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Donkeys were commonly used as pack animals in wartime.
Here, a donkey is seen with a rocket launcher strapped to its back in Turkey. 1930.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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German soldiers pose with their donkey while all three wear gas masks. 1915. Universal History Archive /Getty Images
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A German army dog jumps across a trench in France carrying a message between outposts. 1915.Universal Images Group/Getty Images
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Carrier pigeons were especially useful in World War I as a means of delivering messages.
In this 1918 photo, a British soldier prepares to release a pigeon from inside the safety of his tank. ullstein bild/Getty Images
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Two German soldiers in gas masks sit with their dogs in eastern Prussia. 1932. Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
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A small kitten stands on the shoulder of a British Royal Air Force fighter pilot. Circa 1944.
Many animals were kept in war as mascots and as a means of companionship for soldiers.
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Elephants were particularly useful in the jungles of Asia, where jeeps and other vehicles became bogged down in swampy water.
Pictured, French troops enlisted herds of elephants to carry fighters, as well as supplies, into the jungles of Laos. 1950. Bettmann/Getty Images
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US Army Corporal Matthew B. Tietjen sits with Arry, an army scout dog with a specifically fitted mask like that of his handler, during a gas drill at the army base in Wildflecken, Germany. 1955. Bettmann/Getty Images
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A British sailor stands with the Shotley Barracks mascot monkey sitting atop his shoulder. 1918. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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German Red Cross workers tend to a wounded soldier who was found by a sniffing dog near Soissons, France during World War I. 1918. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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British soldiers put some ammunition into a pack to be carried by a military dog named Mark. 1941.Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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Mark returns to the trench after an ammo run. 1941. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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Wojtek the bear accompanied the Polish II Corps to Italy and helped move ammo during the Battle of Monte Cassino for the 22nd Artillery Supply Company. 1942. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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Kiri, a circus elephant, loads a wrecked car onto a cart during bombing clean-up operations in Hamburg, Germany. Circa 1940s. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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American military dog Sergeant Stubby poses for a portrait while wearing a great coat during World War I. 1917.Wikimedia Commons
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American sailors watch the antics of their mascots: a dog named Fritz and a goat named Bill. 1918.Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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An Egyptian soldier working with the British Army sits with his camel in this photograph. Circa early 1900s. Frank George/Wikimedia Commons
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A World War II British officer and his crew sit with their dog mascot on the deck of their motor launch. 1942.
The dog had injured its leg during a raid on a German tanker. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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Military mascots came in all different sizes and varieties.
Pictured: Eustace the mouse is held by a British crew member on board the LCT 947 craft in Normandy, France. 1944. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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A lab serving with the No 1 Dog Platoon of the British Royal Engineers locates a buried mine at Bayeux, France. Circa 1940s. No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit/Wikimedia Commons
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A British airman smiles for the camera before boarding a ship leaving France and heading to England. Circa 1940.
The ship's mascot, a baby magpie, sits perched on his cap. Wikimedia Commons
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A soldier walks with dogs pulling a small cart loaded up with a machine gun in Paris. 1916. Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images
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Two Canadian soldiers fit a pack onto the back of of a dog during a training exercise in Britain. 1940. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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A message written on rice paper is put into a container and attached to a carrier pigeon by members of British 61st Division in Northern Ireland. 1941. Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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U.S. Marines and their dogs walk through the jungles of Bougainville Island in the Pacific. 1943.
The dogs were an important tool for scouting and running messages. Wikimedia Commons
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British soldiers fix a message to the leg of a bird before it leaves the trench on the Western Front. 1917. William Ivor/Wikimedia Commons
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Jenny the monkey, the ship's pet aboard the British vessel HMS Westminster. Date unspecified.Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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Dr. Julius Neubronner patented a miniature pigeon camera that was activated by a timing mechanism.
The German military attempted to use it for spy purposes during World War I, but results were poor. Wikimedia Commons
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Dolphins like this one have been trained by the U.S. Navy to detect and mark swimmers and divers attempting to commit terrorist acts in the Arabian Gulf. 2003. Veronica Birmingham/Wikimedia Commons
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Animals are still used for various military operations today.
This rat has been trained to sniff out landmines in a field in Tanzania. 2004. Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
30 Vintage Photos Of Badass Animals Fighting In Wars
When it comes to gaining the advantage over the enemy, armies must rely on any number of tactics to ultimately win a war. One such tactic that has been a constant in military strategy since ancient times is the use of animals. Going all the way back to Hannibal's elephants and Genghis Khan's archers on horseback, animals have long played a crucial role in warfare and other military operations.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the role of military animals began to greatly expand, with commanders calling upon animals in a number of new ways, including literally using animals as weapons, keeping them around for moral support, and using them to distribute medical supplies.
Dogs, birds, and even rats played a significant role in World War I for both sides. Carrier pigeons were also then trained to deliver messages between battalions and act as spies, however with mixed results.
In the 1930s, with the coming of World War II, the Soviet military began training dogs to drop bombs in front of approaching tanks. When dogs weren't being used as destroyers of heavy machinery, they were also used by both sides for moving supplies and sniffing out both injured soldiers and landmines.
While dogs and pigeons were being utilized on the front lines of war, equally important were the roles that animals played behind the scenes. It wasn't uncommon in this same era for naval ships and military barracks to keep any variety of animals ranging from mice to monkeys as pets. These animals provided men with a sense of comfort and moral support, helping to distract them from the seemingly never-ending horrors of war.
Of course, for every heroic animal that emerged from a war, there were countless other uses of military animals that failed miserably and resulted in death.
From the heroic to the devastating and everything in between, the photos above reveal the fascinating history of military animals over the last 100 years.
Now that you've investigated the wide use of animals in military operations, check out the first animals in space. Then, take a more in-depth look at Sergeant Stubby, World War I's most decorated dog soldier, and see more of the ways that humans have used animals as weapons throughout history.
Joel Stice holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with more than 10 years of experience in writing and editing, during which time his work has appeared on Heavy, Uproxx, and Buzzworthy.