Smoky – war hero and therapy dog honoured

July 12, 2012

It all began so simply. A 4 lb. Yorkshire Terrier trying to escape from a jungle foxhole in New Guinea in March 1944. A Yank dog-hater whose jeep mysteriously stopped suddenly in the middle of nowhere, heard yapping and saw a blond head bobbing up out of the hole. He made the rescue and gave the dog to the motor pool Sergeant, who in turn sold her to me for 2 Australian pounds ($6.44 U.S.) so he could get back in a poker game. With little else to do in spare time in the jungle at Nadzab, a forward U.S. Airbase, I proceeded to train her in obedience and tricks. She soon became YANK Magazine’s “Champion Mascot of the SWPA.” She went through the war surviving on terrible food not fit for dog or man, tropical heat, air raids, kamikaze attacks at sea, flying combat missions and island hopping until war end.

But along the way, starting in Nadzab, New Guinea in July 1944 at the U.S. 233rd Station Hospital she became “the first therapy dog of record.” (Animal Planet research). Hospitalized by Dengue fever, Smoky was brought to visit by buddies and she was allowed to sleep on my bed for five nights. During the day, with permission of the hospital CO, (whom I learned just a few years ago was Major/Dr. Charles W. Mayo, later director of the famed Mayo Clinic), Smoky accompanied the medical team on rounds serving battlefield casualties from the Biak Island invasion. All her needs were taken care of by nurses.

In Brisbane, in August 1944 Smoky served at the U.S.109th Fleet and 42nd General hospitals, escorted by Red Cross Ladies. Smoky was a huge hit doing her therapy with sick and wounded. This continued for 10 years after the war, paralleling a career in show business including appearing on TVs shows. One TV children’s show was broadcast live for 42 weeks in which she never repeated a trick. Strangely, following her death it was found Smoky was born and sold to a U.S. military couple, “at a Veterinary Hospital on a main street, in Brisbane Queensland Australia.” Puppy, “Christmas,” was lost in Dobodura, New Guinea by her nurse owner when getting mixed in the crowd while leaving a live performance of a Joe E. Brown Show.

Through the encouragement of Nigel Allsopp, one of Australia’s foremost animal advocates and dog experts, Smoky is being honoured by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital on an original site where she medically served 69 years ago. I am so proud that she is to be remembered here, the land of our close WWII Ally and in the city of her birth. Unwittingly we began the animal therapy movement which has proven its benefits for many of the maladies brought on during war and peace. Smoky led the way, performing her special magic. Helping cure those in need in the unique way that therapy dogs are so innocently capable of doing.

My sincere thanks to the Board and Staff of Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for establishing this memorial. To the Australian Army Forces who participated in the ceremony honouring ” WWII’s smallest soldier.” Thank you.

William A. Wynne (Bill)
Mansfield, Ohio, USA

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