Philly, the Hero Dog

Christmas is a time to dwell on the positive and miracles. I just learned about a true story that happened in 1917-1918, and it is as positive as you can get. It was also a miracle.

As you know, the First World War started for Americans in 1917. By the summer of 1918, about 2 million U.S. soldiers had arrived in France to fight the Germans. Before the war ended in late 1918, 116,516 Americans had died in that war.

Before deploying to the war, a company of Philadelphia-born soldiers was trained at Camp Mead. One evening, after a rare night in the town, the soldiers of Company A found a stray dog. They took her back to the barracks, hoping to make her Company A’s mascot. The Commander wasn’t happy but allowed the soldiers from Philadelphia to keep her. They named her Philly after their hometown.

Company A, along with the other soldiers of the 315th Infantry, were deployed to France in 1918. Philly was forbidden to go, but a bit of stealth got her on the ship and the frontlines of the War. The boys from Philadelphia loved their Philly.

One night, after a pitched battle, the soldiers of Company A were in their trench and tired to the bone. Most fell asleep. The Germans decided to conduct a sneak attack in the early hours of the morning. They did not know that Philly was wide awake and had heard them long before the American guards. She immediately started barking, hoping to wake the American soldiers, and she succeeded. Company A successfully beat back the Germans. From then on, Philly took up her post as a guard and was so successful that the German commander offered any German soldier the equivalent of 50 Deutsche Marks if they killed Philly the dog.

They never did, and Philly came home with Company A and lived to the ripe old age of 15. The soldiers she saved went on to have families and enjoyed their Christmas celebrations.

After Philly passed, it was decided to have a taxidermist preserve her. Eventually, Philly was donated to the Philadelphia History Museum and has occasionally been on display for the viewing public.


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