History of War: Peters Township Resident Discusses Animals as Heroes | News

War heroes don’t have to be human.

As a dedicated animal advocate, Peters Township resident Faith Bjalobok knew that four-legged friends — also two-legged with wings — had distinguished themselves in various military encounters.

Faith Bjalobok with US Marine Corps veteran Craig Hodgkins and her service dog, Foxy.

Life Changing Service Dogs for Veterans continues to provide support for couples

But she didn’t know the depth of their accomplishments until she started researching the subject, learning that the list includes a wider variety of mammals and birds than many people would have guessed. .

An adjunct lecturer at Duquesne University, where she earned her doctorate in philosophy, Bjalobok presented her findings at a recent fundraiser, hosted by Eighty Four Agway in North Strabane, on behalf of the nonprofit organization. Life Changing Service Dogs for Veterans.

Tom and Simon of Crimea

As the founder of the Fluffyjean Fund for Felines, a capture-neuter-vaccinate-release program for feral cats, Bjalobok has a particular interest in war heroes of the domestic genus Felis.

In 1854, during the Crimean War, British and French troops occupied the Russian port city of Sevastopol after a year-long siege. Unfortunately, their reserves were exhausted. Luckily, a cat later known as Crimean Tom or Sevastopol Tom knew how to help.


Simon the Cat, recipient of the Dickin Medal

“Tom led the starving troops to food caches under the rubble, which had been hidden all along the waterfront by the Russian defenders,” PetMD reports. “Although not an official military cat, Tom was adopted as a mascot by the grateful soldiers and was taken to England when the troops were recalled.”

Ninety-five years later, a British Royal Navy cat called Simon was awarded the UK’s Dickin Medal for animal bravery. Aboard HMS Amethyst on the Yangtze River during the Chinese Civil War, Simon hunted rats that threatened the ship’s food supply.

“A particularly vicious rat, nicknamed Mao Tse-tung, has carried out repeated attacks on the meager food supplies,” according to the British organization People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. “When Simon killed him, the crew were so impressed that they promoted Simon to able seaman in recognition of his achievement.”

sergeant. stocky

Among the many canine war heroes was a dog named Stubby, for his short tail. He became the mascot of the US Army’s 102nd Infantry, 26th Division, and in early 1918 accompanied the soldiers to France in early 1918, where he was exposed to poison gas.

“The wound made him susceptible to the slightest trace of gas. When the division was attacked in an early morning gas launch, most of the troops were asleep. Stubby recognized the gas and ran across the trench barking and biting soldiers, tricking them into sounding the gas alarm, saving many injuries,” according to “Sergeant Stubby’s Story” on the Army’s 213th Regiment website.

“Stubby also had a knack for locating wounded between the trenches of opposing armies. He would listen to the sound of English, then ride to the scene, barking until paramedics arrived or leading lost soldiers back to the safety of the trenches.

“He even caught a German soldier tracing the route of the Allied trenches. The soldier called Stubby, but he put his ears back and started barking. As the German ran, Stubby bit him on the legs, causing the soldier to stumble and fall. He continued to attack the man until US soldiers arrived.


Staff Sgt. Reckless attends a 1950s military parade.

“For capturing an enemy spy, Stubby was promoted to sergeant by the commander of the 102nd Infantry. He became the first dog to receive a rank in the United States Armed Forces.

Staff Sgt. Reckless

In addition to his work with cats, Bjalobok runs a rescue farm for horses and other animals.

During the Korean War, a filly named Reckless served the United States Marine Corps to the extent that she was eventually promoted to staff sergeant by General Randolph McCall Pate, Korea’s highest-ranking Marine. . Its mission was to help carry shells uphill for use in long-range recoilless rifles along the mountain front.

The Horse Stars Hall of Fame, which inducted Reckless in 2014, recounts his experiences during the battle for Outpost Vegas in April 1953.

“She was injured twice, bandaged and went back to work without hesitation. Time and time again, her fellow Marines marveled at her determination, as she maneuvered through shrapnel-laden areas and ran along narrow berms beside rice paddies, never descending into mud-laden bogs. mines”, a list of the Hall of Fame mentioned.

“In a single day, she made 51 trips to the recoilless rifle sites, covering more than 35 miles in all. She was carrying 386 heavy shells, each weighing 20 to 23 pounds, depending on their contents, a total of over 9,000 pounds of explosives. Then, descending the ridge to reload, it carried the wounded or the dead on its back. It is recognized that because of what Reckless accomplished in combat, many Marines have returned home who otherwise might not have been.

Dear friend

An animal of significant value during the wars of the distant past was the carrier pigeon, serving as an effective means of communication at a distance before the advent of wireless transmission.

Dear friend

Cher Ami, has been stuffed and is currently in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. (National Archives)

During World War I, the US Army Signal Corps used hundreds of message-carrying birds. During the 1918 Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the final Allied thrust of the conflict, the 77th Corps Division pushed too far into the French forest and found itself surrounded by the Germans.

Enter Cher Ami, a male carrier pigeon.

“The brave bird flew straight into German fire, dodging bullets as it passed. However, her luck did not last long. Cher Ami was shot in the chest shortly after takeoff, as American soldiers watched in horror their last hope to touch the ground,” according to the United States World War I Centennial Commission.

“Unexpectedly, however, Cher Ami got to her feet. Wounded but still alive, the little bird took flight again, charging in wave after wave of gunfire. At the end of the trip, he covered 25 miles in about half an hour.

For saving lives, Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre, one of France’s highest military honours.


In 1942, members of the Polish army adopted a Syrian brown bear cub named Wojtek. He was apparently quite the character.

Wojtek Book

“As he grew, he was given marmalade, fruit, syrup, and honey, and was often rewarded with beer, which soon became his favorite drink,” states War History Online. “Like the soldiers around him, he started his mornings with coffee and he smoked (and ate) cigarettes frequently.

Beyond comic relief, the 440-pound bear provided its share of heroism, according to the site.

“Wojtek was present at the Battle of Monte Cassino (Italy) in 1944, where he is credited with helping move ammunition crates, an effort for which he was promoted to the rank of corporal,” the site reads. “There are many who do not regard this tale as fiction, but at least one account exists. A British soldier recalled seeing a bear imitating the troops and he was able to lift crates which would normally have taken four men.

Several books have been written about him, including “Wojtek: War Hero Bear” by Jenny Robertson, “Soldier Bear” by Bibi Dumon Tak, and “Wojtek: The Bear Who Went to War” by Bob Moulder and Moy McCrory.

sergeant. Jack Cornelius

As a duck serving for 18 months as the morale-boosting mascot of a 2nd Marine Division pack howitzer unit, Sgt. Jack Cornelius—named after a Washington State human sergeant, though the fowl turned out to be a female—was the subject of a light story in the Oct. 7, 1944, issue of Marine Corps Chevron .

Jack Cornelius

A Marine Corps Chevron photo shows Sgt. Jack Cornelius with his owner, Cpl. Francis Fagan, and another mascot, Duffy the dog.

According to the article, the duck “added a footnote to the tradition of sea battles in Tarawa”, fought from November 20 to 23, 1943, when he pursued a “rooster on the beach while fighting were at their peak.

At the time of writing, it was unclear whether the duck “was a WR (Woman Reservist) or a Marine. The question of the sergeant’s American uniform depends on the answer to that one.

Meanwhile, “the salty sergeant suffered his first injury aboard the transport bringing him back. He stepped on something sharp and cut his ‘foot,'” the article said.

“Because all returning veterans are restricted to base while undergoing treatment at the R&R center, (Sergeant Jack) has not had his favorite beverage – beer – since leaving foreign soil.”

sergeant. Bowl

Billy, or simply Bill, a goat from Saskatchewan, served as the mascot of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, helping to boost the morale of troops in Europe.

sergeant.  Bowl

sergeant. Billy and friend

“The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War”, a 2019 book written by Mireille Messier and illustrated by Kass Reich, tells how Billy trained with the soldiers, was smuggled across the ocean Atlantic and was brought to the front line in a crate of oranges. He also ate secret documents and was imprisoned for treason, but redeemed himself by headbutting soldiers in a trench, saving their lives from incoming artillery shells.

For this, Billy was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and returned to Canada as a decorated war hero.


During World War I, a pig called Tirpitz was originally on board the Imperial German Fleet cruiser SMS Dresden as a mascot.

After the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914, Dresden was sunk by the British HMS Glasgow. An officer from the Glasgow rescued the Tirpitz, and he – some sources say the pig was a female – became the mascot of a new ship.

Towards the end of the war, Tirpitz was auctioned off to raise funds, including a sale on December 13, 1917 to the Duke of Portland to benefit the Red Cross. Proceeds from another sale went to the Allied Agricultural Relief Fund.


Photo of Tirpitz and a friend from the Daily Record of Glasgow, Scotland, March 24, 1916

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