An unusual and moving story of a singular hero among fellow POWs of the Japanese during World War II: a loyal British pointer named Judy.
With bite and substance, Slate columnist Weintraub (The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball's Golden Age, 2013, etc.) chronicles Judy’s incredible life. Two British soldiers initially adopted her as a mascot for the HMS Gnat, which patrolled the Yangtze River, and she went on to a highly dangerous and decorated career with her captured crew. As a puppy at the Shanghai Dog Kennels, Judy (adapted from her Chinese given name, Shudi, meaning “peaceful”) got kicked around by the invading Japanese sailors, so she learned early on aboard the Gnat who her friends were. The men adored her, and although she was not properly trained as a “gun dog,” pointing at game, she became invaluable for her early warnings of danger. In telling Judy’s adventures, as she was moved from Singapore to a stint in several miserable Japanese POW camps in the Dutch East Indies, Weintraub delineates the plight of the British sailors who took care of her and kept her safe. With the fall of Singapore in early 1942, a massive evacuation was undertaken in Keppel Harbor, from which many refugee boats took off but few survived the strafing by Japanese planes. Miraculously, Judy survived, but she was captured by the Japanese. In captivity, she met the man who would become her lifetime master, Londoner Frank Williams, formerly of the Merchant Navy, who was too tall to fly but worked in mechanics and radar. By mutual trust and aid, dog and man survived several brutal Japanese camps together, braving hunger, sadistic guards, snakes, and tigers.
Weintraub’s research on the prisoners’ experiences in the camps is remarkable as he narrates Judy and Frank’s heroic tale.