenhower
These were the bravest, most famous things that Chips did during the war, and in 1943 he also was the sentry dog during the conference between Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill.  And because of all his brave deeds, he got to meet General Eisenhower, plus he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart.  Which made him the most decorated War Dog ever in history.  But when the Commander of the Order of the Purple Heart read in the newspaper that a dog had won this award, he complained about it to President Roosevelt and to the War Department because he thought only humans should get these awards.

So in the end, all Chips's awards got taken away from him, which doesn't seem fair, if you ask me.  And besides that, military dogs started being classified as "equipment."  But when the war was over, Chips got an honorable discharge and went home to live with his family again.  And his mom, Mrs. Wren, said that even though she thought dogs should get medals, "she had a feeling Chips himself would have preferred a pound of hamburger."

Sadly, Chips only lived about 7 months after he got back home.  He died at age 6 from injuries he had received while he was fighting.  He was buried at The Peaceable Kingdom Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Later on, a book was written about all the adventures Chips had while he was being a War Dog.  Then in 1990, the Disney Company made a TV movie called Chips the War Dog.  I have never seen this movie, and neither has Mom, but maybe we will try to watch it sometime.


  1. Wow...I love Chips! I actually got teary eyed while reading today's blog. Jeez...I am not a crier, whenever I read stories about animals, I can be a real WIMP! I do not like it that Chips was not given the medals due him, but I agree with Mrs. Wren, he probably would have preferred hamburger! I haven't read the book about Chips or seen the movie, but like your mom - will do so someday.
    Love, AP

  2. Hi,

    I am the granddaughter of John P Rowell. I was wondering if any of those picture actually had him in them?

    Thanks, Angela

    1. I really don't know for sure, but I would imagine that one or two of the photos show John P Rowell, since he was Chips's handler. You must be very proud of your brave grandfather!