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The tiniest member of the III Marine Amphibious Corps worked hard and played even harder. Shown here unwinding off the clock in 1945, Combat the cat spent his days as mascot and pet to war photographer William H. T. Swisher (who took this picture) and his film unit in the Pacific Theater. The group saw action at Okinawa and Guam — where Swisher received the Bronze Star medal from Lieutenant General Keller Rockey in 1944 — and deployed to China for occupation duty the following year. There they adopted Combat, whom the men provided with not just a tough-cat name and gig, but his own box-bed adorned with a Purple Heart medal and, from the looks of it, all the Canadian whiskey he could stomach.  

Swisher, who served in the Marine Corps for more than 17 years, took multiple photos of his furry charge. He returned to the U.S. with no injuries but died at age 37 along with his teen daughter, Vivian, in a June 1946 plane crash. It’s unclear what happened to Combat once the III Marine Amphibious Corps left China, but Swisher’s feline photo shoots, now immortalized in the Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections in Quantico, Virginia, show how he retained an eye for heart and humor even after capturing the worst of humanity on film.

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