Wojtek

Wojtek


A bear fought in the Polish Army in WW2. He carried shells to the frontline and was taught to salute.


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Wojtek endeared himself to members of a Polish army unit in 1942 when he alerted them to the presence of a spy in their camp.

The Polish soldiers, who were released by Russia after the German invasion in 1941, were passing through the Middle East on their way back to Europe. Picking up new members on such a trip wouldn't be unusual, but Wojtek's case was a little different because he was a bear.

Wojtek, whose mother is thought to have been shot by hunters, was bought by Polish soldiers while they were in Iran and eventually joined what would become the Polish II Corps' 22nd artillery supply company in 1942. He continued with them through Iraq and into Egypt.

To board a ship to Europe in 1943, Wojtek needed to be a soldier, so the Poles formally enlisted him as a private — with his own paybook and serial number.

Wojtek, who eventually weighed well over 400 pounds, also got double rations.

"He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly," tells Wojciech Narebski, a Polish soldier who spent three years alongside Wojtek during the war.

They also shared a name — Wojtek is a diminutive form of the name Wojciech, which means "happy warrior."


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