Antis: WWII Dog Hero Who Took to the Skies

Antis became a famous dog in history for his heroism and being the only mascot to fly in combat missions during the Second World War.

In January 1940, Czech gunner Robert Bozdech and French pilot Pierre Duval were on a mission over enemy lines when a German plane shot them down. Both survived the crash in no-man's land and sought shelter in an old farmhouse several hundred feet away from the crash site. Bozdech heard a sound in the farmhouse thinking it was the enemy but soon discovered it was a German shepherd puppy. The puppy was emaciated and very weak, and he kept falling as he struggled to get on his feet. Bozdech knew it would be risky taking the puppy with them but he also knew the little pup was a fighter like himself so he placed the dog inside his jacket when they made their daring escape.

All three were able to avoid German patrols during their escape and were later rescued by French soldiers. Duval, who was injured in the crash, was taken to a hospital and Bozdech with his new furry friend were flown back to his air base in St. Dizier. According to Damien Lewis, author of War Dog, "Like him [Bozdech], this little dog seemed born to fly." Back at the air base, the Czech airmen went crazy for the puppy and accepted him to their group with open arms. The men named the brave dog Ant, after their favorite Russian ANT dive bombers. The dog was later renamed Antis to avoid confusion with the English aunt.

Antis and Robert Bozdech

Antis was the only mascot to fly on combat missions. At first, the dog boarded the plane without anyone knowing. It was nearly 20 minutes into the flight when he was spotted in the plane's belly, gasping for air. Bozdech shared his oxygen mask with Antis while they bombed enemy territory. After the raid, the men and dog were given a hero's welcome, even though it was against regulations for Antis to be aboard the plane. When Bozdech tried to tell his commanding officer the situation, the officer interrupted him "There's a very good English expression," he said. " 'What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over.' I believe it's more often used in connection to matters amorous, but it does just fine for last night's little escapade." Antis accompanied Bozdech in future flights and was even given an oxygen mask that was made specially to fit him. He was amazingly calm during the chaos and was believed to be a lucky charm because they always made it back safely. Antis was injured twice in action, and each time, Bozdech didn't know until they'd landed.

While on ground, Antis had an uncanny ability to sense enemy aircraft before the planes could be seen or heard, at times even before the radars detected them. His early warnings helped save many lives throughout the war. Antis was also credited for saving six lives, including a one year old child, from the rubble of a fallen building during a raid.

When the war ended in 1945, Antis remained with Bozdech. In 1949, Antis was awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest award for animal bravery. Antis died in 1953 at the age of 13 and Bozdech died in 1980 at the age of 67. Bozdech never had another dog after Antis. "He [Bozdech] had sworn that after Antis," Lewis wrote, "that he would never own another."