The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Why US Troops Risked Their Lives in WWII to Rescue Horses Kidnapped by Nazis

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why US Troops Risked Their Lives in WWII to Rescue Horses Kidnapped by Nazis

 “Get them. Make it fast.”

In the chaotic last days of the Second World War, Gen. George Patton’s terse command set off a remarkable secret mission to save a group of priceless stallions and brood mares kidnapped on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

The directive might have appeared foolhardy and risky to an outsider but not to the small group of American and German soldiers who put their hostilities aside, desperate to save the world’s most valuable equine prisoners of war, which were being held deep inside enemy lines in occupied Czechoslovakia.

Minutes after Patton’s order, Hank Reed, a Virginia horseman who was the commanding officer of the Second Cavalry in Europe, dispatched one of his soldiers, an accomplished rider from Tennessee, to team up with a Nazi veterinarian. Under cover of darkness, they trekked miles through dense forests and battle-scarred villages to capture the horses and place them under American protection — before the arrival of advancing Russian troops.

The valuable Lipizzaner horses — snow-white and blue-black, many of them Olympic dressage champions — had been stolen from the countries that the Nazis occupied during the war. In addition to gold, jewelry and artwork, the Nazis seized the valuable horses from Poland, Yugoslavia, Italy and Austria.

The Nazis’ goal, according to author Elizabeth Letts in her new book “The Perfect Horse” (Ballantine), was to breed the Lipizzaner with German horses in order to create an equine specimen that was worthy of the German master race.

Horses were central to the Nazi propaganda effort, and Hitler was often shown as “the man who put Germany back in the saddle,” according to Letts. In fact, as soon as he ordered the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and unleashed the grisly chain of events that plunged the world into war, Hitler had important plans for the country’s horses. As Letts writes, “In the blueprint forged for its occupation, a plan was put into place for the ‘rebuilding of Poland’s horse-breeding industry’ for the ‘interest of the German nation.’ ”

To read more on this story, click here: Why US troops risked their lives in WWII to rescue horses kidnapped by Nazis

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