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What was the Story of Dexter the US Navy Horse?

Horses were utilized in the Second World War by different troops as transportation for soldiers, artillery, materials, and supplies. While the United States rendered horses obsolete by 1920, several drafted horses were utilized for other jobs back at home instead. But have you heard about Dexter, the US Navy’s last working horse?

Dexter is the US Navy’s very last working horse. He was stationed in Philadelphia to haul trash and passed away in 1968. He was buried with full military honors.

Horses in the US Military During the World War

The United States Cavalry consisted of two mechanized and twelve horse regiments with 790 horses each. John K. Herr, the chief of cavalry, wanted to increase the number to 1275 horses each due to his conservative views. There are two brigades of two horse regiments each, eighteen tanks, and field artillery in a cavalry division.

The only significant engagement of American horsemen during the Second World War was when they were used to defend the Philippine Scouts against Japanese troops. This would be the very last time horses were used in battle. (Sources: Horses and Mules and National Defense)

What Happened to Dexter?

Dexter was a real horse that was drafted for the Second World War. He was initially part of the US Army and later served the US Navy. He was moved to the Philadelphia Naval Home for the retired and disabled sailors.

The Philadelphia Navy Asylum was opened in 1827. Between 1838 to 1845, the site also served as a precursor to the US Naval Academy until the campus was moved to Annapolis. By 1889, the Asylum was renamed Naval Home to reflect its role as a facility for the elderly sailors.

The Naval Home was the final place for Dexter, the horse. After serving as an artillery horse in the US Army, he was transferred to the Navy’s services in 1945. At the home, his job was to haul the trash cart around. Despite his seemingly lowly duties, the residents of the home and the staff loved him.

That horse was more human than animal. He had the run of the grounds and would come to the door of my office every day to beg for an apple or a lump of sugar.

Edward Pohler. Chief of Security at the Naval Home

On July 11, 1968, Dexter stopped eating and was no longer responding to medication. He died at the age of 34 within his stable with very little human intervention. (Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Dexter’s Funeral Rites

Around 400 people, including Navy men and officials in uniform, showed up for his burial the day after his passing. He was placed in a casket 9 feet long and 5 feet wide. It was also draped with an American flag. The Governor of the Naval Home, Retired Read Admiral Flaherty offered final words for Dexter.

Dexter was no ordinary horse.

Retired Rear Adm. M.F.D. Flaherty

As Dexter’s casket was lowered, Gilbert Blunt and Jerry Rizzo played Taps on their instruments. Members of the honor guard folded the flag into a triangle of white stars and presented it to Dexter’s groom, Albert A. Brenneke, a retired aviation mechanic.

He was very gentle and playfu. He liked to nibble on you.

Albert A. Brenneke

Another horse named Tallyho took up residence in the Naval Home around December 1968. But unlike Dexter, he was a gift to the residents and was not part of the US Navy. (Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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