c 1943 – 21 Feb 1957
This month’s hero is Smoky, a little dog with a warrior’s heart. Smoky was a four pound, 7 inch tall Yorkshire Terrier who found herself smack in the middle of a war zone in New Guinea during World War II. She dined on military rations and sometimes Spam, took baths in her man’s combat helmet, slept on a blanket made of felt from a pool table. Smoky was not considered an official war dog by the USAF, therefore she was not extended any of the benefits of health care nor diet as the official war dogs received.
It was one special day in February 1944 that Smoky was discovered in an abandoned foxhole in the hostile and dangerous New Guinea jungle. Thinking she belonged to the Japanese the American soldiers brought her to a prisoner-of-war camp where they realized not only did she not understand any commands in English, she also did not understand any Japanese. Soon she was sold by her finder for just two Australian pounds, equal to $6.44 in that year, to PFC Bill Wynne of the US 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron.
For the next two years Smoky rode in Bill’s backpack, together he and Smoky faced the hell that is war. They tramped through New Guinea’s jungle and the Rock Islands where Smoky ran with bare paws upon coral for four months. They endured and survived extreme heat and humidity, disease and predators both man, insect and animal. In addition they flew 12 combat missions together. These flights were filled with fright and peril, Smoky spent many long hours dangling in a soldier’s pack near machine guns warding off enemy fighters. At the Luzon airfield the tiny Yorkie heroine exceeded all expectations when she went into an 8inch diameter pipe and pulled phone wires through its 70 foot length. It took her all of two minutes to complete the task, saving troops the 3 days it would have otherwise taken to dig up the air strip, lay the wires and replace the strip. Smoky saved 40 US fighter planes from peril of enemy bombings. Wynne himself told the story when he appeared on NBC TV:
“I tied a string (tied to the wire) to Smoky’s collar and ran to the other end of the culvert . . . (Smoky) made a few steps in and then ran back. `Come, Smoky,’ I said sharply, and she started through again. When she was about 10 feet in, the string caught up and she looked over her shoulder as much as to say `what’s holding us up there?’ The string loosened from the snag and she came on again. By now the dust was rising from the shuffle of her paws as she crawled through the dirt and mold and I could no longer see her. I called and pleaded, not knowing for certain whether she was coming or not. At last, about 20 feet away, I saw two little amber eyes and heard a faint whimpering sound . . . at 15 feet away, she broke into a run. We were so happy at Smoky’s success that we patted and praised her for a full five minutes.”
Over all Smoky survived 150 air raids on New Guinea and endured a typhoon on Okinawa. She parachuted from 30 feet in the air and saved PFC Wynne’s life by warning him of incoming shells on a transport ship. The deck of the ship boomed with anti-aircraft gunnery as Smoky guided Wynne safely through fire-power that struck eight other men near them.
Smoky performed for the entertainment of troops with Special Services and in hospitals from Australia to Korea. Wynne said Smoky taught him as much as he taught her, and she developed a repertoire beyond that of any dog of her day.
When the war was over, Wynne brought Smoky home to Cleveland. He hid her in a modified oxygen mask carrying case during their sea voyage home. On December 7, 1945 Smoky and Wynne were page one news, complete with photos in the Cleveland Press. She became a sensation and a star. The next ten years they spent traveling to Hollywood and over the world demonstrating her talents. She could even walk a tightrope blindfolded. Smoky starred in 42 live television shows without repeating one trick and was very popular at veteran’s hospitals. According to Wynne, “after the war Smoky entertained millions during late 1940s and early 1950s.”
Corporal Smoky died suddenly on February 21, 1957; she was 14 years old. She lies buried in a WWII .30 caliber ammo box in the Cleveland Metroparks, Rocky River Reservation in Lakewood, Ohio. On November 11, 2005, a bronze life-like sculpture of Smoky sitting in a GI helmet was unveiled there.
Smoky was awarded 8 battle stars, awarded Best Mascot in the South Pacific by Yank Down Under Magazine. She is credited with a renewal of interest in tthe once-upon-a-time obscure Yorkshire Terrier.
This article was researched via online sources but there is a book, Yorkie Doodle Dandy, a memoir written by Bill Wynne of the time he spent with Smoky. If you read it you will find out how Smoky ended up in New Guinea. Mr. Wynne is working on another book, Angel in a Foxhole.