• RSPCA rescue dog Barkley wears Smoky's Purple Cross

  • Nigel Allsopp, author of Smoky the War Dog accepts Smoky's Purple Cross

  • Queensland Police and Army with Explosive Detection Dogs

Yesterday at the Brisbane RSPCA Animal Care Campus, the RSPCA’s most prestigious animal bravery award was bestowed upon Smoky, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier who served in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II. Smoky not only performed numerous acts of bravery in the field, but she also became what was probably the first post-traumatic stress canine. RSPCA rescue dog Barkley (pictured) represents just how small Smoky was when serving in the war. 

The RSPCA Australia Purple Cross Award was established in 1993 to recognise the deeds of animals who have shown outstanding service to humans, particularly where they have demonstrated exceptional courage by risking their own safety or life to save a person from injury or death. Since its inception, only nine animals have been awarded the prestigious award.

A 1.81 kg (4 lbs.), 180 mm high (7” tall) Smoky was found on March 1944 in a foxhole in the jungles of New Guinea by an American soldier. The soldier was not fond of dogs, and eventually she was sold to Corporal William (Bill) Wynne for two Australian pounds. She spent the next 18 months backpacking and going on combat flights with Corporal Wynne. She also learnt to parachute.

Smoky became a hero in January, 1945 when, on Luzon Island in the Philippines, she helped engineers to lay a teletype wire beneath the 70 foot wide airstrip. She was put into an 8 inch diameter pipe with a kite string tied to her collar so that a telephone line could be attached to it and delivered to the opposite side of the airstrip. Corporal Wynne called the tiny dog from the far end of the pipe, and despite darkness and many blockages of sand and soil which left her with only a few inches of headroom, she was able to achieve this feat within two minutes. Her efforts turned what would have otherwise been a three day dangerous exercise into a only several minutes, enabling the airfield to remain open so that 40 planes and 250 ground crew personnel were not exposed to enemy fire.

At one point during his service, Corporal Wynne ended up in a New Guinea hospital with Dengue Fever. It was here that nurses took Smoky on their rounds with them. It was during this time Smoky became the first ‘therapy dog’ of record. Her work with wounded soldiers helped many to cope with the terrible injuries they received, and the horrific sights they had seen. Smoky served at the U.S. 109th Fleet Hospital and at the 42nd General Hospital in Brisbane, Australia. 

Smoky was credited with 12 combat missions and awarded eight battle stars. She was smuggled back into the United States in a specially designed flight oxygen mask carrying case, and went to live and work with Bill in Cleveland, Ohio.

Often known as “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” Smoky spent the rest of her life as a medical therapy dog, being the first dog to visit hospitals, nursing homes and orphanages. She also entertained on a weekly local television show with Bill Wynne, performing new tricks on every show.  Smoky has six monuments dedicated to her in the USA, and two in Australia. Smoky passed away in 1957 at the age of 14, and was laid to rest in the Cleveland, Ohio Metroparks. Her owner Bill Wynne, age 93 and still residing in Mansfield, Ohio, is thrilled that Smoky has now been awarded the RSPCA’s most prestigious award.

RSPCA Queensland President Andrew Tribe presented the award to Nigel Allsopp, author of Smoky the War Dog and a close friend of Bill Wynne.