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13 Heroic Military Animals You Had No Idea Existed

Updated September 23, 2021 31.2k views13 items
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Everyone knows their pet would stand beside them in their time of need, but what if they went above and beyond? History is full of decorated war animals who risked life and limb by sticking by the sides of the soldiers who needed them most. 

These animal war heroes have all been distinguished for going beyond the call of duty and saving human lives, solving impossible challenges, and working their way into the hearts of the soldiers they served with. They performed their jobs with the utmost bravery and conviction, and have been honored with numerous titles and commendations. These are the most decorated war animals that saved the day, animals who exemplified their countries and will be remembered for their honorable actions.

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  • Wojtek The Bear Was On The Frontlines In WWII

    Photo: Imperial War Museum / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    While it may seem like keeping a live bear as a pet isn’t the best idea in the world, that thought didn’t stop a group of Polish soldiers who purchased a baby bear in a market in Iran. Wojtek was raised by the soldiers and was socialized to humans at an early age. He was adopted into the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps, where he was on the official roster and even received military rations. 

    He was known for his love of beer and eating unlit cigarettes, and his presence was a massive morale booster for the weary soldiers. It wasn’t all games for Wojtek as he served in several battles in Italy, carrying shells and supplies for his regiment. After the war Wojtek would spend the remainder of his life at the Edinburgh Zoo, where he would be regularly visited by the men who raised and served with him.

  • Siwash The Duck Fought The Japanese On Tarawa

    Siwash was a duck from New Zealand, pictured above standing on the remains of a Japanese bunker, who served with the US Marine Corps in World War II. Amazingly, she was wrongly assumed to be a male during her time as a marine. Her wartime prowess was documented with a full page spread in Life magazine. It is unclear exactly how Siwash joined the First Battalion of the Tenth Marines, but the story goes that she was won by a marine in the unit during a game of poker.

    She is most famous for her actions on the island of Tarawa, where she engaged in bill-to-beak combat with a Japanese rooster. Although she sustained injuries to the head, she managed to drive back the enemy and help secure the beach. She received many honors for her bravery, including a purple heart, and would eventually retire at the San Diego Zoo.

  • Sergeant Bill Was A Combat Veteran Who Captured An Enemy Soldier

    Sergeant Bill was a Canadian goat that served as a member of the 5th Canadian Battalion, and was shipped out overseas to fight in World War I. A family in Saskatchewan gifted the goat to the battalion after they traveled through town on their way to a camp in Quebec. The men smuggled Bill on the S.S. Lapland, and was a nuisance to some of the officers while stationed in France. He was put under military arrest twice, once for eating some important documents, and again for charging a superior officer. 

    He regained favor amongst the brass after successfully capturing a Prussian soldier at the second battle of Ypres, and was eventually granted the official rank of sergeant. His war record was superb as he managed to save three human lives and survive countless injuries, including shrapnel wounds and trench foot. He would received numerous medals and commendations for his actions, and would eventually retire back in Saskatchewan with the family he came from. Today, his body is memorialized in the Broadview Historical Museum, still wearing his dress blues.

  • Simon The Cat Was A Decorated Naval Crewman

    Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    This feline served on the British naval vessel HMS Amethyst during the Chinese Civil War. He was awarded the Dickin Medal for his instrumental role in a three month siege that occurred in the Yangtze river in 1949. Originally found as a stray in Hong Kong, Simon was smuggled aboard the Amethyst and quickly bonded with the ship’s captain. He immediately set to work on killing the rat infestation that had been plaguing the ship. 

    Unfortunately, Simon was badly wounded when the Amethyst was bombarded by communist Chinese troops. After receiving medical treatment for his wounds, he would begin to recover. Eventually, he killed a giant rat nicknamed “Mao Tse Tung,” earning him a promotion as an Able Seaman. For defending the crews food supply from the most deadly of beasts, and allowing the crewman to survive a full three months under siege, Simon became the first and only cat to receive the Dickin Medal. He would pass away shortly after returning to shore in England, and Time magazine would write a tribute in his honor.