Sgt. Frank Praytor, 1St Marine Division, Cat Dad to Miss Hap
Amid all the death and destruction of the Korean War, a kitten was born in 1952. The first thing she knew was cruelty — an American soldier, angry at her mother’s yowling not far from the front line, walked up and shot the kitten’s mother dead with his service pistol.
It was another man, Marine Sgt. Frank Praytor, who saved the kitten’s life. He took her under his care and named her “Miss Hap,” because, he said, “she was born in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
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Praytor was able to score a small dropper from a corpsman and used it to hand-feed milk to Miss Hap. It was during one of those feeding sessions when a combat photographer snapped a photo of Praytor and his kitten. The juxtaposition made for incredible drama in just one frame — the Marine, a hardened veteran living the hell of combat, huddling in a trench and gently cradling the tiny kitten, a new life amid so much death.
Image via U.S. Naval Institute
The combat photographer sent the photo to the Associated Press, Praytor recalled in 2009, when he wrote a first-person account of the story in the veterans’ magazine “Graybeards.” The photo was picked up by 1,700 newspapers across the U.S., leading to a flood of mail from well-wishers just a few weeks before Praytor rotated back home. Praytor didn’t know it when he stepped off the plane, but he was famous.
Miss Hap went on to become the unofficial mascot of the Marine press office in Korea, where another Marine took over for Praytor in caring for her, eventually adopting the calico. As for Praytor, he and his combat photographer buddy were both in danger of court-martial for sending photos to the civilian press without the consent of their superior officers. (The rule was intended to prevent gory war photos from making their way to the public.) But, Praytor wrote, the commander tore up the court-martial papers when he received them, and it was all because of Miss Hap — the photo of the Marine infantryman and the kitten “garnered a considerable amount of good will all over America,” scoring positive press for the Marine Corps.
In the end, Praytor saved Miss Hap from a short and brutal life, and Miss Hap saved Praytor from the brig.
The Anonymous Redshirt Hero
Felix is an office cat and unofficial mascot for the stevedores on the London docks. In April, CCTV footage showed another cat chasing poor Felix to the end of the dock and swatting the little guy into the Thames River. That’s when an anonymous hero races into the frame, hops a fence and pulls Felix from the cold waters, saving the cat’s life.
The footage went viral and the story was picked up by newspapers across the U.K., but the do-gooding guy chose to remain anonymous, and despite all the attention no one knows who he is. We salute you, Anonymous Redshirt Hero!
Richard Christianson, Cat Dad to Freeway
Freeway’s an odd name for a kitty, but his name tells the story of how he and his owner, Richard Christianson of Arizona, came into each other’s lives.
The ginger cat found himself in a nightmare situation, stuck on a platform in the middle of a busy highway. The terrified kitty was trying to chew through a chain-link fence to avoid risking his life in traffic when Christianson saw him and bolted to the rescue. When he got closer, he saw the cat was injured and bloody.
“He was crying for me,” Christianson told Catster. “He was reaching for me.”
Christianson rushed Freeway to the Arizona Humane Society, whose staff immediately brought the injured stray into surgery. The poor little guy had suffered broken teeth, singed paw pads and “necrotic mouth tissue,” per Catster.
Christianson took Freeway home, with the injured stray joining his three dogs and four other cats. In a May 2015 Facebook post, Christianson told well-wishers that he was taking “baby steps” introducing Freeway to the others, always keeping in mind that Freeway was traumatized and had to be handled gently.
“I’m using my knowledge and experience and (being) patient with Freeway,” Christianson wrote.