An enthusiastic dual biography of a man and his wartime animal companion.
A Czech volunteer in the French Air Force, Robert Bozdech crashed in no man’s land at the beginning of WWII. Returning to friendly lines, he discovered a puppy in an abandoned house and kept it throughout his service, including four years of missions for the Royal Air Force. With access to Bozdech’s papers and unpublished memoirs, journalist Lewis (co-author: Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog, 2011, etc.), who has reported from war and conflict zones for a variety of news outlets, delivers a detailed narrative. Named Antis, the dog was impressively loyal, intelligent and stoic. It accompanied Bozdech in the headlong retreat across France after the Nazi invasion and cooperated as his master smuggled him aboard a ship to Gibraltar and then another to Britain (pets were forbidden). Antis smuggled himself aboard his master’s bomber and flew several missions over Europe before being severely injured by flak. He was also buried in rubble for several days after a bombing attack, shot by an angry farmer for chasing sheep, and suffered nearly fatal cold injury due to the fact that he waited beside the runway for Bozdech’s return, often for days, refusing food and ignoring rain and snow. His presence was no secret to the British media, who made him a national celebrity, and he later received the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Bozdech himself was equally impressive, completing his missions in Bomber Command (only half survived) and then completing another turn in the Coastal Command.
Books on dogs who served in war make up a minor genre. This account will appeal to dog lovers and history buffs who can tolerate the florid novelization and fictionalized dialogue.