Did you know a Syrian brown bear named Wojtek was a corporal in the Polish military during World War II? How did such a thing happen? Well, in 1942 some polish soldiers, who were being evacuated from the Soviet Union, bought the bear as a cub at a railway station in Iran. They bought it from a young boy who had found the bear (the bear's mother had been killed by hunters).
At first, the bear had difficulty swallowing food, so the soldiers fed it condensed milk using a vodka bottle. They named the bear Wojtek (pronounced Voy-tek) and eventually started feeding it fruits and honey. Wojtek apparently had a fondness for beer, which the soldiers gave it as a reward. The soldiers grew fond of the bear, but they found it somewhat challenging to provide it with rations and to get permission to transport it. So, they officially enlisted the bear as a soldier, with the rank of private. Wojtek was listed among the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company.
Wojtek was promoted to corporal due to his efforts during the Battle of Monte Cassino. As the story goes, Wojtek carried crates of ammunition by himself that normally required four men to carry.
After the war Wojtek spent the rest of his life at the Edinburgh Zoo.
- Wojtek the bear - Imperial War Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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