'Mutt,' a World War I dog that brought cigarettes to troops fighting in the trenches.'Mutt,' a World War I dog that brought cigarettes to American troops fighting in the trenches. 

Meet the very good boy who brought smokes to soldiers in the trenches of WWI 

By Miranda Summers Lowe
via the Task and Purpose web site 

Have you ever gotten exactly what you wanted? It’s hard to imagine that any PlayStation 5 on Christmas morning could beat a pack of cigarettes showing up when you’re stuck in the trenches, but add to it that it’s delivered by an adorable dog. That’s what the soldiers of the 11th Engineers were treated to when Mutt, a YMCA trench runner loaded with ciggies, visited them in 1918 in the Aisne-Marne operation during World War I.

Mutt knew the uniform of the day and wore it with pride, as the photos clearly show his jaunty cravat proudly displaying the YMCA logo. And while it’s mission first, he takes time to get some well-earned trench scritches while the doughboys pass out a carton of cigarettes, no doubt providing a morale boost.

If it seems odd that the Young Men’s Christian Association was running smokes to the troops in 1918, it’s fair to say that just a few years prior, the YMCA would have thought the same. In fact, at the start of World War I, cigarettes were considered immoral, and trashy, if not necessarily unhealthy. Pipe smoking was the preferred method of nicotine hit for the refined set. However, the multi-step process of preparing a pipe required time and equipment that were not ideal during combat.

In many ways, World War I was the first American war where morale was taken seriously. The old guard disliked the “molly-coddling,” and “pink tea parties” and left relief work to civilians. The YMCA was the largest, which provided 90% of aid work through uniformed combat civilians, ranging from essential services like feeding and nursing the troops to hosting singalongs, passing out baseball gear, and soon, delivering cigarettes.

There were no smoke pits in World War I, or more accurately, everything was a smoke pit. Tobacco addressed a number of needs. It alleviated boredom and gave a psychological lift, much as it is used now, but also more dire concerns. The buzz was thought to steady the hands and create wakefulness and alertness. The smell helped to cover the grotesque stench of war: human waste, decaying bodies, and intense body odor. And, dulling taste buds were an advantage when rations were repetitive and boring and best and rancid or molding at worst. As a top staff aide to General Pershing described it, “A cigarette may make the difference between a hero and a shirker.”

Read the entire article on the Task and Purpose web site.

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