On this day in 2005, a memorial is dedicated for Smoky, the “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” of World War II. Smoky was a little Yorkshire Terrier who served alongside Corporal William “Bill” Wynne in the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron.
Wynne would call her a “mighty little dog I was fortunate enough to have.”
Corporal Wynne first met Smoky when he was serving as an aerial photographer in New Guinea. Another G.I. had found the dog in an abandoned foxhole. Poor Smoky was skin and bones! Wynne ended up buying her for two Australian pounds (about $6.44). From then on, man and dog were inseparable.
Wynne taught Smoky tricks during his free time, but Smoky also hung out in the darkroom with Wynne when he was working. When air raid sirens sounded, the two would run for cover together. Many soldiers came to believe that Smoky instinctively knew which shelter was best. They began following her to the hole that she chose.
The summer of 1944 brought Smoky unexpected fame.
Yank Down Under magazine announced that it was holding a contest, and it urged G.I.’s to send in photos of their mascots. Wynne jumped at the opportunity, staging a photo of Smoky in his helmet. Then he and a few others created a parachute that would fit Smoky and dropped her from a tree, capturing the moment on film.
Smoky won! She was dubbed “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” and “Champion Mascot of the Southwest Pacific.” Wynne learned of the award while he lay sick in a field hospital. Smoky was soon a fixture there, making the rounds and cheering up sick soldiers.
It was a task that she would be called upon to do repeatedly. Everyone loved Smoky.
In fact, Wynne soon made a startling discovery: Some G.I.s were discussing who would get Smoky if he were shot down during a photo reconnaissance mission. Wynne quickly put a stop to THAT. He prepared a special canvas bag so he could parachute out of a plane with Smoky strapped to his waist. “From now on, she goes with me,” Wynne told the others. “If it happens, we go down together!”
Smoky went on at least a dozen such missions.
Smoky’s biggest feat came during the invasion of Luzon, in the Philippines. An airstrip had been captured, and new communications cables were needed. Normally, such a job could take days as the strip was dug up, cables were laid, and the airstrip was repaired. Smoky took care of the task in mere minutes, squeezing her way through a long, narrow culvert that ran under the taxiway. Sand created obstacles in some portions of the culvert, but she squeezed through, heading toward Wynne’s voice. “She was untrained for the task,” Wynne would later write, “but trusted me so much that she came through although she was lost from sight most of the way.”
Her efforts kept the airstrip operational at a critical moment.
Smoky helped in other ways. She could jump hurdles, climb ladders, and walk tight ropes. She kept the G.I.s entertained, even in the midst of war—and she continued to visit sick soldiers in hospital wards.
Finally, the war came to an end, but Wynne had a big problem: Dogs weren’t allowed on ships returning home. Wynne smuggled Smoky aboard anyway—only to get caught. Fortunately, Wynne was given the opportunity to pay a $1,000 bond to keep her. He readily agreed, backed up by other G.I.s who volunteered to chip in.
Smoky had more adventures at home in America. She proved the worth of therapy dogs in veterans’ hospitals. She had a career in Hollywood. She received medals and honors. Wynne even uncovered the mystery of how Smoky landed in that New Guinea foxhole in the first place.
Naturally, those are stories for another day.
Ace Collins, Man’s Best Hero: True Stories of Great American Dogs (2014)
Nigel Cawthorne, Canine Commandos: The Heroism, Devotion, and Sacrifice of Dogs in War (2012)
Robin Hutton, War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II (2018)
Susan Bahary studios: Smoky
William A. Wynne, Yorkie Doodle Dandy: A Memoir (7th ed.; 2017 )