Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link Weider History Group RSS feed Weider Subscriptions Historynet Home page

Private Wojtek, Reporting for Duty

By Karen Jensen 
Originally published by World War II magazine. Published Online: August 08, 2012 
Print Friendly
0 comments FONT +  FONT -

At six feet tall and more than 500 pounds fully grown, the Syrian brown bear known as Wojtek cut an intimidating figure—especially when he took someone by surprise. As Stanislaw Kroczak, a platoon commander with the Polish II Corps's 22nd Artillery Supply Company, recounts in his memoir, a fellow soldier awoke one night to the feeling of a fearful weight. "Terrified, he saw the open jaws of Wojtek, who was straddling him and making it impossible to make the slightest move," Kroczak wrote. "After a while someone came into the tent and chased him away."

Not far, though. Wojtek was the company's beloved mascot, acquired in Iran as a cub in 1942 when II Corps was being assembled to fight the Germans in Italy, under the British Eighth Army. The bear tagged along with the company every step of the way, even joining the troops on the ship that took them from Alexandria, Egypt, to Taranto, Italy. Some accounts say that the Poles skirted a British prohibition against troops bringing animals on board by issuing paperwork declaring Wojtek an official member of the unit.

The most repeated Wojtek story has the bear unloading and hauling ammunition at the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino; an image of Wojtek holding a shell became the company's insignia. Kroczak, however, says it didn't happen; the legend began when the writer of the first popular book about Wojtek "succumbed to a skillfully whispered mischievous joke played on him by soldiers eager to see how much a journalist chasing after a sensational story can be fooled."

As Kroczak recalled, "There were efforts to teach Wojtek this skill, but he could not grasp an artillery shell, even though he was strong enough. In spite of everything, he was only a bear and not an animal with a near-human intellect."

Regardless, it's clear Wojtek was more than just a bear to those who served alongside him. For men and women from a country brutalized by both sides in the war and participating in some of its most vicious battles, Wojtek was comfort, inspiration, and a kindred spirit.


 



Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


Related Articles


History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer
HISTORYNET READERS' POLL

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
STAY CONNECTED WITH US
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet?

The HistoryNet.com is brought to you by Weider History, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
Weider History

Weider History Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer! | StreamHistory.com
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2014 Weider History. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy