Wojtek: The Story of a Fighting BearBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/article/wojtek-the-story-of-a-fighting-bear
A series of battles near Monte Cassino went down in history as one of the bloodiest operations of the allied forces. Particular attention was drawn to the so-called Second Corps of the Polish Army of Anders. Firstly, thanks to the dedication of the soldiers, who left about a third of the personnel on the battlefield. And secondly, a real bear fought on their side.
This, of course, is not an isolated case of the participation of animals in hostilities. At all times, people have tried one way or another to use our smaller brothers. Princess Olga, setting fire to enemy villages with the help of pigeons, dogs with mines tied to them - the list is endless. The story of Wojtek, the fighting bear, still stands apart. This bear went to war voluntarily and fought not only bravely, but also without any coercion.
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1. Polish soldiers found a bear cub in Iran. A can of canned food, a pocket knife and a couple of chocolates - that's the exact cost, named by the boy-owner of the then still nameless beast. The bear was so small that he could not chew his own food, and the Poles had to feed him from a pacifier.
2. For several years, Wojtek (translated into Russian as “He who loves to fight”) traveled with the Second Corps. Iran, Palestine, North Africa and finally Italy. The soldiers of the Anders Army were famous for their recklessness and courage, so they always had a place in the front ranks of the battle.
3. For the first time, Wojtek showed himself in Palestine: in place of two saboteurs not seen by the guards, a wild beast left only bloody patches. For some time, even their own people were afraid of Wojtek, but the bear never showed aggression towards members of “his” company.
4. Wojtek was generally distinguished by intelligence and ingenuity. The soldiers perceived him as an equal comrade-in-arms - over time, the bear began to appear regularly at the formations of the detachment and even learned to salute the officers.
5. Like all the rest of the company, Wojtek loved beer, sweets and chewing tobacco. The busy life of a career soldier!
The talisman of the artillery company, officially accepted for service in the Polish army, survived both the landing in Italy and the difficult cover operation of the 78th British division that fell into the boiler. This battle became a high point for Wojtek.
6. Soldiers of the 22nd company got stuck on Mount Cassino. Elite units of the German troops dug in on the slopes, having managed to drown the previous attacks of the Americans, the Dutch and the British in blood. The German paratroopers were not going to give up strategic height to some Poles.
7. On the third day of the battles, the soldier's morale of the Second Division fell. There were not enough people for the attacks, command officers and even workers for the timely delivery of ammunition. Artillery convoys, where Voytek was spinning, were unloaded for hours. At some point, a smart bear came up to the side of the car and raised its paws. The soldier jokingly handed him a shell box. And the beast, to the complete amazement of several dozen spectators, took it and carried it to the artillery crew.
8. And returned. Once again. Of course, Wojtek alone would not be able to provide shells for the entire detachment. The people who decided to work and fight to the end were able to. A complete decline in strength was replaced by hysterical enthusiasm. What you need for insane attacks.
9. In the evening of the same day, the Polish flag was raised on the slope. The Wojtek carrying projectile became the official symbol of the artillery company - a drawing was made by one of the driver soldiers.
10. The bear went through the entire war without a single scratch and died at a respectable age in a hospital bed at the Edinburgh Zoo.
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