What if I told you coyotes could fly? Don’t believe me – think I’ve lost my mind? Well, I’m here to tell you that I know of a coyote who COULD fly – and his name was Jeep! And Jeep wasn’t any cartoon coyote. No, this was a tried and true, real-life American Coyote! And how did he fly without wings, you may ask? Well, in a plane, of course! And here’s his story:
A very long time ago, in May 1944, there lived a mother coyote in a dusty field in the state of Texas. The mother coyote had a litter of coyote pups and tended to them between scouting trips for food. She and other coyotes liked to sneak up to nearby farms in search of tasty rabbits, hens, chickens, and mice. The farmers hated the coyotes and wanted to get rid of them; they didn’t want their farm animals attacked by these pesky scavengers. So, they tried to scare them away or kill them.
One day, a farmer found a baby coyote near his farm. The coyote was no more than two weeks old and must have wandered away from his den-maybe in search of his mother or food. The farmer gave the baby coyote to a teenage boy named John Crump, and told him to get rid of it. At the time, John was a pilot in training at a nearby airfield and was working on the farm for extra money.
John was tender-hearted and loved animals. He just couldn’t bring himself to kill such a cute, furry little creature. So, what did he do? He took him home and started to raise him himself! He decided to call the coyote “Jeep,” after the magical dog in the Popeye cartoons.
John was a very busy young man. On top of helping out on the farm, he was also taking flying lessons while attending high school. He loved flying and wanted to join the Army Air Force. His dream was to join the war effort and fly planes over Europe. World War II was raging in Europe at the time and pilots were needed to help the British fight the Nazis. John graduated high school early and joined the Army Air Force. He was ordered to board a beautiful ship called the Queen Elizabeth – a huge passenger ship converted – or changed – into a military troop ship. His orders were to sail to England to join other pilots fighting in the war.
John was very excited, but he didn’t want to leave his new furry friend, Jeep, behind. Jeep might be killed by angry farmers or die of starvation. John decided to take Jeep on the ship with him. He stowed him away in his bags and carried him on board.
And you might wonder what little Jeep thought about all of these changes in his young life – being taken away from his family, raised by a young man, then lugged onto a rolling ship. He must have been frightened and more than a little confused! A rolling ship with hundreds of humans in tight corners is NOTHING like the vast dusty fields of Texas living with other coyotes!
Well, whatever Jeep thought, he and John survived the ocean crossing and eventually landed in England. They then traveled to Ipswich to join the 356th Fighter Group at Playford Hall, near RAF Martlesham Heath Airfield. This was HEAVEN for John and Jeep! Playford Hall was no dusty farm or bleak metal shed on a slab of concrete. No! Playford Hall was a gorgeous brick mansion set in the middle of green lawns and blooming gardens. And it even had a moat! It was the perfect home for Jeep, a young, rambunctious coyote! He could chase squirrels, birds, butterflies, and frogs!
Jeep loved his new home and he loved John. Jeep sauntered behind John as he went back and forth across the lawns or down the road to the airfield. And everyone at Playford Hall liked Jeep as well – he became their new little mascot and they gave him his own dog tags, log book, and medical records!
Soon it was time for John to take to the skies and fly missions over England and Germany. He jumped in his P-47 Thunderbolt plane, ready to fly into the skies and away towards Germany. But Jeep wanted to go, too! John tried to tell him to stay on the ground, but Jeep wasn’t having any of it. He jumped up on the wing and right into the cockpit, landing on John’s lap! It was a tight fit, but Jeep wasn’t moving. Wherever John was going, so was Jeep!
The war was raging and officers were yelling at the pilots to get into the air, so John decided to take Jeep on the flight with him. He closed the hatch and started the engines. Within seconds they were roaring down the airfield and lifting into the sky. Below them, the rolling green hills and country lanes slowly disappeared from view as they headed across the English Channel towards Germany.
The plane was very noisy, cold, and rattled a lot, but that didn’t bother Jeep. He was just happy to be with John. When John wasn’t steering the plane or turning various knobs, he would joke with Jeep and rub his ears, which made him very happy. John and Jeep soared through the sky for hours on their dangerous bombing mission before returning home to Playford Hall. Jeep was so excited to get out of the tiny cockpit after the long flight and stretch his legs – plus find something to eat.
Jeep and John took 4 more wartime flights together and even posed for pictures taken by other pilots. One picture shows Jeep sitting on John’s lap in the open cockpit. John holds him up to the camera and smiles, but Jeep is more interested in surveying the ground below them. Another picture shows Jeep sitting on a 500-pound bomb attached to the plane. He is staring up at John, ears back, and howling! He looks so happy. John stands closely beside Jeep, smiling at the camera while decked out in his pilot suit, helmet, goggles and air mask!
Jeep became the first – and possibly only – flying coyote, and the first coyote to join the war effort in support of the allies!
Unfortunately, on October 28, 1944, while on base, Jeep was hit by a military vehicle and died. John was devastated and many men mourned the passing of this dear, four-legged wartime companion. Jeep was honored with a military funeral and buried on the beautiful grounds of Playford Hall. Next to his resting place is a blue plaque that reads, in part: “Jeep Coyote. Here lies in honored glory a native American who flew in combat and died on foreign soil in the service of his country.”
Jeep may have had a short life but he had a full, adventurous life! How many coyotes do you know who found a loving friend, traveled on a luxury ocean liner, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, lived in an English mansion, gained many other friends, AND flew in planes? None! Jeep was one of a kind and was sorely missed by John. When John received a different plane later in the war, he painted the image of a howling coyote on its side in honor of Jeep. And shortly before John passed away, he returned to England and paid one last visit to Jeep on the grounds of Playford Hall.
What a wonderful story of friendship and adventure!
So, what do you think of this coyote and his friend John? Would you like to have a coyote as a pet? Do you think it was a good idea to take the coyote away from Texas, sail across the sea, and raise him by an airfield with trucks and planes? Would you like to take a ride in a plane with a coyote or some other animal?
I think this is a reminder that animals are amazing creatures and that special bonds can be formed between all kinds of wildlife and man. Like “Unsinkable Sam,” the battleship cat we discussed in another episode, this coyote lived an amazing life during a historic time in history. And even though his life was short, he was well-loved and his sweet, loyal nature touched many lives.
What about you? Have you ever had an amazing friendship with an animal? If so, I would love to hear from you. Click this link and complete the form.