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Futility Closet

May 13, 2019

In 1944, an American soldier discovered a Yorkshire terrier in an abandoned foxhole in New Guinea. Adopted by an Army photographer, she embarked on a series of colorful adventures that won the hearts of the humans around her. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Smoky the dog, one of the most endearing characters of World War II.

We'll also contemplate chicken spectacles and puzzle over a gratified diner.


In 1955 a Wisconsin supermarket manager fulfilled the requirements for a promotional trip to Mars.

In 1898, Jules Verne sent a congratulatory telegram to honor the first submarine to operate successfully in the open sea.

Sources for our feature on Smoky the dog:

Damien Lewis, Smoky the Brave, 2018.

Kari Williams, "Champion Mascot, Fearless War Dog," VFW Magazine 105:10 (August 2018), 42-43.

"The Tale of Bill Wynne and 'Smoky the War Dog,'" Veteran's News Journal, Aug. 6, 2018, A3.

Rebecca Frankel, "Dogs at War: Smoky, a Healing Presence for Wounded WWII Soldiers," National Geographic, May 22, 2014.

Brian Albrecht, "Smoky of World War II Recognized by U.S. War Dogs Association," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 13, 2017.

Linda Slusser, "The Story of Smoky, The First Therapy Dog," American Kennel Club, Aug. 11, 2016.

Marie Wilson, "A 'Yorkie Doodle Dandy' Dog," [Arlington Heights, Ill.] Daily Herald, Aug. 3, 2014, 1.

Damien Lewis, "The Tiniest Hero," [Adelaide, South Australia] Advertiser, June 9, 2018, 18.

Ron Simon, "A Veteran's Story: WWII Recon Photographer's Canine Sidekick Is Claim to Fame," [Mansfield, Ohio] News Journal, Jan. 14, 2008, A3.

Ron Simon, "Local Man's Dog Prompts War Memorial," [Mansfield, Ohio] News Journal, Nov. 11, 2005, A1.

Karl Terry, "Author of Dog Tales Visits ENMU," McClatchy-Tribune Business News, May 9, 2007, 1.

Harry Levins, "Museum Notes: Every Dog Has His Day, Even the Soldierly Breeds," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 29, 1996, 4.

Ron Simon, "Veteran's Dog Was a Loved Mascot for Unit During WWII," [Mansfield, Ohio] News Journal, Aug. 8, 2004, B1.

Ron Simon, "Stuff: Special Wartime Hero Gets an Award," [Mansfield, Ohio] News Journal, July 25, 2012.

Lara Lauth, "Braveheart War Dog Wins Honour at Last," [Brisbane, Queensland] Sunday Mail, July 22, 2012, 10.

Tanya Bielski-Braham, "Courageous, Yet Unconventional, War Dog Awaits Her Memorial," AKC Gazette 122:5 (May 2005), 14.

Lissa Kaplan, "Smoky Is Remembered in a Book Celebrating Canine Participation on the Battlefield," Dayton Daily News, July 27, 1996, 8D.

Ron Simon, "Stuff: Smoky Awarded for Heroic Actions," [Mansfield, Ohio] News Journal, May 22, 2011.

"An Honour Roll of Australia's Most Decorated Canine War Heroes," [Brisbane, Queensland] Courier-Mail, June 2, 2018, 15.

"Smoky the Terrier: A Tiny War Hero Immortalized," Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Aug. 3, 2011.

Janelle Miles, "Smoky's Heroics Honoured," [Brisbane, Queensland] Courier-Mail, Dec. 12, 2012, 11.

Robert Reno, "The Dog Days of Washington," Austin American Statesman, May 16, 1998, A13.

Cleo Fraser, "QLD: War Hero Pup Honoured," AAP General News Wire, Nov. 17, 2015.

Scott Eyman, "Therapy Dog Is Unlikely Teacher," [West Palm Beach, Fla.] Post, July 28, 2013, F5.

"A Dog Is Not Just a Pet, But a 'Kind of Counsellor With Fur,'" [Dublin] Sunday Independent, Dec. 9, 2018, 30.

Tina White, "Remembering Furry Heroes," [Palmerston North, New Zealand] Manawatu Standard, Feb. 24, 2018, WM17.

"Remembering the Animals of War," [Invercargill, New Zealand] Southland Times, Feb. 24, 2018, A16.

"Animals to the Fore at Museum's New War Exhibit," Asbury Park Press, July 26, 2010.

Listener mail:

Adam Alter, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, 2012.

"Game Theory: Red vs Blue, The SECRET Color Strategy," The Game Theorists, June 25, 2015.

Russell A. Hill and Robert A. Barton, "Psychology: Red Enhances Human Performance in Contests," Nature 435:7040 (May 19, 2005), 293.

Andrei Ilie et al., "Better to Be Red Than Blue in Virtual Competition," CyberPsychology & Behavior 11:3 (June 7, 2008), 375-377.

"Effect of Colors: Blue Boosts Creativity, While Red Enhances Attention to Detail," Science Daily, Feb. 6, 2009.

"Stop On Red! The Effects of Color May Lie Deep in Evolution ...," Association for Psychological Science, June 7, 2011.

"League of Legends: Are There Any Advantages to Starting on the Red or Blue Side?," Quora (accessed May 3, 2019).

Jack Kee, "Why Does Blue Side Win More Games in League of Legends?" 5v5 Esports, March 1, 2018.

"Blue Side Advantage," League of Legends (accessed May 3, 2019).

"Interesting Statistic Regarding Sides in League of Legends," DBLTAP, June 20, 2017.

Sara A. Khan et al. "Red Signals Dominance in Male Rhesus Macaques," Psychological Science 22:8 (August 2011), 1001-1003.

Wikipedia, "Cayo Santiago" (accessed May 3, 2019).

Darrel G. Clarke and Randall E. Wise, "Optical Distortion, Inc. (A)," Harvard Business School Case 575-072, January 1975.

Wikipedia, "Chicken Eyeglasses" (accessed April 27, 2019).

Esther Inglis-Arkell, "Thousands of Chickens Once Wore Glasses to Stop Them Killing Each Other," io9, April 27, 2015.

B. Huber-Eicher, A. Suter, and P. Spring-Stähli, "Effects of Colored Light-Emitting Diode Illumination on Behavior and Performance of Laying Hens," Poultry Science 92:4 (April 2013), 869–873.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Anne Joroch, who sent this link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at Thanks for listening!