We’ve all seen and heard about canine action heroes starring Strongheart, Rin Tin Tin, and Lassie but during World War II a wolfdog named Antis would prove to be a real life canine hero. Born in a French kennel in 1940 Antis was destined to play a big role with the Czechoslovakian RAF as well as a symbol of dedication and freedom to the Czechoslovakian people for decades to come.
March 15, 1939 the Axis powers marched into Czechoslovakia several members of the Czechoslovakian military fled to Allied nations – primarily France in the beginning. Vaclav Bozděchem’s bomber was shot down in “no man’s land” where he found the puppy in an abandoned farmhouse (other versions say he was given the puppy from a French farmer – but the first version was later confirmed by Vaclav). After France became occupied by the Nazis, Vaclav and Antis fled to the UK where they continued the fight on behalf of their homeland as part of the 311 Czechoslovak squadron. Tired of being separated from his master, Antis stowed away on a bombing run. As the crossed the Dutch border he felt something on his elbow, thinking it was his navigator he looked over to see his puppy looking up at him. The plane was at 12,000 feet and not pressurized – the puppy was struggling to breathe so Vaclav shared his oxygen mask. The flight was extremely difficult with higher than expected resistance, thunderstorms, and several electrical failures – the crew said that the puppy must have brought them good luck and quickly made Antis part of their flight team. Antis took part in over 30 missions over Germany – twice being wounded by flak (first time scratches on his head and ear, the second was more serious with wounds to his chest). Even though wounded the dog did not lose any spirit and remained faithful – it wasn’t until after the mission ended did they realize something was wrong with Antis.
While stationed in Liverpool, England, the base Vaclav and Antis were assigned to got bombed and both switched gears into a search and rescue team pulling several survivors out of the rubble.
After World War II Vaclav and Antis moved back to Czechoslovakia but soon after a new occupying force moved in – the Soviets. Vaclav had many opportunities to escape the CSSR but would not leave his faithful companion behind. Finally, in 1948 Vaclav was able to defect to the American sector in Germany with Antis and defect to England where Antis was awarded the Dickin Medal (the animal equivalent of the Victorian Cross or US Medal of Honor).
Antis died in 1953 after a long sickness. Vaclav died in 1980.
This is the second book in a series. We are currently searching for the first book but it appears it is only available in Czech.
Jean, a.k.a. “The Vitagraph Dog” is credited for being the first dog actor in the USA.
While working on an article about a new technology called “moving pictures”, 19 year old Laurence Trimble found himself in the Vitagraph Studios production facility watching Florence Turner (a.k.a. “the Vitagraph girl”) star in a film. The director needed a dog to play opposite Florence and Laurence just happened to have his border collie, Jean, with him.
Little did any of them know this seemingly small decision was going to set the foundation for dogs in movies for the next 100+ years. Jean was such a hit with the fans that she starred in 18-20 short films (some uncredited like “A Sailor’s Sacrifice” and “A Tin-Type Romance”) in a short 3 year career. In her career Jean played a companion and beloved pet by some of the most well-known movie stars in Vitagraph’s studios. Sadly, very few films of Jean have survived the times. So far, only “A Sailor’s Sacrifice” and “A Tin-Type Romance” are known to still exist today.
In 1913 Laurence moved to England to start his own movie production company but his plans were cut short by the outbreak of World War I in 1916. Laurence moved back to the USA but sadly Jean died in 1916. While Laurence and Vitagraph did try to continue Jean’s legacy with Shep, he never gained the popularity that Jean had.
We’ve all seen and heard about canine action heroes starring Strongheart, Rin Tin Tin, and Lassie but during World War II a wolfdog named Antis would prove to be a real life canine hero. Born in a French kennel in 1940 Antis was destined to play a big role with the Czechoslovakian RAF as well as a symbol of dedication and freedom to the Czechoslovakian people for decades to come. Continue reading Vlcak Antis – a true wolfdog hero (that deserves a movie)→
In the 2000 historical film, “The Patriot” General Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) had two pet dogs, both were Great Danes. Mars (played by Charity) and Jupiter (played by Vanilla). Of course, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) adopts these two dogs and while Cornwallis states that they’ve probably been eaten – the next scene shows that Benjamin is treating them very well – feeding them meat (while the troops were low on food). Later in the film, Benjamin returns the dogs to Cornwallis only to call them back as he exits the gates – much to Cornwallis’ anger.
Great Danes are very large dogs (one of the largest breeds in existence) and were considered a status symbol in England royalty at the time (1700s).
Elizabeth McMullan and Kathleen Pirelli are credited for being the dog trainers on the set.