HELENA — David Armstrong, who trained and worked with Army sled dogs during World War II and co-founded the Race to the Sky sled dog race, has died. He was 100.
Armstrong died Tuesday night, retired Maj. Gen. Gene Prendergast said in asking for a moment of silence at Thursday’s Hometown Helena meeting, the Independent Record reported.
Armstrong was the last known living member of Camp Rimini, one of two places where hundreds of dogs were trained for the Army’s K-9 Corps in World War II. Armstrong was stationed in Newfoundland, where he and his dogs aided in recovering downed personnel and sensitive equipment from aircraft wreckage sites in Greenland and Baffin Island.
Camp Rimini was established in 1943 and over a period of 18 months troops trained about 800 sled and pack dogs, according to information from the Race to the Sky organization.
Armstrong co-founded the Race to the Sky to preserve the legacy of the dogs and the soldiers that trained at Camp Rimini in the mountains west of Helena.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, read a tribute to Armstrong into the Congressional Record in December, recognizing his military service and his 100th birthday.
Daines called Armstrong “a distinguished World War II veteran who played a pivotal role in the U.S. Army’s plan to liberate Norway from Nazi occupation” as well as a number of search and rescue missions across northern Europe.
Last month, Armstrong was presented with a Congressional Record commendation and a “challenge coin,” which Daines gives to Montanans to honor them for special achievements, at a small ceremony at his home.
“It’s awfully nice, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” Armstrong said a the time. “Anybody could do it.”
Armstrong’s son, Mark, spoke on behalf of the family, saying they were grateful for the honor and praised his father.
“He was one of the best dads I could have ever asked for,” he said on March 16. “What he did after the war was pretty amazing.”
“He’s had a very interesting and rewarding life,” Mark Armstrong told the newspaper.
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