Thursday, October 27, 2011

Judy - Suspiciously Awesome Prisoner of War

We've all heard of stories of people that overcome the worst possible odds and find themselves standing on a hill of decaying flesh, shining with the mere awesomeness of what they've accomplished. This is one of those stories. Except, instead of a fully capable, well-built, easily adaptable adult, it's a dog. You heard me right, a dog. If you thought that "a man's best friend" was overrated, wait until you hear the story of Judy.

Judy was one of the many dogs born in the Shanghai Dog Kennels in 1937; she was a first class pure bred liver and White Pointer. However, she was offered to the Royal Navy as a typical animal mascot at a very young age. Thankfully, the Royal Navy accepted the offer and took her in to help raise morale for their men. Wise decision.

She was assigned to the HMS Gnat, which was a a small, well-armed ship used for shallow rivers or near the shore. The ship was primarily used in China at the time of Judy's employment. At first, she had a rocky start getting adjusted to the new setting and at one point, fell overboard into the Yangtze River. But despite that, Judy wasn't the type of dog to simply sit around and look cute. She was known by the crew to be able to pinpoint out hostile Japanese aircrafts long before anyone in the human crew could hear them.

She was later transferred to the HMS Grasshopper, which was another river gunboat during World War 2. On the fateful day in February 14, 1942, the HMS Grasshopper along with the HMS Drangonfly was attacked by hostile fighter-bombers which forced both ships' crew to evacuate. The HMS Drangonfly fared the worst when it  sank after two direct hits. But after that, the crew found themselves alone, on a deserted island with little food, and zero sources of fresh water.

When the situation looked most dire, out of nowhere, the ship's mascot appeared two days later, covered with mysterious oil. (Obviously, she just got back from her oil well investments.) She suddenly began digging into the shoreline for reasons unknown to the crew. After a few minutes, Judy hit a fresh water spring and was later acknowledged for saving everyone's life.

"No need to thank me or anything."

A few days later, the crew managed to seize a Chinese "Junk" ship and sailed all the way to Sumatra. After that, the crew (along with Judy) was forced to make a 200-mile cross-country run for their life across the island to reach Padang and get rescued. After trekking for hundred of miles, they found themselves in a Japanese-held village and were captured several miles from Padang.

The crew soon became registered prisoners of war under the Japanese, which were known for torture, starvation, horrific labor and other horrible things. They snuck Judy with them, hidden under a bunch of empty rice sacks for five days as they were forced to the Gloergoer POW camp at Medan. While the situation looked pretty bad, it was possibly the best thing to happen to Judy in her life. Inside of the camp, Judy met a dashingly good looking Leading Aircraftman named Frank; they bonded instantly.

Soon enough, he began to share his maggot covered boiled rice with her daily. On the other hand, Judy started to follow Frank everywhere, to the point of sleeping with her head on his legs. But it didn't stop there. She probably saved hundreds of lives in the camp by simply sounding the alarm when snakes, scorpions or guards were nearby. When the guards came by to take some of the prisoners for horrific beatings, Judy responded by snarling, barking and throwing herself at the guards. Even if she jumped towards a rifle's butt or bad kick in the face, she often bought enough time for the prisoners to avoid the planned beatings.

Frank knew that eventually, the guards would get tired of Judy, and kill her. In an attempt to protect her, he convinced the camp's Commandant to legally register Judy as an official prisoner of war when he/she was drunk on Sake. In return, he promised to give the camp's commandant one of Judy's future puppies for his girlfriend. She was registered as "81A Gloergoer, Medan" during her time at the camp and the promise was kept. Another of Judy's puppies were used to smuggle spare food to the woman's camp. A few years later, a woman contacted Frank and told him that her mother, one of the women at the camp, never forgot about the puppy and the food before her ultimate demise.

Judy and her puppies

About two years later, the men were transferred to Singapore on the SS Van Warwyck and dogs weren't allowed. So Frank taught Judy how to lie perfectly still and silent inside of a rice sack in a few hours. When he got onto the ship, Judy climbed into the sack and Frank slung the sack over his back. For the next three hours, the men were forced to stand on the deck in the searing heat. Judy managed to stay silent and quiet

Soon enough, the ship was torpedoed and the ship began to sink.  Frank pushed Judy out of a porthole, 15 feet into the sea in an desperate attempt to save her life. After that, he made an escape from the ship, not knowing if Judy survived the fall and swam to safety.

To pile worst over worst, Frank was recaptured and sent new camp without any news about Judy's survival. Things were looking grey when Frank later found out that Judy was found dead on the coastline of one of the islands. Just kidding. He started hearing stories spark amidst the men about a mysteriously handsome dog helping drowning men reach pieces of debris and allowing people to hold onto her back as she swam them back to safety.

Here's Judy trying to explain quantum physics.

But with Judy's unconfirmed survival, Frank was still uneasy. Until he arrived to the camp of course. As soon as he entered the camp, he knocked down by one of the happiest dogs of all time. "I couldn't believe my eyes. As I entered the camp, a scraggy dog hit me square between the shoulders and knocked me over! I'd never been so glad to see the old girl. and I think she felt the same!" After that eventful day, they spent the next year in the camp cutting through the jungle to lay railway track with the other prisoners. Each prisoners were given a a handful of tapioca (which was covered by maggots) and Frank happily shared the food with Judy until the day the war ended.

Soon enough, the guards were getting tired of the dog that kept attacking them, and sentenced her to death. However, before the guards got ahold of her, she escaped into the jungle. Instead of eating maggot covered tapioca everyday, she ate snakes, rats and monkeys. That's how hardcore she was. At one point, she was mauled by a local alligator, and managed to survive.

Luckily, the war was soon over, and the prisoners were liberated. Sadly enough, Judy was forced to be smuggled onto the troop ship home due to the "strictly no dogs" rule on the ship. With the help of the other ex-prisoners, they avoided the dock police and was delivered to the ship's cook which made sure she was fed on the journey back home.

After a few months in quarantine, (To make sure she wasn't carrying any foreign disease and parasites etc.) she became a national hero and recipient of the Dickin Medal; which was the equivalent of the Victoria Cross,
the highest military decoration awarded by some British Empire/Commonwealth countries. Her medal said "For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and also for saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness".

She was later interviewed by the BBC for their coverage off the London Victory Celebrations in 1946. Her inspirational barks were broadcast to the nation on the radio. During the interview, Frank said that Judy seemed to always give a comforting presence.

Look at that face and tell me different! (Judy pictured at the far right) 

A few years later, the duo left to work on a government sponsored food scheme with Judy sitting the plane seat next to Frank. They worked there for almost two years until Judy developed a tumor. Frank had to make the horrible decision to put her asleep at age 13. After that, Frank spent the next two months of his life building a giant granite and marble memorial in her memory.

Frank once said that "She saved my life in so many ways. The greatest way of all was giving me a reason to live. All I had to do was look at her and into those weary, bloodshot eyes and I would ask myself: What would happen to her if I died? I had to keep going. Even if it meant waiting for a miracle."