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Inborn loyalty and ingenuity: how a tiny york became a US military hero

While on the coast of New Guinea during World War II, Ed Downey tried to get the jeep out of the mud and was shocked to hear a dog's whine coming from a nearby trench. Making his way through the tall weeds on that March day in 1944, he sensed movement and found a tiny Yorkie. How was the fate of the dog during the war, the newspaper said New York Post.

Photo: Shutterstock

“A pair of dark eyes, glittering in the dim light, looked at him pleadingly. They seemed disproportionately large for the wet shock of hair they lived in, ”writes Damien Lewis in Smokey the Brave: How the Yorkshire Terrier Mascot Became a Comrade in Arms during World War II.

Downey, not a dog lover, gave the puppy to another member of the squad, who passed it on to Downey's tent neighbor, Bill Wynn. He immediately took the adorable dog, which another member of the squad called Smokums because of its "smoky gray-blue color."

“She was so unrealistically small that when she stood next to Wynne's boot, she did not exceed it,” writes Lewis. “What struck Wynne the most was the deep amber brown eyes — they had a spark of innate dedication and intelligence.”

Smokey's weight was 1,8 kg, height at the withers - 180 mm.

Wynn, who learned to train dogs while still at home in Cleveland, shortened her name to Smokey and began teaching the foundling different tricks. He began with simple commands: “sit”, “place”, “come to me”, “shot”. And Wynn brandished his pistols and Smokey pretended to be dead.

Smokey had a significant impact on Wynn and his comrades. Headquartered in the Pacific Ocean, their only entertainment was Tokyo Rose's radio broadcasts, which broadcast anti-American propaganda.

To let off steam, the team played softball on a bulldozer-blown strip of land. Smokey attended games "chasing every ball that flew in her direction."

During one of these games, she chased the ball "like a bullet from a pistol."

When Yank Magazine announced a mascot competition, Wynne was delighted to introduce Smokey.

He photographed the dog wearing his helmet. But in order to win, the soldier came up with another idea.

Wynn designed a tiny parachute strap for Smokey. One of his companions climbed high up a tree to throw it out, while two others held a blanket below to catch the dog, and the fourth took pictures.

At Winn's signal, Smokey and her parachute were dropped from a high branch. The dog rushed to the ground, "its four legs were set wide apart, as if it was preparing for a proper landing," and the parachutist landed in the center of the blanket, prompting loud exclamations from the squadron.

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Smokey performed this jump four more times, but on the next jump, a strong gust of wind knocked down the parachute, and Smokey fell to the ground, far from the blanket waiting for her.

“She jumped on impact and squeaked in pain; did a somersault in the air with her head bent at a strange angle, writes Lewis. "After a few moments, she fell to the ground again and lay motionless."

Wynn, "gripped by fear," rushed to the dog.

By morning, Smokey was better, but Wynne was furious with himself for putting his beloved dog in danger. He turned down the parachute photos and used a photo of Smoky resting in a helmet to enter the competition.

Soon after, Wynn developed a fever and was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors concluded that he probably had dengue fever.

On the third day of his stay in the hospital, two members of the squad brought him mail and a dog. Smokey was overjoyed, running furiously around the tent and barking. Winn barely persuaded the puppy to sit on the bed, and then opened his mail, which contained a letter from Yank magazine, stating that Smokey had won the competition.

Rumor spread throughout the hospital, and the nurses, noticing a joyful reaction, asked Wynne if they could bring Smokey to the patients, which was an unusual request at the time.

“As soon as Smokey showed up, the gazes of the wounded were fixed on her,” writes Lewis. "Their gazes seemed to soften slightly, regaining their spark and concentration whenever it was within their line of sight."

In 2014, the Animal Planet TV show stated that Smoky's visit to the tent hospital made her the world's first therapy dog, with a record value.

Smokey continued to visit patients until Wynne was discharged from the hospital.

In January 1945, his squadron was transferred to the Philippines, where battles against the Japanese were fierce.

The following month, they faced a potentially devastating dilemma. The squad's mission depended on their ability to transmit coded messages that contained intelligence about the enemy they had collected for the field commanders.

In heavy fighting, the communications center was damaged. To repair it, the wire had to be passed through an underground culvert 70 feet (21 m) long and 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter under an important taxiway. It would take three days and dozens of people to excavate this taxiway. Moreover, it was dangerous and would interfere with air operations.

There was only one solution to the problem, not associated with a risk to human lives: send Smokey through a culvert with a cable tied to it. It would only take a few minutes and keep everyone safe. However, Smokey was in great danger.

Wynne agreed to the terms that all aerial activity above them would cease while Smokey was underground, and if Smokey got stuck, they would dig her right above her location in the culvert.

He checked three drain pipes under the taxiway. Two were completely blocked, and one was found to have about 4 inches (10 cm) of visible space through which Smokey could pass. They chose this tube for the mission.

One end of the wire was attached to Smokey's collar. Wynn put the dog in the pipe hole and rushed to the other end. He lay down on the ground, pressed his face to the pipe and shouted: "Come on, Smokey, come on!"

After a moment's hesitation, Smokey made her way to the pipe, scratching the bottom with her tiny paws as the commander unrolled the wire. But about halfway through, the mission stalled. The wire got stuck, and as Smokey struggled to free herself, it kicked up a storm of dust. Now no one could even see the dog in the pipe.

However, after a few tense seconds, the wire was released and Smokey jumped into Wynne's arms.

The mission was accomplished.

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Wynn went home in August 1945 when the war came to an end. Returning soldiers were ordered to leave all pets, but he ferried Smokey aboard the ship home in an oxygen mask.

After the war, Wynn and Smokey performed their stunts, including wounded veterans at Cleveland military hospitals.

Wynne worked as a flight photographer until 1953, when he joined a photo studio at the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. A year later, he released his beloved pet from performances.

When Smokey died on February 21, 1957, Plain Dealer published an obituary describing her accomplishments. On the day the article was published, Wynn's wife, Margie, received a call from a local woman named Grace Guderian, who had worked as a field hospital nurse during the war.

Guderian explained to Margie that "she lost a female Yorkshire Terrier in New Guinea in early 1944."

Her fiancé bought her a dog in Brisbane and she named her Chrismas. At the time, Smokey was probably the only Yorkshire Terrier in all of New Guinea. Both women quickly realized that Chrismas was Smokey.

However, Christmas was lost 180 miles (290 km) from where Smokey was found. How she managed to overcome such a distance is unknown.

It turned out that on the day of her disappearance, Chrismas Guderian went to a show at her base starring comedy legend Bob Hope, who regularly performed for American soldiers abroad during the war.

After the show, Hope traveled to other bases, including one near where Wynne was stationed. Although there were frequent flights between bases, it seemed plausible that the world's most incredible Yorkshire Terrier had made the trip with one of the world's most popular entertainers.

Memorials honoring Smoky include:

  • Cleveland Metropolitan Park, Rocky River Reservation, Lakewood, Ohio (Smokey's final resting place)
  • Smoky Monument in Lakewood, Ohio
  • AKC Dog Museum in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Hickam AFB in Hawaii, Smoky Aerial Reconnaissance Area
  • Eastlake, Ohio, Smokey and the Dogs of All Wars
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine: Four Pounds of Courage
  • Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • Smoky was awarded the PDSA Certificate for animal bravery and dedication in April 2011.

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