Dogs are a semi-common sight on the battlefield, but one you wouldn’t expect to see is a Yorkshire Terrier. Despite the breed’s small size, one served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and was recently awarded the Animals in War & Peace Distinguished Service Medal.
Named Smoky, the four-pound, seven-inch-tall Yorkshire Terrier was posthumously awarded the medal on March 9, 2022. At the ceremony, she was recognized for her “exceptionally meritorious service to our nation in a duty of great responsibility.” It was attended by the granddaughter of Smoky’s owner. William “Bill” Wynne passed away in April 2021.
The Animals in War & Peace Distinguished Service Medal is the highest honor animals can receive. It recognizes “the roles and contributions of United States service animals and their valiant human handlers for bravery and acknowledging their valor and meritorious achievements.”
Smoky served with Bill Wynne in 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron in the Pacific Theater. An American soldier found her in a foxhole in New Guinea, and while initially believed to belong to the Japanese was later determined to not have an owner. She was sold to Wynne for $6.00.
While in the South Pacific, Smoky survived 150 air raids in New Guinea and a typhoon on Okinawa. She also participated in 12 air-sea rescue and reconnaissance missions, and even once parachuted from 30 feet, using a parachute specifically made for her. During her service, she is credited with not just saving Wynne’s life, but the lives of other soldiers, by warning them of incoming enemy fire.
Smoky gained her hero status while helping Signal Corps engineers build an airbase at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon. They needed to run communications wires through a 70-foot-long pipe that only had an 8-inch diameter. As soil had made its way inside, Smoky was only provided around 4 inches of headway while traveling through the pipe.
It’s estimated her work in Luzon saved the ground crewmen from moving 40 fighter jets and reconnaissance planes and the construction detail from having to dig up the taxiway. If this had been done, the 250 crewmen would have been in danger of being bombed by enemy aircraft.
— Janine Stange (@THEANTHEMGIRL) March 11, 2022
Along with her service in the air, Smoky is also credited as being the first recorded therapy dog. During their downtime, Wynne taught the Yorkshire Terrier hundreds of tricks, which they used to entertain the other soldiers in their unit. The pair would also visit the wounded in hospital.
According to Wynne, they encountered one soldier who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and, as such, would not speak or react with others. When a nurse placed Smoky on his lap, he immediately smiled and began communicating with medical staff.
Wynne had to smuggle Smoky aboard a ship to bring her back to Cleveland. Back in the US, he found work as a photojournalist and a research photographer for NASA. Smoky died in 1957 and was buried in a World War II-era ammo box, beneath a tree in the Rocky River Reservation. It was the same tree Wynne and his wife, Margie, had carved their initials and a heart when they became engaged prior to the war.
In 2005, Smoky’s remains were transferred to the base of a monument for her and “Dogs of All Wars” in Lakewood, Ohio.