Cat soldiers: Although natural hunters with strong defensive instincts, cats are generally peaceful animals and usually of no use to humans in warfare. Unlike dogs and horses, they are difficult to train, monumentally disobedient, and remarkably independent. Some claim the U.S. Military tried to use cats during the Vietnam War, but the project was a disaster because the cats would either become distracted or slip into the jungle any chance they got (many claim the entire story is untrue). The Belgium Military tried using cats to deliver letters during war, but this, too, was a dismal failure. Cats are just not concerned with human affairs; lest of all their wars. But some cats have made names for themselves during war and became memorialized for their heroism and sacrifice.
Waving the White Flag: Cats were so revered in ancient Egypt, that if any were captured by Egyptian enemies whole armies were sent to rescue them. An Egyptian general once even surrendered his army to protect cats on a battlefield. The event occurred during a war with Persia. The Egyptians had been dominating the war when a Persian general came up with the idea of capturing cats and releasing them onto the battlefield. When the armies took the field and the Egyptian General saw the battlefield crowded with cats, he surrendered a whole city rather than harm the cats.
By land and by sea: The largest role cats have played in war has been onboard ship, where cats cleared ships of rodents. Sometimes, cats do serve roles other than rat-catchers. They sometimes work as therapy animals, providing sailors with a sense of security and calm.
The most famous cat of modern warfare was Simon, who sailed on the HMS Amethyst, a British Naval Vessel. Simon was smuggled along the ship by a young sailor and hidden in his living quarters. Eventually, the captain and crew became aware of the cat and made it the ship's unofficial mascot. For his part, Simon worked hard to clear the ship of its rodent population. He was known to lay his kills at the captain's feet.
In April of 1949, the ship had to sail up the Yangtze River in China to help another British vessel. On the way up the river, however, the Communists bombarded the ship and it was forced ashore. Simon was seriously wounded during the battle, with shrapnel in his legs and back. Remarkably, Simon was able to pull through the event, and eventually recovered. After assuming his old duties as rat-catcher, Simon added another job to his resume. He began visiting the wounded soldiers and did his best to cheer them up.
Eventually the ship made it out of the Yangtse River and into open waters. The Yangtze Incident became well known, and Simon became quite famous. He was awarded the Dickens Award – the animal award for bravery, marking the first and only time the award was presented to a cat.
Unsinkable Sam: Another well-known cat in modern warfare was Oscar,
also known as Unsinkable Sam. Oscar was on three different ships that were all attacked and sunk, but remarkably
Oscar survived each tragedy. The Bismarck, Cossack and Ark Royal were all torpedoed and sunk during World War II. Each time Oscar went down with the ship, but was rescued and
went on to serve another day.
Another cat, named Andrew, was the mascot of the Allied Forces Mascot Club. Andrew’s particular contribution was that he had a sort of sixth sense and could tell when a bomb was going to strike nearby. When Andrew went for cover, everyone around him knew to duck.
Many other cats served as mascots for different fighting forces. They helped both home and abroad, their calm nature soothing people during obviously stressful times.