Judy: The Unforgettable Story of the Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero, by Damien Lewis, Quercus Editions, New York, 2014, $24.99
World War II’s combatant nations used dogs for various applications, including mine detection, carrying dispatches, and sentry and patrol duty. Dogs also provided soldiers with welcome companionship, relieving boredom during peaceful periods and raising morale among those subjected to the stresses of combat.
In this volume Damien Lewis shares the story of one remarkable and inspirational pointer who “served” in the Royal Navy. Born in a Shanghai kennel in 1936, Judy was the mascot of the China-stationed gunboats HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper. At the outbreak of the war her intelligence, empathy and uncanny ability to sense approaching danger proved invaluable. Judy provided early warning of enemies approaching by land, sea or air and bought her crewmates precious time to evade harm. In February 1942, after Japanese aircraft sank Grasshopper, marooning its crew and passengers on an island seemingly without potable water, Judy led them to a concealed spring.
The dog’s real value became evident during her stint as a POW with Grasshopper’s crew in Sumatra. Despite inhumane conditions, including starvation and physical and mental torture, Judy inspired her crewmates to stay alive. She scavenged whatever food she could find and distracted the enemy, risking her life on several occasions to save her fellow prisoners.
Judy is an interesting account of the practical service dogs provided in World War II. Lewis relates an engaging story interspersed with scientific explanations for Judy’s remarkable wartime behavior.