Wojtek was born in in 1942, but by the end of World War II he was a corporal in the Polish Army.

After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Brigade began a long trek south toward Persia. It was then that they encountered Wojtek.

The bear became a mascot for the troops in its youth. The bear would frequently drink alcohol and smoke, even eat, cigarettes with the men.

After a long journey, Wojtek’s company finally reached Egypt where they prepared to reenter the war zone through Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.

Wojtek, at a massively strong 440 pounds, carried weapons and munitions much faster than the men in his company. Eventually, Wojtek became so symbolic of the company that they immortalized them on their emblem.

Source: “Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals”

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