How Sinbad The Dog Went From Pet To Infamous Coast Guard Mascot

The U.S. military has long made use of animals in its day-to-day operations. For example, dogs are used in bomb detection, sniffing out contraband, and combat tracking, according to the Government Publishing Office. Horses are still used, albeit largely for ceremonial purposes such as parades. Dolphins, beluga whales, and even mules are also put to work in various military capacities.

And then there are the animals that just kind of show up in some military context or another — perhaps a stray that the troops took compassion on and who'd become sort of official-unofficial part of the team. There have been several throughout history, including a bear who was in the wrong place at the wrong time (or the right place at the right time, depending on your point of view) and became an honorary Polish soldier (via Time). The U.S. has had this kind of four-legged "soldier" as well, and at least one even outranked his colleagues, if only ceremonially.

Sinbad reports for duty

In 1938, according to the USCGC Campbell Association, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell adopted a pup, described as "mixed-breed" (the Government Publishing Office asserts that he was a rottweiler) named Sinbad. According to We Are The Mighty, a seaman named A. A. "Blackie" Rother intended to give the pup to his girlfriend as a gift, but when she couldn't accept the animal, it instead came aboard the ship.

Sinbad didn't just join the crew of the Campbell as a pet: he "filled out" enlistment paperwork (doubtless with the help of his friends), he "signed" his enlistment papers with a paw print, was issued a uniform (photos show him wearing a helmet and flak jacket), and was issued a rank and paid accordingly. He had his own duty station and bunk, and would be assigned to watches. When he retired, his rank was K9C, or Chief Petty Officer, Dog. He also saw action, in a manner of speaking, during World War II.

Sinbad's service record was mixed

Sinbad's "service" on board the Campbell wasn't just a joke that was tolerated by the ship's captain and, more broadly, the military as a whole. He was intended to be used as a public relations tool whenever the ship visited Allied ports, according to We Are The Mighty. Unfortunately, he was bad at it.

Sinbad had a fondness for the hooch, and would often return from shore leave hammered (please don't give alcohol to your dogs, even as a joke, per MasterClass). When he was in port he did what dogs do, including making friends with other dogs in town. He also went AWOL more than once. For his multiple indiscretions, he was reduced in rank a couple of times. Conversely, he also won multiple awards for valor in his service.

A biographer summed it up (via We Are the Mighty): "Sinbad is a salty sailor but he's not a good sailor. He'll never rate gold hashmarks nor Good Conduct Medals. He's been on report several times and he's raised hell in a number of ports. On a few occasions, he has embarrassed the United States Government by creating disturbances in foreign zones. Perhaps that's why Coast Guardsmen love Sinbad, he's as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us." Sinbad died in 1951 at the age of 13 and was laid to rest at Barnegat Light Station (per the U.S. Coast Guard).