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"He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer - he drank a bottle of beer like any man "
August 12, 2010 9:07 AM   Subscribe

World War II was a time that called for many things from many different people. However, one Polish soldier stepped above and beyond the call of his nature. He carried ammunition, he helped his squad members get better at wrestling, and he drank and smoked with the rest of them - Wojtek, the soldier bear.

You can see Wojtek relaxing with his squad mates in any of these two videos.

A BBC story about honoring the dead as well as Wojtek.

Apparently official Wojtek the Bear website. It contains many pictures of him with the regiment as well as information about his squad members.

Website about a book about Wojtek written by a high school English teacher.

More information on Wojtek, though they may have redundant information.

Finally, a monument to Wojtek in Iran?

Finally, the two articles I found the funniest.
posted by lizarrd (48 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm pulling transporting ammo for Springfield the Allies!

Seriously, this is so adorable.
posted by griphus at 9:11 AM on August 12, 2010


Wojtek - DEADLIER then the average bear.
posted by The Whelk at 9:17 AM on August 12, 2010


I love the logo for the artillery unit he worked for. It would look good on a t-shirt.
posted by marxchivist at 9:18 AM on August 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's no bear cavalry but I'll take it.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's very cute. Although I was pretty nervous about the soldiers (and in some photos, kids) playing with a tamed wild bear. And I'm very skeptical that a bear could carry a box any distance.
posted by DU at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2010


Oh my god, Colbert was right!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:23 AM on August 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


marxchivist: "I love the logo for the artillery unit he worked for. It would look good on a t-shirt."

dude, I would so wear that
posted by idiopath at 9:28 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that panserbjørne actually exist just made my day.
posted by schmod at 9:29 AM on August 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


He was mentioned in an exhibition the Imperial War Museum had three years ago, my kid was totally skeptical. Big cynic, gonna email him the links.

This is better than badgers in Iraq.
posted by shinybaum at 9:31 AM on August 12, 2010


Kocham Cię, Polska.
posted by mdonley at 9:32 AM on August 12, 2010


Did anyone else instantly think of Carnivale on HBO?
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:38 AM on August 12, 2010


So why did he wind up in the Edinburgh zoo and not Krakow or Warsaw?
posted by paisley henosis at 9:51 AM on August 12, 2010


Proud Pole here, I love this story. Thanks for sending it. What a great bear! It pays to be kind to animals who can destroy your enemies.
posted by mermayd at 9:52 AM on August 12, 2010


This is better than badgers in Iraq

Fun fact: my brother was in Badger Squadron, based at Basra airport, when that story broke. He found it highly amusing.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:52 AM on August 12, 2010


One of the articles covers it, but as far as I can tell the Polish 22nd didn't want to return to USSR dominated Poland so they went instead to Edinburgh. Most of them ended up settling there with Wojtek and visited him at the zoo.
posted by lizarrd at 9:55 AM on August 12, 2010


Druid tank FTW!
posted by Xoebe at 9:57 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was about to say the same think about the logo. I will buy that shirt in a heartbeat.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:59 AM on August 12, 2010


Also, Wikipedia entry on the II Polish Artillery Corps FTW:

"In May 1945 the Corps consisted of 55,780 men and approximately 1,500 women from auxiliary services. There was also one bear."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seen also in 5 True War Stories that put Every Action Movie to Shame.

And for the record, all of this does nothing to diminish my urge to get a bear as a pet. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
posted by quin at 10:01 AM on August 12, 2010


lizarrd: One of the articles covers it, but as far as I can tell the Polish 22nd didn't want to return to USSR dominated Poland so they went instead to Edinburgh. Most of them ended up settling there with Wojtek and visited him at the zoo.

Thanks. I figured it was something having to do with the USSR, but it didn't make sense to me that the Soviets wouldn't allow a hero bear.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:01 AM on August 12, 2010


Soldier-bear, soldier-bear
Totin' ammo from here to there!
Can he fight? Listen, Bub:
He's got a taste for Nazi blood!

Look out!
Here comes Soldier-Bear!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:23 AM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Despite the cuddly name of "honey badger," they are a bunch of tough muvvas. Not exactly "man-eating," but they could probably pummel your kids.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:34 AM on August 12, 2010


Also: a higher quality image of the Wojtek badge on a war relics forum, if you were looking for such a thing.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2010


Add my name to the t-shirt preorder list.
posted by box at 10:54 AM on August 12, 2010


I live in the American West, so believe me when I tell you BEARS DO NOT NEED FRICKIN' GUNS.
posted by elder18 at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2010


There's a trope in some fantasy stories, that in times of great crises - at the epic, end-of-story battle - the Chosen Hero can call upon the animal kingdom who will come and fight with the forces of Good.

Huh.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2010


from one of the articles:
In the same vein, you have to assume that it was pretty fucking demoralizing to the Germans to see that the Poles had a fucking GIANT GODDAMNED BROWN BEAR fighting on their side.

I think I'd pretty much surrender once I saw that even bears were against me.
posted by COBRA! at 11:19 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is a great higher quality image, filthy light thief. I would gladly join the Wojtek shirt badge preorder list.

COBRA!: Yeah, that is definitely what I would think anyway.
posted by lizarrd at 11:21 AM on August 12, 2010


you know who else was a famous bear on the internet?

/oh, this isn't that other site...
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:22 AM on August 12, 2010


Although I was pretty nervous about the soldiers (and in some photos, kids) playing with a tamed wild bear

Weren't you nervous about the soldiers being, you know, IN WORLD WAR TWO??
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:32 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is lovely in no small part because it ended well for the bear. On a practical note, this seems like a huge risk because the death of that bear during service would have destroyed morale pretty much permanently, I think.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:32 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


A wonderful and inspiring story, though of course, I might be biased :)
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:57 AM on August 12, 2010


Q: "What kind of bear is best?"
A: Wojtek.
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:06 PM on August 12, 2010


This is lovely in no small part because it ended well for the bear. On a practical note, this seems like a huge risk because the death of that bear during service would have destroyed morale pretty much permanently, I think.

What? If Nazis killed my bear I would do nothing but kill Nazis all day.



What... what a strange thing I just said.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:54 PM on August 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


The bear was fed with fruits, marmalade, honey and syrup

Paddington?! PADDINGTON IS THAT YOU
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 2:10 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have a t-shirt design waiting for approval at Spreadshirt. I'll let you know.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2010


Metafilter: What... what a strange thing I just said.
posted by MrVisible at 2:45 PM on August 12, 2010


I would like to point out that this is lizarrd's first post on the blue. Please, more, this is effing fantastic.
posted by rainbaby at 4:34 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I really want to start a side band now just so I can call it "Wojtek Soldier Bear."
posted by COBRA! at 5:16 PM on August 12, 2010


For a good read about Wojtek's life with the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, I highly recommend the book Soldier Bear by Wieslaw A. Lasocki and Geoffrey Morgan.
It was first published in 1970. It looks like there have not been any recent reprints, so there is probably no stock of new books. Used copies can be found via used book dealers and auction sites.
posted by Eco at 11:21 PM on August 12, 2010


Xoebe: had to favourite your comment. Janya the tauren druid commanded it.

She's so strong and she's so pretty
Don't matter if she's bear or kitty
Block the strong or slice finesse
Janya the bitch princess

None of it was true - I was kinda crap compared to the super dedicated folk, but at least I had a theme song!

Moving on - what a cool bear!
posted by Sparx at 12:45 AM on August 13, 2010


From the BBC badger link: UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.

This.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:58 AM on August 13, 2010


OK, shirt design approved. Who wants a shirt? I'll post in Projects for those wanting details, to avoid the self-link here.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


...aaand, Projects isn't really the right place for this, it is now clear in retrospect. In case anyone's interested, I set up a design at Spreadshirt:

Wojtek Green/White
Wojtek Dark Green/White
Wojtek Brown/White
Wojtek Orange/White

(I'm somewhat new to the t-shirt thing, so let me know if there's something I've missed or an color/style I should add)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:07 PM on August 16, 2010


Nice job! I wouldn't have thought to return to this thread and check to see if someone made a shirt. I was thinking about making one, but I slacked.

I was about to write up how I thought the whole design was an incorrect simplification of the badge design (his left paw is holding the bottom of the shell, carrying it in front of him instead of at his side), but this forum page on Animals used during the war on the battlefield has a decent picture of Wojtek in a truck with the logo on the side.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:45 AM on August 18, 2010


Shirt ordered. Awesome.
posted by COBRA! at 11:18 AM on August 18, 2010


COBRA!: "Shirt ordered. Awesome."

ditto, hopefully I will make it to another meetup soon, with my new shirt to show off
posted by idiopath at 2:35 AM on August 19, 2010


In America, you have right to bear arms. In pre-Soviet Poland, you have right to arm bears!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2010


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