By Linda Cole
Smoky was a stray Yorkshire Terrier who found herself lost in the jungles of New Guinea during WW II. This bright eyed, brave little Yorkie would go down in military history as a “champion mascot of the Southwest Pacific,” war hero and therapy dog. Smoky garnered so much positive attention that she is credited with giving new life to her breed, which was on the brink of obscurity, and making the Yorkshire Terrier one of the most popular breeds today.
An American soldier found the scruffy looking Terrier in 1944 in an abandoned foxhole deep in the jungle. How she got there was anyone’s guess. The soldier wasn’t a dog lover, but he rescued Smoky and gave her to a sergeant who worked in the motor pool. The sergeant needed cash to get back into a poker game, so he sold the cold, wet and half starved little dog to Corporal Bill Wynne for $6.44.
Wynne and Smoky bonded almost immediately, and for the next two years she rode in Wynne’s backpack around the South Pacific, and spent the rest of the war going on combat flights with him. Wynne was attached to the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron. Smoky wasn’t an official war dog, and didn’t have access to a proper diet or medical care. She slept with Wynne in his tent, and shared his rations. She was a hardy little dog, however, and despite her living conditions she never got sick or injured.
Smoky was so small – no more than four pounds, and seven inches tall – she could fit inside Wynne’s helmet. He didn’t know it at the time, but her small size is how she would earn her war dog reputation. American troops landed at an airfield in February 1945. Afraid the Japanese were planning a counter attack, Wynne’s recon unit needed to set up communications with headquarters to call for reinforcements, if they were needed. The problem was that cables had to be strung underneath the runway without tearing it up. Digging up the runway would mean 40 war planes would have to be moved, exposing them to enemy fire. It would take 3 days to accomplish their task.
A plan was hatched to send Smoky through an eight inch pipe underneath the runway with a string attached to her collar that would then be used to pull the cables through. She would have to crawl 70 feet through the pipe that had sand falling through it at four foot sections. Wynne was afraid Smoky wouldn’t be able to deal with the sand and could become trapped, but there wasn’t any other option. So he tied the string to her collar, ran to the other side of the runway, knelt down to the pipe, and called Smoky.
She was 10 feet in when the string got snagged, but the courageous Yorkie didn’t give up, and kept pulling until the string came loose. Wynne listened to her faint whimpers and continued to encourage her. Suddenly, he saw her eyes appear in the darkness, and she raced out into the open, the string still attached to her collar. In just a matter of minutes, Smoky accomplished a task that would have taken a crew of men 3 days. She is credited with saving the lives of her unit that day.
On his off time, Wynne taught Smoky basic commands and tricks, and was surprised how quickly she learned. She walked a tightrope blindfolded, spelled her name, played dead, sang, and parachuted out of a tree. The dog entertained troops throughout the South Pacific with her endless bag of tricks.
In July 1944, Wynne was recuperating in the 233rd Station Hospital in New Guinea after coming down with dengue fever. His friends brought Smoky to see him, and she snuggled on his bed to wait for him to recover. The nurses loved Smoky and began taking her with them on rounds to help cheer up soldiers under their care. This is where Smoky found her true calling as the first documented therapy dog, a role she continued after the war for 12 years.
Smoky was awarded eight battle stars, and is credited with flying 12 combat missions, air/sea rescue, and photo reconnaissance missions. Throughout the course of the war, the little Yorkie endured 150 air raids and a typhoon. While on a transport ship, Smoky warned Wynne of incoming fire, saving his life just before a shell hit the deck exactly where he had been standing. Smoky, the tiniest war dog, died at her home in Parma Heights, Ohio in 1957. She was 14 years old.
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