Thursday, February 23, 2006

Little Dog Served on Submarine Crew of Two Navies in Wartime - How many of us can say that?

This true story was found by Lone Ranger of Stop The Republicans (recommended reading) in answer to my recent query concerning the WWII submarine dog legend.

First, let me remind any unfamiliar readers of some key differences in the submarine service. Apart from space travel, nothing else comes as close to actual '24 - 7' duty for many weeks or months at a time. With questionable air, lack of sunshine and limited storage space for nonessentials, personal sacrifices are a fact of life. Top that off with an environment requiring continuous surveillance and very rapid response to the smallest upsets (leaks, fires, equipment failures or human incapacity). High performance and expertise are required of everyone on demand. Rest can be dicey.

One more thing, during sea battle, hazards and stress are easily magnified 100-fold and higher stress must still be endured. Placid appearing outwardly, submariners are a formidable lot, many consider insane. Why do I bring this up?

Because the dog had to be stressed as well. Any mascot is a rarity on a submarine (and if space permitted, most sailors would prefer a nice round woman to a dog). Unlike modern K-9 police dogs, allowed on duty for just 8 hours a day, a submarine mascot would be subject to the privations, loud noises (especially in WWII) and foul air full time (24-7).

Bacchus (a mongrel dog) - recipient of the Valiant Dog Medal (shown held by his adopted master and the last surviving member [last disputed by Linda Larkin in her comment below] of Rubis's crew, Gaston Sanz, then 82) had been buried with his original medal in France when he died in 1946. "Bacchus would take up the whole bed but I couldn't move him off because he would growl and wake up all the other boys. Then there would be fists and boots flying at me," Sanz recalled. (Interesting tidbit of French submarining).

How loyal was Bacchus? Consider that he won the respect of two navies:
The submarine Rubis joined the French Navy in 1933 as a transporter/minelayer. Displacing only 762 tons, she could transport 32 mines. In June 1940, while the Rubis was mine-laying, France and Germany signed an armistice. Winston Churchill ordered the seizeure of French vessels in English ports giving crew a choice of repatriation or joining the Free French naval forces. Only one officer and a few seamen chose repatriation. Hull modifications enabled Rubis to carry English mines and sail 26 missions to sink 23 ships for the allies. At WWII's conclusion, Rubis's crew received France's Liberation Cross. Months before he received Bacchus's National Canine Defense League medal, Sanz received the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest bravery honour.

Sanz said, The award for my dog means more to me than any of the medals I received during my time in the service. Bacchus was a loyal and loving companion who was by my side through thick and thin. I still miss her today. I will treasure this medal forever and cannot thank the NCDL enough for what they have done today." Bacchus was the first dog to be awarded the Valiant Dog Medal in 1943. "He gave us courage."



At 24 February, 2006 09:37, Blogger Pedro Caleja said...

Hi there

I would like to have your permission to put a copy of this post in my blog

I will give you the credit and put your link in the news.


At 24 February, 2006 16:43, Blogger Vigilis said...

Pedro, permission granted.

At 24 February, 2006 18:52, Blogger Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

Great story. Thanks for the post. I've become a fan and will continue to visit often. Best wishes.

At 25 February, 2006 02:25, Blogger Vigilis said...


Thanks for your support and encouragement.

At 16 July, 2009 07:48, Blogger Linda Larkin said...

Interesting article posted by Vigilis, but some rectification is required: Gaston Sanz was not in fact 'the last surviving member of Rubis's crew'. My father, André Vallois, served on this submarine from 1939 until his demobilisation in 1945 and participated in all of its 28 missions during WWII. He will be 91 this year and is still in good health! Incidentally, he also remembers Bacchus, the Rubis's mascot, often sleeping at the foot of his bunk!

At 04 December, 2009 13:53, Blogger Vigilis said...

Linda Larkin,

Your correction is much appreciated. Original story link has vanished and cannot be corrected. Have just substituted a new link to a less detailed account and noted your exception above.


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