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The Tale of Smoky the War Dog: A Heroic Canine

The Tale of Smoky the War Dog: A Heroic Canine

David Tabar David Tabar
17 minute read

Podcast Ep. 20 Smoky The War Dog 

Greetings everyone, this is Dave with Mighty Line Minute. Today, I'll be talking about a story some of you may know about others will not. And that's the story of Smoky The War Dog.

Listen to the podcast here

“In the context of the greatest devastation in planet Earth’s history, and the subsequent eradication of over 100 million human beings peopling it, the story about a dog in World War Two is indeed insignificant.”

“But wars, large and small, are made up of millions of stories experienced by those involved in the war itself, or by those remaining at home.”

And so begins the story of William A. Wynne in his 1996 Memoir, Yorkie Doodle Dandy.

Bill Wynne, from Cleveland, Ohio, was the U.S. Army Air Force Corporal who nurtured and became best friend to a four pound Yorkshire Terrier known as “Smoky.”

Smoky had been found trapped in a foxhole near Nadzab, New Guinea in early March of 1944.

So why am I telling this story? There are reasons that this will soon become apparent. And at the end, you will understand why Smoky and Bill's role in history is so important.

I met Bill for the first time, 50 some years ago, and remained his close friend throughout the remainder of his life. Bill passed in 2019 at the age of 99, though not before he was able to encourage the Governor of Ohio to re-open a VA care facility. It had been closed to new residents due to short staffing. And he accomplished this from his hospital bed.

Bill was one of those people you would instantly enjoy from the moment you met him. He developed many relationships as everyone wanted to be his friend. His heart of gold seemed to find the best in all. And he enjoyed and found value in each and every day of his life, no matter how difficult.

Like my own father, they both answered the call to serve during World War II and were raised similarly. My father was deployed in the U.S. Army Infantry in the Philippines. Bill served in the Army Air Force, where he was an aerial reconnaissance photographer throughout the Southwest Pacific.

Bill had the rare opportunity to keep his personal collection of rare photography, that later became an important part of his legacy.

Smoky's final resting place is only about a mile away from Mighty Line's headquarters in Rocky River, Ohio. It's a lovely walk on a beautiful day, and the Smoky Memorial can be located on a map search if you'd like to visit the Cleveland Area MetroParks.

Other memorials to Smoky exist throughout the world, including Brisbane, Australia and the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Smoky was aptly named by Bill for her smoky-gray hair, and soon became an entertainer trained by Bill. She was a fast learner, able to select her own name from disarranged letters, ride her own scooter, and walk on a carefully and safely constructed two cable tight wire. Comfort and healing was soon provided by this dynamic duo to servicemen who were recovering in military hospitals. A serviceman who had been unable to speak for many months began to speak once again after Smoky was handed to him, put in his arms as nurses cried.

Smoky flew on numerous combat and reconnaissance missions with Bill, and was soon named “Mascot of the Southwest Pacific” by YANK Magazine Down Under in its July, 1944 issue. Post-war, Bill and Smoky continued their service by visiting hospitals, orphanages and performing at live events and many venues. After a stint in Hollywood training dogs, including a film with Ronald Reagan, Bill returned to Cleveland to appear with Smoky on weekly live television that featured many of Smoky's tricks.

Bill was always pleased to note that with every show on those Sunday mornings a new trick was performed by Smoky.

Smoky, however, may be best known for her role in delivering a critical communication line. This line was delivered through a silt-laden, 70 foot drain pipe located beneath an active Lingayen Gulf airstrip. Large number of planes and personnel would otherwise have been exposed to certain enemy aircraft fire in the event of the excavation that would have otherwise been required to deliver the communication line.

Bill was proud that Smoky became known as the first therapy dog of record. This was due to her early well-documented and photographed roles in military hospitals. Especially as she served to support those suffering from PTSD.

You can actually hear Bill with Smoky communicate from the Philippines, along with the American Red Cross in the short film "Angel in a Foxhole" that was produced and now streams on Vimeo.

So why is Smoky's story important? Smoky has certainly generated an immense following in the dog world. Even more importantly, in the human caring for mankind. Smoky, through Bill, provided a means by which Bill himself was able to move through a difficult time in World War II, including times where Smoky saved his life. You can read Yorkie Doodle Dandy to learn more about those stories.

Smoky and Bill went on to serve and further encourage the therapy dog movement, providing significant support to the PTSD support world.

In the words of one film festival reviewer, "God sent down one of his angels in the perfect disguise as man's best friend." And so we have it. Smoky's mark on the world, summed up in 15 words.

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Have a safe day, and as Smoky the War Dog did, make sure it's a pleasant one and meaningful one for all whom you'll be with. Take care.

The Unforgettable Tale of Smoky the War Dog: A Heroic Canine

by Alec Goecke

Smoky the War Dog

Smoky the War Dog, in a photo that won her the title "Champion Mascot in the Southwest Pacific Area" during World War II. (William A. Wynne/Smoky War Dog LLC) picture from - https://www.military.com/history/worlds-first-therapy-dog-was-world-war-ii-pacific-veteran.html

In the annals of World War II, amidst the unimaginable devastation and loss of human life, emerges a remarkable tale of a tiny Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky, whose unwavering courage and loyalty left an indelible mark on history. This four-pound, seven-inch-tall Yorkie war dog, discovered in a foxhole in New Guinea, became an unlikely hero, capturing the hearts of soldiers and civilians alike, embodying the spirit of a true WW2 Yorkie.

This article delves into the extraordinary journey of Smoky, the war dog, and her devoted companion, Bill Wynne, as they navigated the perils of war and forged an unbreakable bond. From her remarkable feats on the battlefield to her post-war life as the first documented therapy dog, Smoky's story is one of resilience, bravery, and the enduring power of the human-animal connection.

The Discovery of Smoky the War Dog

In the midst of the chaos and devastation of World War II, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky emerged from an abandoned foxhole in New Guinea. This unlikely discovery would lead to a remarkable journey and an unbreakable bond between a soldier and his canine companion, marking the beginning of the story of a heroic Yorkie war dog.

Finding Smoky in the Foxhole

In March 1944, an American GI named Ed Downey stumbled upon Smoky in a foxhole near Nadzab, New Guinea. The little dog, weighing only four pounds and standing seven inches tall, had been abandoned and left to fend for herself in the harsh conditions of the war-torn island, showcasing the resilience of this remarkable GI's find.

From Downey to Wynne: Smoky's New Owner

  1. Ed Downey, recognizing the potential in the tiny Yorkie, decided to sell her to Corporal William A. Wynne, marking the start of a new chapter for both the GI and the little dog.
  2. The price for Smoky was set at two Australian pounds, equivalent to $6.44 at the time (or approximately $109 in today's dollars), a small price for a companion that would leave a lasting legacy far beyond Australia's shores.
  3. Cpl. Wynne, unaware of the incredible journey that lay ahead, happily paid the sum and welcomed Smoky into his life, beginning a story of companionship and heroism.

The First Documented Therapy Dog

Smoky's impact extended far beyond the battlefield. She is recognized as the first documented therapy dog on record, discovered during World War II. Her ability to bring joy and comfort to those around her was evident from the start, pioneering a new role for dogs in therapeutic settings.



Cpl. Wynne's Illness

When Wynne fell ill with Dengue Fever, Smoky's presence not only helped him recover but also brought comfort to other soldiers in the hospital ward, showcasing her innate ability to heal and comfort.

Accompanying Nurses

As Smoky began to accompany nurses on their rounds, patients showed signs of improvement, highlighting her natural ability as a therapy dog, and solidifying her status as the first therapy dog, paving the way for future therapy animals.

The discovery of Smoky in that New Guinea foxhole marked the beginning of an extraordinary tale. From her humble origins to her role as the first therapy dog, Smoky's journey alongside Cpl. William A. Wynne would leave an indelible mark on history and showcase the power of the human-animal bond in the face of adversity.

Remarkable Feats of Smoky the War Dog

Smoky, the tiny Yorkshire Terrier, proved that size was no obstacle when it came to courage and intelligence. This four-pound, seven-inch-tall yorkie war dog accomplished remarkable feats during her 18 months of World War II combat alongside her owner, Corporal William A. Wynne, embodying the spirit of a Yorkshire Terrier in every sense.

Surviving the Perils of War

  1. Smoky endured more than 150 Japanese air raids in New Guinea and flew on 12 rescue and photo reconnaissance missions.
  2. She survived Japanese kamikaze attacks and a typhoon on Okinawa, even warning Wynne of an incoming attack while aboard a landing craft.
  3. Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life and the lives of others by alerting the soldiers to incoming fire.

A Skilled and Intelligent Companion - Smoky the War Dog

Smoky's intelligence and trainability were evident in her ability to learn and execute an impressive array of tasks, showcasing her exceptional dog training skills.



Hand Signals & Commands

Smoky learned over 200 hand signals and commands, showcasing her exceptional intelligence and adaptability.

C-Rations & Tent Life

She ate C-rations and slept in Wynne's tent, accompanying him wherever he went in his backpack.

Airbase Construction

Smoky aided engineers in building an airbase at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, by running a communication wire through a 70-foot-long pipe only 8 inches in diameter, demonstrating her invaluable contribution to the airfield's construction.

Saving Lives and Time

Smoky's bravery and skills were instrumental in saving both lives and valuable time during the war:

  • By pulling a line through a culvert at the Lingayen Gulf airbase, Smoky saved an estimated 250 ground crewmen from having to move around 40 U.S. fighters and reconnaissance planes, completing a three-day digging task in mere minutes.
  • Her work prevented the men and planes from being exposed to enemy and possibly anti-aircraft fire, as a construction detail would have had to dig up the taxiway, placing them in danger.

Smoky's unwavering spirit, intelligence, and bravery earned her eight battle stars and a place in history as one of the most remarkable war dogs ever known. Her feats serve as a testament to the invaluable role that animals have played in times of war and the unbreakable bond between humans and their faithful companions.

Post-War Life and Legacy for Smoky the War Dog

After the war, Smoky's remarkable journey continued, as she and Wynne embarked on a new chapter in their lives. Smoky's fame grew, and she became a beloved figure in the entertainment industry and beyond.

A Star in the Spotlight

  1. In 1946, Smoky became a star in a traveling circus, showcasing her incredible talents and capturing the hearts of audiences everywhere.
  2. The following year, in 1947, Smoky landed a role in a children's show called "Castles in the Air," further cementing her status as a celebrity.
  3. Wynne's career also flourished in Cleveland, as he accepted a job with the Cleveland newspaper, "The Plain Dealer," in 1953, working as a photographer, writer, and photojournalist.

Honoring a Hero - Smoky the War Dog

Smoky's bravery and service did not go unnoticed, and she received numerous awards and recognitions for her contributions:



Australian "War Dog Medal"

Smoky was honored with this prestigious award for her service [43].

Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' "Purple Cross"

Another notable recognition of Smoky's bravery and dedication [43].

Animals in War & Peace Distinguished Service Medal

Smoky was the first dog to receive this honor, recognizing her exceptionally meritorious service to the nation in a duty of great responsibility.

A Legacy That Lives On with Smoky the War Dog

  1. Smoky's gravesite and marker can be found in Rocky River Reservation in Cleveland, Ohio, where her legacy continues to inspire. This memorial serves as a tribute to her and others' service.
  2. The marker, a memorial dedicated to the animals of all wars, made life easier while supporting their comrades in arms, ensuring that their contributions are never forgotten.
  3. Smoky's story has become larger than life, and she is remembered as a true war hero.

 Smoky the War Dog Becomes a Trailblazer for Therapy Dogs

  1. When the war ended, Wynne smuggled Smoky to the United States in a bag meant for his oxygen mask, and together, they brought their wartime hospital act to veterans hospitals stateside until 1954.
  2. Smoky's work in hospitals during and after the war made her one of the first recognized therapy dogs, paving the way for countless others to follow in her footsteps.

Smoky's post-war life and legacy serve as a testament to the enduring impact that one small dog can have on the world. Her story continues to inspire and remind us of the incredible bond between humans and animals, and the power of love, courage, and dedication in the face of adversity.

Smoky's Influence on Canine Military Roles

Smoky's remarkable service during World War II not only left an indelible mark on the lives of those she touched but also paved the way for the recognition and acceptance of therapy dogs in the military. Her unwavering dedication and the positive impact she had on wounded troops set a precedent for the vital role that canines could play in providing emotional support and comfort to those in need.

The First Documented Therapy Dog - Smoky the War Dog

Smoky's journey as a therapy dog began in 1944 in New Guinea, where she visited military hospitals and offered solace to injured soldiers. Her presence brought joy and relief to those facing the physical and emotional challenges of war, showcasing the powerful bond between humans and animals.




New Guinea


Smoky began her work as a therapy dog, visiting military hospitals and providing comfort to wounded troops.

Pacific Theater of WWII


Smoky continued her visits to military hospitals throughout the Pacific Theater, offering emotional support to soldiers recovering from injuries.


1945 onwards

After seeing the positive effect Smoky had on people, Bill and Smoky continued their therapy work even after the war ended.

A Mascot, Personal Pet, and Emotional Support Dog

  1. Smoky served as a mascot for the troops, boosting morale and providing a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos of war.
  2. As Bill Wynne's personal pet, Smoky offered unwavering companionship and loyalty, helping him cope with the stresses of combat.
  3. Smoky's role as an emotional support dog extended beyond Bill, as she frequently visited wounded troops in military hospitals, offering comfort and a welcome distraction from their injuries.

Smoky's influence on canine military roles cannot be overstated. Her service as the first documented therapy dog laid the foundation for the recognition of the invaluable role that dogs can play in supporting the mental health and well-being of military personnel. Today, therapy dogs are an integral part of many military programs, providing comfort, reducing stress, and helping service members cope with the challenges they face.

Conclusion of Smoky the War Dog

Smoky's extraordinary tale serves as a testament to the unwavering courage, loyalty, and the unbreakable bond between humans and their canine companions. Her journey, from the battlefields of World War II to her post-war life as a beloved entertainer and pioneering therapy dog, has left an indelible mark on history, inspiring generations and highlighting the invaluable role that animals play in our lives.

As we reflect on Smoky's legacy, it is clear that her impact extends far beyond the realm of military history; she has become a symbol of hope, resilience, and the power of unconditional love. To learn more about this remarkable Yorkshire Terrier and her incredible journey alongside Corporal William A. Wynne, visit her official website.visit the World War II History website or watch the heartwarming movie "Angel in a Foxhole" on Vimeo.

FAQs of Smoky the War Dog

What breed was Smoky, the notable war dog?
Smoky was a Yorkshire Terrier, renowned for her role during World War II. She was remarkably small, weighing just 4 pounds and standing only 7 inches tall, embodying the spirited heart of a Yorkie.

Who was recognized as the most decorated canine hero of World War II?
Chips, a German Shepherd-Collie-Malamute mix, is celebrated as the most decorated war dog of World War II. He served as a trained sentry dog for the United States Army and was owned by Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York.

Can you name some heroic dogs from World War II?
Among the heroic dogs from World War II was Chips, a mix of German Shepherd, Alaskan Husky, and Collie. Chips was a family dog from New York who significantly contributed to the war effort, saving numerous U.S. soldiers' lives and earning decorations such as a Purple Heart and Silver Star.

Who was a notable canine hero from World War I?
Stubby, an extraordinary dog from World War I, became a hero by joining the 102nd Infantry Regiment of Connecticut. He participated in several key battles on the Western Front and was honored by three U.S. presidents for his bravery and service.

Smoky the War Dog Memorial

Image from - https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/23162

Smoky the yorkie statue is located in the Cleveland Metro Parks


Mighty Line found it important to spotlight Smoky's story, highlighting her courageous actions and pivotal role in maintaining safety and protecting lives in challenging environments. Smoky's actions exemplify the principle that even small interventions can drastically enhance safety and efficiency, themes that are relevant and resonant in discussions about workplace safety today, which is a focus of the blog​ (Military.com)​​ (warhistoryonline)​.

Overall, Smoky's story is a powerful testament to the significant impact that well-trained animals can have in both logistical and therapeutic capacities during wartime, and it continues to inspire discussions on safety and efficiency in various fields.








Main Image from Cleveland.com


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