The stories flow freely from Cpl. Bill Wynne's lips as the World War II veteran recalls his fighting days with his loyal sidekick, Smoky.
Flying combat missions, rescuing bombers who had been shot down, taking photos to survey the terrain of the unfamiliar Southwest Pacific, even crawling through a 70-foot-long pipe to thread a communications cable under a road -- if Wynne did it during his three years in combat, Smoky was by his side.
"It was day-to-day," Wynne said. "We just did the job."
The tiny Yorkshire terrier first was recognized by Yank Magazine as the champion mascot of American forces in the Southwest Pacific in 1944 and since has risen to fame as "the unofficial war dog of World War II," Wynne said.
Wynne, Smoky's owner and trainer, shared his war stories and Smoky's heroics Saturday with dog lovers gathered for the annual Dog Days event at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Wynne was a featured presenter among a festival with breed-specific animal rescues, vendors selling doggy treats and colorful collars and space for pups to run freely off-leash.
The 92-year-old veteran said Smoky became the first recorded therapy dog when she made rounds with nurses at a field hospital while Wynne was sick with a fever. She flew 12 combat missions with him, wrapped against the cold of the uninsulated war planes in a small patchwork blanket Wynne carries with him today.
And that 70-foot-long pipe on an island in the Philippines that needed to be strung with a communications cable? It was the little dog herself who crawled through a space eight inches in circumference at most to save soldiers the danger of what Wynne said would have been a three-day project punctuated with enemy fire.
"I called her and coached her through," Wynne said. "Her size was very convenient."
Wynne signed copies of his memoir, "Yorkie Doodle Dandy" on Saturday after telling the story of how he came to own Smoky for only $6.44.
Members of his 5th Air Force unit, the 26th Photo Recon Squadron, often bought dogs as pets despite the fact there were 10,000 official war dogs serving alongside soldiers and sailors. Wynne bought Smoky, who he named for her coloring reminiscent of industrial smoke in his native Cleveland, but he didn't really search her out. "She was found in a foxhole in New Guinea by a buddy of mine who didn't like dogs," Wynne said.
That buddy passed along the pup to another man, who sold Smoky to Wynne for money to re-enter a poker game, Wynne said. The rest is part of World War II history, and the story could be coming to life on the silver screen, said Adrian Brigham, a friend of Wynne's who has helped the veteran make connections in Hollywood.
"Angel in a Foxhole" is the title of a book Wynne is writing with Smoky's story until her death in 1957, and also the likely title of the upcoming movie, Brigham said.
"It was just incredible a dog that size even survived the war," Wynne said.