Dogs are adorable. That’s a fact. Regardless of their breed, coming home and being welcomed by their wet noses and wagging tails could definitely cheer one up after a long tiring day. They are also proof that true love and loyalty need no words, only kind and loving gestures and maybe some kibbles. Dogs have always been part of our lives, whether civilian or military. Just recently, dogs are making headlines in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky decorated Ukraine’s bomb-sniffing dog named Patron for detecting around 250-260 Russian explosives in Chernihiv. There’s also this Belgian Malinois military working dog (MWD) named Max who defected to Ukraine.
In the past wars, especially during World War II, there were quite a number of MWDs that became famous, and for good reasons. One of them was a four-pound Yorkshire terrier named Smoky.
William “Bill” Wyne was raised during the Great Depression in Cleveland, Ohio. His father left them, and his mother could no longer raise him, so he was sent to an orphanage for a while. A portion of his life was spent on the streets, where he bonded with stray dogs. He was fresh out of high school and working at a steel mill when he was drafted into the US Army Air Corps near the end of WWII.
Fast forward to March 1944, Wynne and the USAAC were stationed in Nadzab, New Guinea, and that’s where he would meet someone who would change his life forever: a four-pound, seven-inch tall, thin, and scrawny Yorkshire terrier. One of his tentmates found her in an abandoned foxhole on the side of the road. Another soldier thought the dog’s small body was too hot under all her fur. They sheared her and left her once long and silky hair sticking out like a cactus with its thorns.
Even so, that did not stop Wynne from keeping the poor dog, paying the soldier who found her two Australian pounds. He then decided to call his new companion Smoky.
It was not long after Wynne adopted Smoky that he would catch dengue fever. He was immediately sent to the 233rd Station Hospital, while Smoky was left behind. A few days later, Wynne’s friends brought Smoky to visit him but he would not be the only one who would be happy with her presence, as the nurses were also quickly enamored with the cute little dog and her story. They asked permission to tag Smoky along during their rounds with other patients who were wounded during the Biak Island invasion. For five days, Smoky slept with Wynee on his hospital bed at night, and in the morning, the nurses would fetch her and take her along to cheer up other patients, a job that she was really good at.
Wynne noticed this too. The people loved the quirky things about Smoky, like when she would chase Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterflies that were larger than her. They were also entertained by the tricks that Wynne had taught her, from a simple sitting to playing dead whenever he would point one finger and yell “bang!” at her and lie still even when someone tried to poke or carry her.
The Goodest Girl Until the End
Smoky was not just cute, but she was also a truly clever dog outside of the tricks she learned. She would also prove herself useful in the warzone.
In January 1945, the US was getting ready to invade an island in the Philippines called Luzon. Part of the necessary preparation was making sure that they could get air support from the American bombers. To do that, they would need to run telephone lines under the airstrip for the planes. The problem was that the pipe was only 8-inch wide and 70-foot long. No soldier could ever fit in there.
The soldiers asked Wynne if Smoky could do it for them, and it was not until he was assured that they would dig her out in case she got stuck that he would agree to let her do the task. And so they tied the cable to Smoky’s chest and let her into the entrance of the tunnel while Wynne was on the other side, encouraging her to keep going. And she made it.
Three years later, Smoky’s bravery in that dark and long tunnel would prove to be important. The Japanese would destroy everything around them, and if not for the telephone line, they would not be able to call for air support, and they could’ve been among the rubble that the enemies left.
The Wynne and Smoky tandem would make it out alive. After the war, the two continued to tour hospitals, cheering those who needed some encouragement from the wonder dog of the battlefield. She retired in 1955 and passed in her sleep two years later. She was 14. In 1996, Wynne published a book dedicated to his beloved Smoky called “Yorkie Doodle Dandy.”
Dogs’ lives are much shorter than ours, but the memories of love and laughter they leave in our minds and hearts live forever, just like how Smoky did.