How a Great Dane Made Her Mark
The Dog Who Won Two Blue Cross Medals in World War II
Soldiers understand the threatening reality of explosives in warfare. Some specialize in the most conventional and unconventional explosives to ensure the safe disposal of such devices. These brave men and women are called Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians. These military personnel are on call to respond to any type of ordnance, including chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. According to the Navy Careers Website,
“Whether getting the job done in a bomb suit or by utilizing state-of-the-art robotic technology, Navy EODs are trained to use the most advanced tools of their kind in a role that’s vital to the safety of servicemembers and civilians.”
In other words, people without proper training shouldn’t dabble in such a dangerous profession. But what about dogs? Specifically, what about a Great Dane in Europe during World War II?
Hitler’s reign of terror included regular bombings all over the European Theatre. Germany dropped 2,393 incendiary devices during the Blitz.
What is the Blitz?
From September 7, 1940–May 11, 1941, Nazi Germany conducted an intense bombing campaign against the United Kingdom. For eight months, the Luftwaffe (German Airforce) strafed large cities including Bristol. On one such bombing run, an incendiary device ripped through the roof of a house where a Great Dane named Juliana lived. According to the American Kennel Club, Great Danes are gentle giants, loved for their joyful spirits and loving companionship. Some might believe that these attributes prevent this breed from being a watchdog. On the contrary, they also function as alert home guardians. Juliana fit this description.
On a Spring Day in April of 1941, a bomb designed to trigger a fire tore a hole in the roof of Juliana’s home. Instead of cowering in the corner or crawling under her Master’s bed, the Great Dane walked over to the smoldering device and peed on it, marking her territory. Of course, having a bladder the size of a two-liter bottle of soda aided in extinguishing the fiery projectile. For her heroic service in saving the family’s home, she was awarded the Blue Cross medal. (The Blue Cross medal was originally awarded to military horses in World War I. The honor was later widened to include other animals who committed acts of bravery.) But Juliana’s heroism wasn’t over.
In November of 1944, a fire broke out in her owner’s shoe shop. Juliana alerted her family, and everyone was able to escape before any lives were lost. Once again, the Blue Cross Medal was bestowed upon this loyal Great Dane. Sadly, Juliana died in 1946. An unidentified suspect slipped poison through the owner’s mail slot and she ingested it.
The tales of Juliana’s long forgotten heroism came to light in 2013.
In an auction held in Bristol, England, a watercolor portrait of Juliana and her second Blue Cross medal came up for sale. A small plaque adorned the painting, recounting her second act of heroism…warning her owners of a fire in their place of business. The plaque read,
“To Juliana for the second time, saved her Master’s family from fire.”
Auctioneer Philip Taubenheim said of Juliana,
“These items tell a fantastic story and highlight the often-forgotten role that animals played in the war.”
The auctioneer guessed the portrait and medal would fetch about £60 ($84 American dollars) Instead, this historic memento sold for a whopping £1100 ($1,533 American dollars). The winning bid came from an anonymous buyer, obviously someone who loved dogs and wanted to preserve the memory of this devoted pet.
Juliana didn’t serve on the front lines nor was she ever officially classified as a military dog. But in a time of war, she exhibited courage and proved the old adage true, “A dog is a man’s best friend.”