The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side [NOOK Book]


An instant hit in the UK, this is the true account of a German shepherd who was adopted by the Royal Air Force during World War II, joined in flight missions, and survived everything from crash-landings to parachute bailouts—ultimately saving the life of his owner and dearest friend.

In the winter of 1939 in the cold snow of no-man’s-land, two loners met and began an extraordinary journey that would turn them into lifelong friends. One was an ...
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The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side

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An instant hit in the UK, this is the true account of a German shepherd who was adopted by the Royal Air Force during World War II, joined in flight missions, and survived everything from crash-landings to parachute bailouts—ultimately saving the life of his owner and dearest friend.

In the winter of 1939 in the cold snow of no-man’s-land, two loners met and began an extraordinary journey that would turn them into lifelong friends. One was an orphaned puppy, abandoned by his owners as they fled Nazi forces. The other was a different kind of lost soul—a Czech airman bound for the Royal Air Force and the country that he would come to call home.

Airman Robert Bozdech stumbled across the tiny German shepherd—whom he named Ant—after being shot down on a daring mission over enemy lines. Unable to desert his charge, Robert hid Ant inside his jacket as he escaped. In the months that followed the pair would save each other’s lives countless times as they flew together with Bomber Command. And though Ant was eventually grounded due to injury, he refused to abandon his duty, waiting patiently beside the runway for his master’s return from every sortie, and refusing food and sleep until they were reunited. By the end of the war Robert and Ant had become British war heroes, and Ant was justly awarded the Dickin Medal, the “Animal VC.”

With beautiful vintage black-and-white photos of Robert and Ant, The Dog Who Could Fly is a deeply moving story of loyalty in the face of adversity and the unshakable bond between a man and his best friend.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

"SO LOYAL, SO BRAVE, THE DOG WHO FLEW AGAINST THE LUFTWAFFE" read the Daily Mail headlines. The German shepherd pup that Czech airman Robert Bozdech found behind enemy lines and saved returned the favor by saving his master and becoming his flying companion. First published in the UK, where it became a bestseller, Damien Lewis's story of World War II's smallest decorated hero will endear itself to pet lovers and war buffs alike. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
★ 04/14/2014
In this heartwarming and well-paced man-and-his-dog story, Lewis (Sergeant Rex) takes readers on a roller-coaster ride with as many ups and downs as a bombing mission. During WWII, Czech airman Robert Bozdech and his canine companion Antis strove to contribute to the war effort, first from France, then Great Britain. Together, the two set out on wartime adventures full of severe injuries, harrowing narrow escapes, and death-defying bravery, testing the limits of the bond between man and beast. After the war, Bozdech and Antis retired to Czechoslovakia, but they were forced to flee as the Soviets targeted RAF airmen. They made their way back to the U.K., where Bozdech rejoined the RAF and eventually became a British citizen. This is a captivating read, from the moment we meet Antis as a forlorn, abandoned pup in a French farmhouse, and on through one deathly peril after another. Lewis has captured the spirit of the era and told the story using Bozdech’s manuscript as source material without making it maudlin or sentimental. This is a thoroughly enjoyable story of heroism and true friendship, and for lovers of WWII history and animals it is not to be missed. (June)
The Sun (London)
"A real gem of modern history, both poignant and beautifully told."
"A gripping war story and an utterly heartfelt narrative... A stirring drama of WWII that dog lovers will not be able to resist."
Seattle Kennel Club
“Fasten your seatbelt, this fast-moving World War II docudrama keeps you on edge from cover to cover – with an intoxicating blend of tension and passion, from air raids over Europe to blackouts in England and Scotland.”
Western Morning News (UK)
"Truly epic... Reveals just how deep the bond between man and dog can be... A story of animal bravery which is unlikely to be repeated."
Lancashire Evening Post
"A story of love and loyalty guaranteed to capture hearts."
Northern Echo (UK)
"You'll be wiping the tears from your eyes as you read the story of this orphaned puppy... Damien Lewis has written a tearjerker to touch the heart of even the most hardened member of the anti-dog brigade."
Good Book Guide (UK)
"Uplifting... Their bond [is] testament to the relationship forged between man and dog."
Spencer Quinn
"A great war story, packed with excitement and suspense. But it's the love between the two aviators, man and dog, that will linger in your mind."
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476739168
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 6/10/2014
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 84,754
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Damien Lewis is a lifelong dog lover and award-winning writer who has spent twenty years reporting from war, disaster, and conflict zones for the BBC, CNN, and many other news organizations. He is the author of more than twenty books, topping bestseller lists worldwide, and is published in over thirty languages. He is also the coauthor of two acclaimed memoirs about military working dogs, Sergeant Rex with Mike Dowling and It’s All About Treo with Dave Heyhoe, which is being developed as a TV drama series.
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Read an Excerpt

The Dog Who Could Fly

  • In the early hours of a bitterly cold January day in 1940, a French Potez 63 fighter-bomber aircraft was shot down over the German front line. The French pilot and his Czech gunner survived the devastating crash landing, and in the epic escape bid that followed one of the most remarkable and enduring man–animal partnerships of the Second World War was forged.

I first heard about the relationship between the Royal Air Force’s flying dog of war and Czech airman Robert Bozdech in a passing comment made by British soldier and bestselling author Captain David Blakeley (Pathfinder and Maverick One). Blakeley—a fellow dog lover—had read two of my previous books about extraordinary man–dog partnerships forged on the front line of war—Sergeant Rex and It’s All About Treo, both of which were coauthored with the modern-day bomb-detection dog handlers whose stories they portrayed.

Blakeley’s comment was: “If you want to read a truly amazing story of a man and dog at war, look up Ant and Robert Bozdech’s story, from the Second World War. It’ll blow you away.”

My curiosity piqued, I went on to read as widely as I could about their story (see the references at the end of this book). But one thing struck me most powerfully: while the tale of the heroic man-and-dog duo who fought with Bomber Command during the Second World War had seemingly been told, it remained something of a riddle wrapped up inside a mystery in an enigma. Their story was supposedly related in the 1965 book One Man and His Dog, but Robert Bozdech was not the author of that book. It was written by the late author and journalist Anthony Richardson, and in its pages Robert Bozdech was strangely referred to as Jan Bozdech. Altogether, my reading of it seemed to raise as many questions as it answered.

The deeper I dug the more curious it all became. There was originally talk of a film to be made by 20th Century-Fox based upon the heroic duo’s life story, but for reasons unexplained it had never gone into production. I wondered why. This of any story cried out to be turned into a dramatic and compelling movie. There was talk of Robert Bozdech’s dissatisfaction with the book as it was published, but it remained unclear as to what exactly had troubled him. Did that perhaps explain why the book hadn’t used his real name and why the film had never been made?

But most intriguing of all to an author such as myself, there was talk of an original manuscript written by Robert Bozdech, one telling the story of his airborne adventures with Ant, but one that had never seen the light of day. I wondered if such a manuscript had really ever existed, and if so what story it might reveal. Surely, it would tell the full and unexpurgated account of Robert and Ant’s extraordinary adventures as written from the heart by the man who had lived it? If such a manuscript had been written it would have been penned sometime in the early sixties—over fifty years ago—which raised the question of whether a copy still existed today.

There was only one way to answer these many questions, and that was to make contact with the surviving members of the Bozdech family. After the war, Robert Bozdech had made Britain his permanent home—after a short sojourn in his native Czechoslovakia—settling with his veteran war dog, taking British nationality, and raising a family. I found out that Robert’s son, Robert Bozdech Jr., lived in a picturesque part of the west of England in what turned out to be the family home. I corresponded with Robert, we spoke on the phone, and in due course I traveled to south Devon to meet him, along with his two sisters, Pip and Nina. The rambling house seemed to have been shaped and formed by those who had lived there for so long, Mrs. Maureen Bozdech only recently having passed away. I was given a gracious welcome, and over tea and cake the questions to which I had for so long sought answers began to resolve themselves.

Robert Bozdech had helped with the writing of Richardson’s One Man and His Dog, but the two men had not gotten on at all well. In fact, it seemed they had had some blazing arguments along the way. 20th Century–Fox had indeed resolved to make a film based upon that book, but for some reason it had fallen by the wayside. Most surprisingly of all, Robert Bozdech had not been able to reveal his true name—Václav Bozdech—or publish his own story in his own words, because of fears of reprisals against his family in his native Czechoslovakia. Shortly after the Communists took control in Czechoslovakia, Robert found himself a target of pogroms, intimidation, and threats, as did so many Czech airmen, sailors, and soldiers who had fought in the Allied cause. In a form of collateral damage resulting from the Cold War, any Czech with military links to “the West” was seen as being a potential enemy of Czechoslovakia, a state that then formed a part of the Soviet bloc. Hence it was that Robert’s story had been effectively silenced by threats of violence, imprisonment, and worse emanating from the country of his birth.

It was then that I put the million-dollar question to the late Robert Bozdech’s family: had their father actually written his own version of his and Ant’s story in a book or a diary, one that had never seen the light of day?

“Oh, you mean Dad’s original manuscript?” Robert Jr. replied. “Yes, of course. I’ll just fetch a copy.”

He wandered off into a back room, returning a few minutes later with an old-fashioned blue ring binder clutched in one hand. He rubbed it down, dust seeming to dance and sparkle in the sunbeams that streamed through the summer window.

He slid it across the table to me. “Here it is. Dad called it Antis VC.” Robert paused, then laughed a little self-consciously. “It’s far better than anything else that’s ever been written.”

“I’m sure it is . . .” I flipped open the file, and read the first line of a neatly typed manuscript: “The author, who served with distinction in the RAF during the last war, has lost touch with most of his old comrades. Perhaps this book may reach and reunite them . . .”

I glanced up from the page. “D’you mind if I borrow this for a proper read?”

Robert looked to his sisters, then back at me. I detected a twinkle in his kind and trusting eyes. “No, not at all. We’ve always wanted Dad’s story to see the light of day. We’d be delighted if an author such as yourself might help tell it for us, and properly.”

“So, how do you come to have a manuscript such as this . . . and yet it’s never been published?” I asked.

“Well, you see, Dad wrote it out first by hand,” Pip, Robert’s older sister, explained. “For years we only had that handwritten version. Then, back in the time of typewriters—prior to computers—I offered to type it out. God knows what possessed me to do so, for it took forever,” she joked. “Anyhow, that’s the version you’re now holding. Dad included a lot of penciled notes in the margins, along with his original words, so I incorporated those as well.”

I shook my head in amazement. “Well, all I can say is I’m glad you did and saved the story for posterity.”

“Dad could never have had it published when the Communists were still in power,” Nina, Robert’s younger sister, added. “He had a wife and child that he was forced to leave in Czechoslovakia, plus all the rest of his family. The regime took horrible reprisals against those who’d fought with the Allies. He knew it would have to be published after his death or after the Communist regime had fallen, whichever came the sooner. Well, both things have come to pass now, of course, so . . .” She shrugged. “Dad would want you to read it, I’m sure.”

I thanked the three of them, and as I left their home I felt as if I had a hidden gem clutched under my arm. I wondered if Robert Bozdech had written his manuscript in the very hope that one day it might be rediscovered. I could only imagine that was the case, for what other reason could he have had for doing so? On the drive home I was barely able to resist the temptation to pull into a rest stop so I could dive in. In the peace and quiet of my study I was finally able to devour the story as told by Robert Bozdech, in his own words.

His manuscript told a tale of death-defying feats by brave Czech airmen driven to avenge their countrymen, and who refused to be cowed by the Nazi invaders of their country. It was a tale of bitter and bloody action above war-torn France, of a handful of airmen who battled overwhelming odds and far superior German warplanes as the defense of Europe crumbled under the Nazi blitzkrieg. It was a tale of an epic escape from occupied France, and of the remarkable bluff and chutzpah that got Robert Bozdech and his dog, Ant, safely into the UK, along with a handful of fellow Czech airmen. It became a story then of the most remarkable and renowned man-dog duo of the war—Ant becoming famed as the dog who flew countless death-defying sorties with the RAF over Europe.

I met several further times with Robert, Pip, and Nina, and they could not have been more gracious or generous in their support. In an effort to better reveal their father and his dog’s incredible story, they dug out and dusted down suitcases full of their late father’s personal effects—ones that had lain half forgotten in the attic of Pip’s Devon farmhouse. They contained dog-eared diary entries and flight logs, faded newspaper cuttings and scores of photographs, all from the time that their father and his dog flew with the RAF in the war-torn skies of Europe. There were postcards home and letters to family. There were scores of articles and short booklets written by Robert Bozdech immediately after the war, in his native Czech. There were even some ancient “four-inch” reel-to-reel tape recordings, ones that contained Robert’s voice telling his and Ant’s story in his own words—seemingly something to do with the widespread media coverage that he and his dog had enjoyed immediately after the war.


What emerged from this plethora of material was above all else a story of the unshakable and unbreakable love between one man and his dog, a love that enabled the duo to survive numerous brushes with death in a way that seemed to defy comprehension. Ant (or Antis as he was subsequently renamed) was the only dog to fly and fight with the RAF’s Bomber Command. He was repeatedly wounded on the ground and in the air, and shot down under fire. He had had his own doggie oxygen mask crafted for him by the Bomber Command technicians, and his ever more extreme brushes with death meant that he must have had many more than a cat’s nine lives.

In short, the story as revealed in Robert Bozdech’s original manuscript and the associated materials was a gripping account of the most celebrated partnership between man and dog of the Second World War, a tale that remains unparalleled to this day.

This, then, is their story, told as much as possible in Robert’s own words.

Damien Lewis, Cork, Ireland, 2013

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2015

    Cool read

    At first, I thought the title was stupid. But once I read this book, I realized the book was awesome.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Super Read

    As a follower of working K-9's, this was a great read from beginning to end.

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  • Posted October 16, 2014

    What an amazing story and an amazing dog.  My shepherd is really

    What an amazing story and an amazing dog.  My shepherd is really smart, but compared to Antis is pretty simple. Glad this author had the gumption to find out the real story and to share the story with everyone. 

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  • Posted September 23, 2014

    This was a great read from the beginning to the end! The story o

    This was a great read from the beginning to the end! The story of the bond between man and dog were felt in each passing adventure. Reading the struggles during a war and what this dog was willing to do for his master was amazing and being the dog person I am really made it relatable. The world would be a much better place were we all so honor bound and dedicated to each other.
    This is an improbable story and I am sure once you pick it up it will be worth every minute you spend with the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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