Smoky, An American Hero

When we think of heroic dogs, we often picture dogs of stature; regal German Shepherds or St. Bernards with their alpine rescues. I don’t know about you, but I would never imagine that a tiny dog like Pinky could save the lives of countless men and help win a war – but that is exactly what happened.


In 1944, during World War II, a Yorkshire terrier standing only 7” tall was found in an abandoned foxhole in the New Guinea jungle. Corporal William A. Wynne of Cleveland Ohio adopted the dog and named her Smoky.

WWII Service

Smoky slept in Wynne’s tent on a little blanket made from the green felt cover of a card table and Wynne shared his C-rations with her. Smoky braved the dangers and hardships of war backpacking along with Corporal Wynne. Over the next two two years, Wynne and Smoky survived air raids, typhoons and 12 combat missions together. Smoky was much more than just a bystander. According to National Geographic Magazine, “Every day waves of Japanese planes attacked the Allied airfield at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands. The onslaught was taking a toll on communication, and the American commanders urgently needed to run telephone lines through a pipe that stretched roughly 70 feet underground from the base to three separate squadrons, but they lacked the proper equipment. The pipe was just eight inches in diameter, and the only way to put the lines in place would be to do the job by hand—having dozens of men dig a trench to get the wires underground, a dangerous job that would’ve taken days and left the men exposed to the constant enemy attacks. Instead, they pinned their hopes on an unconventional solution: send a tiny Yorkshire terrier through the pipe with kite string tied to her collar. The string could then be used to thread the wires through the pipe”. Calling to her, coaxing her forward was Wynne. The little dog reached the other side, the communication network was established, and she was credited with saving the lives of some 250 men and 40 planes that day. That was just the beginning of Smoky’s contribution.

First Therapy Dog

While Wynne was in the hospital after contracting dengue fever, his friends decided to bring Smoky to visit him. Smoky’s antics and amazing repertoire of tricks brought such delight to the other patients, the nurses asked if she could stay. Commanding Officer Major Dr. Charles W. Mayo of the famed Mayo Clinic gave his approval. This was a pivotal moment. By allowing Smoky to stay in the hospital, Dr. Mayo recognized the healing power and joy that a dog could bring to patients and that it was safe to have a dog in a medical environment. As a result, Smoky became the very first therapy dog. Smoky would sleep on the bed with Bill at night and during the day, she would accompany the nurses tending incoming casualties from the Biak Island Invasion. Later, while on leave in Australia, Bill and Smoky were staying at an American Red Cross facility and were asked to visit sailors and marines at the 109th Fleet Naval Hospital.

After the War

After both proudly serving in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron; Smoky and Bill’s contribution did not end with the war. Once home, Bill and Smoky continued to visit veteran’s hospitals throughout the 1940’s and into the 1950’s. The two even became popular on television, with Smoky continuing to delight and entertain with her spirited tricks. Bill later wrote a book about their adventures, Yorkie Doodle Dandy, and many wonderful photos of the two can be found on Smoky’s website and Facebook page. Smoky has been bestowed with the honor of numerous awards for service and heroism and there are currently 7 memorials across the world dedicated to her.

smoky memorial edited

When taking her in, little did Corporal Wynne know how he and a 4 lb. Yorkie would change the world!


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