Smoky the War Dog--Hero of the Air Force and National Sensation

Smoky the War Dog--Hero of the Air Force and National Sensation

By on Oct 10th 2016

Smoky: the Little Dog that Could

Corporal Bill Wynne first met Smoky in the beginning of 1944 when he was stationed with the U.S. Army Air Corps in Nadzab, New Guinea. 

She was a small thing-a little Yorkshire Terrier weighing only 4 pounds and standing 7 inches tall-and was found in a foxhole by one of Wynne's tent mates. Scrawny and underfed, she was hardly the poster child for war dogs. But nevertheless, Wynne bought her from the other solider and named her Smoky.

No one could have predicted that this little "lap dog" Yorkie was going to become a famous war dog.

For the first two years of their relationship, Smoky and Wynne went through combat together in the South Pacific. Conditions were far from ideal, especially for a toy breed: they lived in the New Guinea jungle and Rock Islands and suffered deplorable temperatures and primitive living conditions. Despite extreme adversity, the little dog persevered.

Throughout her service, Smoky was content sleeping with Wynne in his tent on a blanket made from a green felt table cover. Wynne shared his C-rations and the occasional can of Spam. Because she wasn't an -official- war dog of WW2, Smoky had no access to veterinary medicine nor a balanced diet formulated specifically for dogs. She was never ill. And while many dogs wound up with paw injuries from running on coral, she didn't.

An "angel from a foxhole"

Smoky was an active dog. As part of the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron, she went on 12 sea and air photo and rescue missions. Tucked into pack strapped to her soldier's back, she was exposed to machine gun fire.

She was credited with 12 combat missions and awarded 8 battle stars. 

(photograph from Yank Magazine)

Here are some of her specific accomplishments for which she was rewarded:

  • Survived 150 air raids on New Guinea
  • Survived a typhoon that hit Okinawa
  • Parachuted from a 30-foot tree (in a specially made parachute)
  • Warned Wynne and his men of incoming shells on transport ship

In addition to her dedication and bravery in service, she became a master of special tricks. Smoky performed her tricks to entertain troops with Special Services and in hospitals from Australia to Korea.

In 1944, Yank Down Under magazine named Smoky the -Champion Mascot in the Southwest Pacific Area.-

Her tricks came in handy for more than just boosting morale-she is credited with playing a key role in the construction of the Lingayen Gulf airbase.

At this time, this critical airfield (where allied war planes would takeoff and land) wasn't fully constructed. Every day Japanese planes attacked the allied airfield, taking a toll on communication. The Signal Corps needed to run phone wires through a 70-foot-long pipe that was 8 inches in diameter. The only way they could do this was by hand-requiring dozens of men to dig a trench- in a space open to frequent attacks. Plan B (or plan D, for dog) was Smoky. Thanks to her training, the dog was able to help string the communication wires beneath the airstrip. 

(Bill Wynne via Huffington post)

She is credited with saving 250 men and 40 U.S. planes from possible destruction over a 3-day period.


After the war, Smoky became a national sensation after the duo were featured in the Cleveland Press on December 7, 1945. Over the next 10 years, they traveled to Hollywood and across the world to perform demonstrations of her remarkable skills. She was even given her own show, -Castles in the Air--for the 42 weeks she appeared on that live television show, she never repeated a trick. She also continued to entertain people in VA hospitals throughout the U.S. 

Smoky died in 1957 at the approximate age of 14. Wynne buried her in a .20 caliber ammo box from WW2 at the Rocky River Reservation in Ohio. In 2005, a life-size bronze sculpture of Smoky was erected on top of her gravesite.

There are 6 memorials in the U.S. that honor her:

  • AKC Museum in Missouri
  • Hickam Air Force base in Hawaii
  • University of Tennessee - College of Veterinary Medicine in Tennessee
  • Ohio Veterinary Medicine Association in Ohio
  • "Smoky and Dogs of All Wars" in Ohio
  • Smoky Award given out by the annual Yorkshire Terrier National Rescue Organization

In addition to her esteemed service record, Smoky was the first therapy dog on record. To work as a therapy dog required permission from Dr. Charles Mayo (who would eventually found the Mayo Clinic). She continued her duty as therapy dog for 12 years.

Smoky has also been credited as beginning interest in the then-obscure breed, the Yorkshire Terrier.


You might also be interested in:

Newletter | March 2024
by Aviation Oil Outlet on Mar 8th 2024

FINAL COUNTDOWN! We're counting down the days until Sun 'n Fu
monthly newsletter
Newsletter | February 2024
by Aviation Oil Outlet on Feb 8th 2024

We've Got Your Sky Covered Dive into the airshow season with
monthly newsletter
AeroShell Oil W100 vs W100 Plus
by Kendra Kuhar on Feb 7th 2024

 Maintaining your aircraft requires choosing a premier oil that promotes engine health. For tho…