Soviet Dog Mines
Warning: If you are an animal lover, a member of PETA or don’t have a strong stomach read no more. What follows is historically true, and history is not always pretty.
As with many other European armies, the Soviets maintained a number of “war dogs” for various jobs including sniffing out explosives, or delivering messages or medical supplies. Nothing however was more bizarre than the use of dogs as anti-tank weapons. How the idea of dogs as mobile anti-tank mines emerged is unclear but they did see limited use on the Eastern Front.
The basic idea was that dogs were trained to dive under enemy tank whenever they appeared. Each dog carried on its back explosives, either on a harness or in a wooden box, from the top of the explosives protruded a wooden pole that looked like a whip antenna. When this post was pushed back (when the dog went under a tank) it would trigger the detonation of the explosive pack; sometimes wire coil sensors were used in place of the wood post. The detonation destroyed both the tank and the dog (in fact the detonation of that force would probably turn the dog into a fine red mist).
For all the simplicity of the idea, the dog mines did not last very long. The Red Army soon discovered that there were two main disadvantages to the idea. One was that in order to train the dogs to dive under tanks they were always fed underneath tanks to desensitize them to the machines. This is good in theory, but to a dog on the battlefield, the sounds and smells of a Soviet tank were very different than those of the German tanks. Thus, given the choice of ducking under a German tank or the familiar Russian tank, the dogs would frequently dive beneath the friendly Soviet tanks. The problem is obvious, the dogs were destroying their own tanks and killing their own men.
The second snag was that the Germans soon leaned of the Soviet Hundimenin and spread word through the Reichstag media machinery that all Soviet dogs likely to be encountered were rabid and were to be shot on sight. This alone caused the virtual disappearance of dogs all along the Eastern Front within a matter of days, making the further use of dog mines that much more impractical.
One other factor was that the dog frequently came unhinged due to the confusion of battle, causing them to sprint randomly away from shell detonations and cannon fire. All these explosive dogs running around were hazardous to all the infantry, but mostly the Soviets, who were closest to the dogs.
Despite all these problems the dog mines did have a few successes, but their period of ‘action’ was short once their two edged nature was recognized. The idea was not used after 1942, but there were some reports of the Viet Minh attempting to use dog mines during the fighting in Indo-China during the late 1940s. Some reports as late as 1945 included information on the dog mines, presumably in the event of their reintroduction.
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Sources: “The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II” and too many hours watching The History Channel