The countdown continues! The new Jan/Feb issue is just a few days from hitting newsstands, and we're eager to give you a glimpse of some more content. This issue, we've got a spread on animal heroes who served in war. There's a dog that earned a Purple Heart, a pigeon that won the animal version of the Victoria Cross, and then, there's this incredible bear. I'll let the author take it from here:
Bearing a Heavy Load
During World War II, the Polish army was stationed in Iran. On a lark, a group of soldiers gave the locals some canned food in exchange for a baby bear. They named the cub Wotjek-- or Smiling Warrior-- and fed him condensed milk from an empty vodka bottle. Later he developed a taste for marmalade, beer and even cigarettes. "He was like a big dog," said Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski. "No one was scared of him."
Well, almost no one. One day, Wotjek spotted an open door in the barracks, and upon wandering in to investigate, he found an Arab spy. The intruder simply cowered in the corner until Wotjek's keepers came back. In the presence of soldiers and a bear, the spy was quick to confess and Wotjek earned two beers and extra playtime for his work. Soon after, the men accepted Wotjek as one of their own and registered him as a soldier in the 22 Artillery Supply Company. Over the next few months, Wotjek proved himself equally valuable on the battle front. He carried shells for cannon operators during the brutal Battle of Monte Cassino "“ and reportedly never dropped a crate. After the war, Wotjek retired to the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.
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