This Brown Bear Ranked As A Private And Traveled To Italy In 1944, Where He Served As A Loyal And Helpful Companion During World War II

Piotr Krzeslak - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual bear

While soldiers riding solely on horses to fight wars is a thing of the past, many animals who may not have been directly involved in the battle have been loyal to their human companions through some of the most famous wars in the world.

One of those animals was a bear. You read that right, a bear.

Wojtek the bear was a brown bear who was a loyal companion and integral team member to Polish soldiers during World War II.

In 1942, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the II Corps of the Polish army was in Iran to fight the Nazi forces of Germany. While there, some Polish soldiers gave a shepherd a Swiss army knife, chocolate, and canned food in exchange for a Syrian brown bear cub he had wrapped in a sack.

The bear cub, which had likely been abandoned by its mother, was adopted and well taken care of by these soldiers as if he were their baby. He was bottle-fed milk and given plenty of delicious food to eat, like fruit and honey.

The soldiers eventually named the bear cub Wojciech, which translated to “joyful warrior.” As a nickname, they called him Wojtek.

Wojtek grew very comfortable around his human companions but particularly bonded with a soldier named Peter Prendys, who became his primary caretaker. Peter trained Wojtek to be more adaptable to the soldiers’ daily routines. 

Wojtek could salute, wave, and march, and he enjoyed riding in trucks with the soldiers, playfully wrestling them, and even enjoying the occasional beer with them.

Fascinatingly, when the 22nd Artillery Supply Company had to ship out to Italy in 1944 for their military campaign, they were told Mojtek could not join them unless he were enlisted. So, Wojtek was ranked as a private and serial number, so he was just like his soldier friends.

Piotr Krzeslak – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual bear

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