On the island of Luzon, Philippines, during the battle to liberate Manila from Japanese rule, a story of bravery emerges with the presence of Smoky, a small and fearless Yorkshire terrier.

By early 1945, relentless Japanese bombing had severely damaged the American army’s communications system, leaving its troops in a critical situation. To reestablish the connection, several telegraph cables had to be passed through an underground pipe about eighty feet long and eight inches in diameter, which crossed a landing strip.

To prevent their men from becoming a target of the enemy for at least three days when digging a trench, they suddenly decided to turn to the cunning and tiny Smoky. The dog had been adopted by Corporal Bill Wynne in Nadzab, New Guinea. He had acquired her for two Australian pounds from a companion who had found her abandoned and starving in a trench.

Equipped with a kite string tied to its collar and the necessary cables, the regiment’s mascot, weighing only two kilos and seventeen centimeters tall, bravely ventured inside the pipe. From the other end, Wynne was shouting encouragement for her to keep moving. They were tense moments for both the corporal and little Smoky. However, despite the darkness and claustrophobia caused by the pipe, Smoky continued step by step until he appeared on the other side, filling Corporal Wynne and his entire regiment with joy.

Smoky’s feat saved approximately 250 soldiers who would otherwise have fallen to Japanese bullets and allowed about 40 aircraft to continue operating in the conflict zone. He thus wrote a moving chapter of success in the midst of the chaos of war.

Over the years, Smoky and Wynne shared war attacks, typhoons and different combat missions, highlighting their unbreakable and complicit camaraderie, which perhaps made them braver if possible.

To talk about this incredible feat and the concept of courage, I have the honor of chatting with Francesc Miralles, author of great successes such as the best seller Ikigai and expert in personal development and spirituality.

Rosa: Francesc, Smoky was undoubtedly a brave dog. The term “bravery” occupies such a wide semantic space that it is colonized by many synonyms: courage, intrepidity, heroism, audacity, courage, bravery, audacity… Is it because they are terms that have to do with epic?

Francesc: The value of courage has a very different meaning applied to a human being, who is aware of the danger and the possibility of death, than in an animal that acts by instinct. There are certain breeds of dogs that we can relate to the human concept of bravery, especially defense and guard dogs, such as the German Shepherd. In principle, small breed dogs are not brave. In Smoky’s case, his main feat was venturing into a narrow, dark space to fulfill his master’s wish.

Rosa: Is the epic on the rise or decline in our society?

Francesc: Personally, I perceive that young people today are more fearful and less proactive than those of previous generations. Spending so much time at home with their cell phones has sapped their courage and epic spirit.

Rosa: How would you define bravery or what does it mean to be brave?

Francesc: According to my friend Álex Rovira, it means being willing to take risks for a worthwhile goal.

Rosa: Does being brave mean not feeling fear or pain?

Francesc: The brave person feels fear and pain just like the coward. The difference is that he does not allow himself to be paralyzed by these emotions.

Rosa: Can we talk about bravery only in heroic acts like the one carried out by Smoky?

Francesc: I believe that, more than bravery, in a Yorkshire we can talk about loyalty towards his master and desire to satisfy him. That’s why he followed an order that went against the alerts of his survival instinct.

Rosa: Can extreme bravery occur without a certain degree of unconsciousness?

Francesc: Extreme bravery is that of a mother or father willing to do anything to save their child. On a battlefield, extreme bravery is displayed by those soldiers who are unaware of the risks they are taking. These die long before their companions.

Rosa: How can courage be improved?

Francesc: It is difficult to improve, since it is a way of relating to reality. What is true is that the more we obey our fears, the more limited we are. The only way to develop courage is to challenge your instinct and act against what your body asks of you.

Rosa: Seneca said that “he who is brave is free”…

Francesc: Yes, it means that brave people have a much broader field of possibilities than the faint-hearted.