Polish soldiers enlisted an unlikely recruit when fighting in World War II: a bear.

wotjek soldier bear

The heartwarming story of Wojtek the soldier bear, pictured above, has been documented in museums, through art and in a BBC documentary. Wojtek, a Syrian bear that was adopted as a cub by Polish soldiers during World War II, famously became an essential part of the Polish army between 1942 and 1947.

As a cub, soldiers fed Wojtek milk before graduating him to beer and cigarettes. At the Battle of Monte Cassino, he carried artillery shells for the soldiers, according to the BBC. Though Wojtek's story goes against today's standards for how to treat animals, the bear served as a major morale booster for soldiers.

Below is a slideshow of Wojtek with his fellow Polish soldiers, which we attained with the help of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. What do you think of Wojtek’s story? Let us know in the comments section.

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  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    Wojtek was sold to the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps in 1942.

  • Wojtek The Soldier Bear

    Wojtek, a Syrian brown bear cub, was found as <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15736812" target="_blank">an orphan in Iran</a>.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    Wojtek officially became a private in World War II when the Allies pushed into Italy, according to the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018jhfr/features/the-wojtek-story" target="_blank">BBC</a>.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    Wojtek enjoyed drinking bear, and eating and <a href="http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/tribute-to-voytek-the-smoking-drinking-fighting-soldier-bear-1-1075589" target="_blank">smoking cigarettes</a>.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    "He was essential to the soldiers. He wasn’t a cuddly toy or a cartoon character; he was a serious morale-booster for them," said Krystyna Ivell, a woman who was aware of Wojtek legend's as a child, in a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018jhfr/features/the-wojtek-story" target="_blank">BBC article</a>.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    "He really was feeling like a member of our small military family," said former Polish soldier Wojciech Narebski in a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15736812" target="_blank">BBC article</a>.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    According to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15736812" target="_blank">this BBC article</a>, Wojtek was friendly and liked play-fighting with fellow soldiers.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    After World War II, Wojtek went to live in a zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    Wojtek died in <a href="http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/" target="_blank">Edinburgh Zoo</a> in 1963.

  • Wojtek The Solider Bear

    A sculpture by artist David Harding in the Sikorski Museum in London shows Wojtek with an ammo box, according to the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.