A Dog Faced Hero
Chips, the dog hero of the 3rd Infantry Division, became the most decorated U.S. World War ll working dog after attacking a machine-gun nest during Operation Husky. His bravery throughout the war saved numerous 3rd ID Soldiers’ lives. (Photo from the National Archives) (Photo Credit: Spc. Caitlin Wilkins) VIEW ORIGINAL

The ground shook beneath my paws and my ears ached as everyone dove into the ground. The air around me cracked again and again as the Soldiers fired their weapons back at the mystery enemy ahead. White smoke clung to a small structure ahead, I realized that is where I needed to be. I took off as fast as possible. I could hear Rowell screaming my name behind me, but I didn’t wait.

As Rowell’s voice became distant, the sound of bullets whizzing past my head became more apparent. I picked up as much speed as I could, leaping onto the first man I saw, wrapping my jaws around his neck. The small building quickly filled with chaos while I bit down with all my might, whipping my head back and forth like I was trained to do. The machine gun and mount fell over. He ran out of the fighting position with me still at his throat, and I almost didn’t hear when Rowell started calling my name. I could feel a sharp burning on my head and that’s when Rowell took a closer look at me.

Following the scuffle in the machine-gun nest, military dog Chips’ handler, Pvt. John R. Rowell, most likely tended to the burns on his dog’s head, ensuring the animal was healthy after saving the American group from four enemy Italian soldiers hidden in a guard post.

Chips was one of thousands of dogs used in World War ll as part of the Dogs for Defense program. He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division from October 1942 until he was discharged in December 1945. He served on a variety of missions including the Algerian-Moroccan, Tunisian, Sicilian, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns. His bravery throughout the war quickly made him the most decorated World War II working dog, in keeping with the 3rd ID’s long history of being the most decorated unit with the most Medal of Honor recipients, and the U.S. most decorated service member of World War II, Sgt. Audie Murphy.

A Dog Faced Hero
Chips, the dog hero of the 3rd Infantry Division, returns home to his owners, Mr. Wren and son John, after serving with the division in World War II from October 1942 until he was honorably discharged in December 1945. (Courtesy photo) (Photo Credit: Spc. Caitlin Wilkins) VIEW ORIGINAL

Originally born and raised in Pleasantville, New York, Chips was a family dog. The German Shepherd, Border Collie and Siberian Husky-mix spent the first part of his life with his owners Mr. and Mrs. Wren and their son John. After the U.S. entered the war in 1941, the Dogs For Defense program was established and families across the country were asked to donate their dogs to the war efforts. In 1942, the Wren’s donated Chips and he was sent to the War Dog Training Center in Fort Royal, Virginia. While there he went through rigorous training before being assigned to the 3rd ID in October of 1942.

The war dog started his military career in North Africa through the Algerian-Moroccan and Tunisian Campaigns. In January 1943, he was assigned sentry duty at the Casablanca Conference, a meeting between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, where they finalized Allied plans for the war. Chips and his military police handler were part of the protection force tasked with guarding the leaders throughout the meeting. He then moved with the Division to Sicily in Operation Husky, where he was recognized after breaking away from his handler to attack a hidden machine-gun nest, resulting in the surrender of four enemy soldiers.

Rowell would later describe the incident saying, “There was an awful lot of noise and the firing stopped. Then I saw one soldier come out of the door with Chips at his throat. I called him off before he could kill the man.”

Sources also allege that later that night, while on guard duty, Chips alerted Rowell of ten Italian soldiers trying to sneak into the U.S. camp. The warning allowed the American troops to capture all of the intruders.

According to a New York Times article published in 1944, Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on Nov. 19, 1943, from Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott for “courageous action in single-handedly eliminating a dangerous machine-gun nest and causing surrender of its crew.” He was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in the attack and the Silver Star for bravery.

During his three-year enlistment, Chips met President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight D. Eisenhower. It’s rumored that Chips tried to bite Eisenhower on the hand when he went to pet him. A 1944 New York Times article reported that Chips was also anxious to bite Hitler.

Despite Chip’s bravery during combat, his awards were quickly redacted after complaints they were not meant for animals. Before his discharge, men in his unit unofficially awarded him the Theater Ribbon with an Arrowhead for an assault landing and Battle Stars for the campaigns he participated in.

After his honorable discharge in 1945, he returned to New York to spend the rest of his days with his family, passing away about a year after returning home from his war injuries.

While Chips’ Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart and Silver Star were redacted, he was posthumously awarded the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals Dickin Medal in January 2018. The PDSA Dickin Medal is a British decoration that recognizes animals for their acts of bravery and devotion to duty while serving in the Armed Forces. The bronze medallion includes the inscription, “For Gallantry” and “We also serve” and there is the highest award any animal can receive for service in military conflict.

Lt. Col. Alan Throop, a U.S. Africa Command staff officer assigned in the U.K., accepted Chips’ medal on his behalf. He said, “It is a privilege and an honor to represent Chips and the U.S. Army on this very special day. The soldiers that served during World War II faced untold hardships and the dogs that served alongside them truly helped them defeat the enemy. Chips’ story demonstrates the vital role that these animals played, and continue to play today. I am proud to play a small part in recognizing his actions.”

John Wren flew to the U.K. for the medal presentation.

“Chips was something of a celebrity when he returned from the war, but we were just pleased to have our dog back,” said Wren. “The letters that my father received from the Soldiers that Chips served with prove just what a valuable asset he was to the U.S. Army and I am so thrilled to see his service recognized here today.”

After the Dickin Medal was presented, it was housed at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, before being brought to the 3rd Infantry Division Museum, Fort Stewart, Georgia, on April 13, 2022. The medal is now a part of the museum’s permanent collection, allowing 3rd ID Soldiers to learn more about the division’s involvement in the war.

Chips, the dog hero of the 3rd Infantry Division, was posthumously awarded the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals Dickin Medal in January 2018. The PDSA Dickin Medal is a British decoration that recognizes animals for their acts of bravery and devotion to duty while serving in the Armed Forces. The bronze medallion includes the inscription, “For Gallantry” and “We also serve” and there is the highest award any animal can receive for service in military conflict. After the Dickin Medal was presented, it was housed at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, before being brought to the 3rd Infantry Division Museum, Fort Stewart, Georgia, on April 13, 2022. The medal is now a part of the museum’s permanent collection, allowing 3rd ID Soldiers to learn more about the division’s involvement in the war.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chips, the dog hero of the 3rd Infantry Division, was posthumously awarded the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals Dickin Medal in January 2018. The PDSA Dickin Medal is a British decoration that recognizes animals for their acts of bravery and devotion to duty while serving in the Armed Forces. The bronze medallion includes the inscription, “For Gallantry” and “We also serve” and there is the highest award any animal can receive for service in military conflict. After the Dickin Medal was presented, it was housed at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, before being brought to the 3rd Infantry Division Museum, Fort Stewart, Georgia, on April 13, 2022. The medal is now a part of the museum’s permanent collection, allowing 3rd ID Soldiers to learn more about the division’s involvement in the war. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Robert Wormley) VIEW ORIGINAL
Chips, the dog hero of the 3rd Infantry Division, was posthumously awarded the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals Dickin Medal in January 2018. The PDSA Dickin Medal is a British decoration that recognizes animals for their acts of bravery and devotion to duty while serving in the Armed Forces. The bronze medallion includes the inscription, “For Gallantry” and “We also serve” and there is the highest award any animal can receive for service in military conflict. After the Dickin Medal was presented, it was housed at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, before being brought to the 3rd Infantry Division Museum, Fort Stewart, Georgia, on April 13, 2022. The medal is now a part of the museum’s permanent collection, allowing 3rd ID Soldiers to learn more about the division’s involvement in the war.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chips, the dog hero of the 3rd Infantry Division, was posthumously awarded the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals Dickin Medal in January 2018. The PDSA Dickin Medal is a British decoration that recognizes animals for their acts of bravery and devotion to duty while serving in the Armed Forces. The bronze medallion includes the inscription, “For Gallantry” and “We also serve” and there is the highest award any animal can receive for service in military conflict. After the Dickin Medal was presented, it was housed at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, before being brought to the 3rd Infantry Division Museum, Fort Stewart, Georgia, on April 13, 2022. The medal is now a part of the museum’s permanent collection, allowing 3rd ID Soldiers to learn more about the division’s involvement in the war. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Robert Wormley) VIEW ORIGINAL

In 2019, Chips also received the Animals in War and Peace Medal of Bravery, an American equivalent to the British PDSA Dickin Medal. A statue of Chips has been placed in Lasdon Park in Katonah, New York, about a 20-minute drive from Pleasantville where Chips was raised.

Throughout Chip’s life, he was the epitome of a 3rd ID Soldier. Not a fancy purebred, Chips was a mongrel dog that spent his days sleeping in the dirt with his fellow Soldiers. He was tough and brave enough to single-handedly take down a machine-gun nest and force its occupant’s surrender. He was wily and disciplined enough to stop ten Italian soldiers’ devious ambush. Chips was not without a wicked side, however, as he is also alleged to have bitten the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force on the hand. He became the most decorated dog to serve in World War ll, continuing the Army and 3rd ID’s long history of selfless service, personal courage and duty, true to the 3rd ID’s motto “Not fancy, just tough.”