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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Smoky the Brave by Damien Lewis

Canine dedication and endurance show the bond between man and dog over time. This was an absorbing, entertaining read.

The exploits of this little unidentified dog became legendary and the image of a tiny body looking out of a GI’s helmet after a bath is endearing. How did this tiny dog, a bred from the 1800’s for the hunting of vermin in England, end up abandoned in a fox hole (one she could not get out of) in New Guinea in 1944, at the height of the Pacific war?

Smoky the dog was found in the jungle of New Guinea by American soldiers during World War Two operations in the Pacific. The men had no idea what kind of tiny dog they rescued but she became the de facto mascot for the 26th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron. She was smuggled into many difficult and dangerous sorties, serving as a major morale booster to those who encountered her. Her delightful nature and effervescent energy gave much pleasure to soldiers and civilians alike.

Trained to play “dead dog” for any length of time, Smoky’s abilities were hilarious. She became the first dog to move amongst wounded and traumatised patients in hospital wards in Brisbane, bringing solace to the men.

The 26th Photo Recon Squadron airmen made many attempts to discover her breed but it was some years before Smoky was identified.

The characters of both Bill Wynne who fed and trained Smoky, and that of the dog itself gradually develop a warmth and close fellowship as they settle into dangerous work. This is a true story from the war years with threads illustrating the places where the Squadron served and outlining their dangerous work flying reconnaissance sorties low over enemy sites to bring back invaluable photos of the terrain, and enemy garrisons. The pilots flew to the very limit of their P-38 aeroplanes, completely without any form of protection. Their solo missions were to bring back vital photographic intelligence which was speedily sent to High Command to help with planning actions. Sometimes Catalina air/sea mission rescues were made.

The Pacific battles are easily threaded through the pages without effort as the little dog’s exploits move along with the deployment of the Squadron. This becomes a very clear, simple coverage of the Pacific battle fields. An understanding of the conditions in the tropics is emphasised by the effects on a small animal.

‘The smallest dog with the biggest heart’ is certainly true. Smoky’s daily adventures, camouflaged by Bill Wynne from time to time are exciting, adventurous and totally delightful. The soldiers create a personal parachute, sending the little dog safely through the air. Their ingenuity keeps the dog safe and healthy through many combat raids and the dangers of the jungle while in return Smoky builds their morale.

This was wonderful story by a talented author. Easy size print and a few illustrations simplified reading. I have no hesitation in recommending this book for anyone with an interest in dogs but it would make an excellent gift for the person interested in the Pacific Operations.

Reviewer: Sonia Edwards

Hachette New Zealand, RRP $37.99


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