Smoky The War Dog

In 2003 in Memorial Field on Valley Parkway, the Cleveland Metroparks dedicated a statue to the smallest war hero and the dogs of all wars. She stood only 7 inches tall and weighed only 4 pounds yet this little soldier won 8 battle stars on 12 combat missions. Smoky the Yorkshire Terrier was probably the cutest service member in WWII.

In February of 1944 in the New Guinea jungle, American soldier Ed Downy found Smoky in an abandoned foxhole. Thinking she may have been a pet of a Japanese soldier he took her to a nearby POW camp. But Smoky did not understand commands in Japanese or English.  Mr. Downy gave Smoky to Motor pool Sargent Dare who then sold Smoky to Corporal William A Wynne for 2 Australian pounds.  He sold her so he could return to his poker game.

In the next 18 months, Smoky lived in tents and shared C-Rations with Corporal Wynne.  They backpacked in the New Guinea jungles and went on combat flights. She spent hours dangling from a pack and even jumped from a 30 foot tower with a specially made parachute. Smokey served in the South Pacific with 5th. Air Force, 26the Photo Recon Squadron and flew 12 air/sea and photoreconnaissance missions. Smoky was credited with 12 combat missions and awarded 8 battle stars.  Corporal Wynne credited Smokey to saving his life while they were on a transport ship. As the ship deck was booming and vibrating from anti aircraft gunnery, Smoky guided Wynne to duck the fire that hit 8 men standing next to them

In January of 1945 Smoky’s status was elevated to War Dog and Heroine when she rose to the challenge to serve her country in a most unusual way. Corporal Wynne’s group was helping revamp a former Japanese airfield for use by American planes.  They needed to string communication wire under the airstrip which was a major challenge.  This three day job would have required digging up the airstrip and putting it out of action for that time leaving it vulnerable to Japanese bombing. Smoky solved the problem by helping guide the wire. They tied a string to her collar and Corporal Wynne coaxed her through the eight inch pipe under the runway.  She climbed through piles of sand accumulated in the 70 feet of pipe to bring the string out on the other side. Smoky’s special mission in the combat area of the Lingayen Gulf on Luzon resulted in teletype and phone lines being activated for the U.S. and Allied forces.

Not long after Wynne adopted Smoky, he caught dengue fever and was sent to the 233rd Station Hospital. After a couple of days, Wynne’s friends brought Smoky to see him. The nurses were charmed by the tiny dog and her story, they asked if they could bring her around to visit with other patients who had been wounded in the Biak Island invasion. For five days while he was in the hospital, Smoky slept with Wynne on his bed at night.  In the morning the nurses would collect her to take her along on patient rounds to help cheer up the patients.  At the end of the day they would return her to Wynne to spend the night with him again.

Smoky had a powerful effect on the soldiers in the hospital. She lightened the mood with her presence and her personality and Wynne noticed it.  They laughed as she chased the butterflies, and of course, they loved the tricks Wynne had taught her mostly to relieve the tedium.

The duo’s repertoire started modestly enough with basic commands, and Wynne soon had his diminutive charge playing dead. When Wynne would point one finger at her and yell “bang!” not only would Smoky fall over to the ground at the command, but she also would lie there listless while Wynne came over to poke and prod her and even as he lifted her from the ground.

Wynne eventually trained her to ride a homemade scooter, walk a tightrope and even spell her own name.  He had large cutout letters set out, and as he called them out to her Smokey would pick them up in order.

Word of their act spread, and while Wynne and Smoky were on convalescence furlough in Australia, they were invited to perform at a few hospitals. As he watched the men in wheelchairs holding Smoky in their arms, he could see the difference that the tiny dog was making. “There’s a complete change when we came into the room,” he says. “They all smiled; they all loved her.”

Smoky was hardly the only dog aiding in the recovery of wounded veterans in the aftermath of the Second World War. At an Air Force convalescent home in Pawling, New York, the medical staff witnessed the remarkable effect one dog had on a reluctant patient, completely changing his mental outlook. After that, they brought more dogs into the hospital and eventually built a kennel on the grounds to house them all.

The trend caught on, and in much the same way patriotic owners volunteered their dogs to serve with American forces fighting overseas, they brought their pets to serve as hospital dogs to provide uplift for injured soldiers as they recovered from their wounds. By 1947 civilians had donated about 700 dogs. In many ways, these dogs were the first therapy dogs, whose curative abilities were not only recognized but also harnessed to great effect.  Therapy dogs are still used today, visiting hospitals and nursing homes to help cheer up the patients.

After the war was over, Wynne and Smoky continued to tour hospitals, bringing their act to recuperating soldiers back home. In 1955 at the age of 12, Smoky retired.  Two years later at the age of 14 she died peacefully in her sleep in 1957.

As Bill Wynne remembers her, “She was just an instrument of love.”

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