The last hero to be honored by the US government weighed just 4 pounds – meet Smoky, the first war dog to be awarded the Animals in War and Peace Distinguished Service Medal.
Although Smoky earned her medal on Wednesday, she served in World War II, helping her owner, Corporal Bill Wynne, survive. After Wynne bought the tiny Yorkshire Terrier for two Australian pounds (about US$6) in 1944, she accompanied him on his combat flights, including 12 air/sea rescue missions, according to Wynne’s book at his subject, Yorkie Doodle Dandy.
While she went on a mission with Wynne and was credited with alerting soldiers to incoming fire, her greatest adventure was helping the US Army Signal Corps build an air base in Luzon. , in the Phillippines. Engineers had to run cables through a 70-foot pipe to enable communication through the base. Without Smoky’s help, it would have taken 250 soldiers to keep things running for three days while digging the pipe to lay the wire – and that’s apart from the danger of enemy shelling while they worked at the outdoors.
Smoky, however, fixed the issue within minutes. His small size allowed him to crawl through the pipe with the wire.
“I tied a string [tied to the wire] at Smoky Pass and ran to the other end of the culvert,” Wynne told NBC-TV after the war. He called her and although she paused first, she went through the whole pipe.
“I called and pleaded, not knowing for sure if she was coming or not. Finally, about 20 feet away, I saw two small amber eyes and heard a faint moan… 15 feet away distance, she broke into a run. We were so happy with Smoky’s success that we cuddled and praised her for a good five minutes,” Wynne said.
In addition to his heroism in helping build the airbase, Smoky is the first registered therapy dog, according to Animal Planet. Shortly after her adoption, Wynne caught a case of dengue fever and was hospitalized for five days, according to National geographic. While in the hospital, some of Wynne’s friends visited Smoky. The nurses asked if they could show it to some of the other patients – and Wynne agreed.
Soon word spread and Smoky and Wynne found themselves doing rounds together in Australian hospitals to help soldiers recover.
“There’s a complete change when we walked into the room,” Wynn said. National geographic. “They all smiled, they all loved it.”
She continued to help soldiers with her hospital rounds long after World War II, not retiring until 1955, a full decade after the war ended. She died two years later at age 14.
Like many war heroes, Smoky has a number of monuments dedicated to him. She was buried in a monument in Lakewood, Ohio, but she also has statues honoring her in Missouri, Hawaii, Tennessee and Brisbane, Australia.
As for Wynne, he received two Presidential Unit Citations and eight Battle Stars, according to the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. He then became an award-winning journalist for the Cleveland Plain Dealership, Pulitzer finalist, award-winning photographer and vice-president of the Yorkshire Terrier National Rescue. Wynne died on April 19, 2021 at the age of 99.