Sergeant stubby: how did one dog become a decorated war hero?

Sergeant Stubby: How Did One Dog Become a Decorated War Hero?

1. A Dog Has His Day

On July 6, 1921, a curious gathering took place at the State, War, and Navy Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. The occasion was a ceremony honoring veterans of the 102nd Infantry of the American Expeditionary Forces’ 26th “Yankee” Division, who had seen action in France during the Great War.

The hall was packed with dozens of members of the 102nd—field clerks, infantrymen, generals—but one soldier in particular commanded the spotlight. The attention seemed to bother him; the New York Times reported that the soldier was “a trifle gun shy, and showed some symptoms of nervous excitement.

” When photographers snapped his picture, he flinched.

The ceremony was presided over by Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American forces in Europe during the war. Pershing made a short speech, noting the soldier’s “heroism of highest caliber” and “bravery under fire.

” The general solemnly lifted an engraved solid gold medal from its case and pinned it to the hero’s uniform. In response, the Times reported, the solider “licked his chops and wagged his diminutive tail.” Sergeant Stubby, a short brindle bull terrier mutt, was officially a decorated hero of World War I.

The award was not a formal U.S. military commendation, but it symbolically confirmed Stubby, who’d also earned one wound stripe and three service stripes, as the greatest war dog in the nation’s history.

According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, he was the first dog ever given rank in the U.S. Army. His glory was even hailed in France, which also presented him with a medal.

Millions of Americans heard tales of Stubby’s courage. He had reportedly comforted wounded warriors on bullet-strafed battlefields. It was said he could sniff out poison gas, barking warnings to doughboys in the trenches. He even captured a German soldier. These exploits made the dog nothing less than a celebrity.

He met three sitting presidents, traveled the nation to veterans’ commemorations, and performed in vaudeville shows, earning $62.50 for three days of theatrical appearances, more than twice the weekly salary of the average American.

For nearly a decade after the war until his death in 1926, Stubby was the most famous animal in the United States.

Sergeant Stubby: How Did One Dog Become a Decorated War Hero?

“Stubby’s history overseas,” a Waterbury, Connecticut, newspaper wrote in 1922, “is the story of almost any average doughboy.” But of course Stubby was not a doughboy, and his renown was anything but average.

Despite his postwar stardom, Stubby has faded from memory in the century since the war commenced. But his story is worth revisiting, and not just as a cute, curious footnote.

Stubby’s tale offers a glimpse of the American Army as it prepared to fight its first modern war—and later, of a bruised nation as it commemorated a victory obtained at unthinkable human costs.

2. A Mutt Goes to Yale

A Soldier and His Dog: Review of “Sgt Stubby: An American Hero”

Sergeant Stubby: How Did One Dog Become a Decorated War Hero?Production still from “Sgt Stubby: An American Hero” which opens nationwide on April 13, 2018. The film is endorsed by the United States World War One Centennial Commission.

via the Angry Staff Officer blog

As some of you know, I don’t really do movie reviews on this site. But this spring I have had to break my own rule because of the animated film that combines two of my favorite things: dogs and the First World War. I am speaking of the movie “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.”

For those unfamiliar with the story, Stubby was a stray mutt who joined up with the Connecticut National Guard’s 102nd Infantry Regiment in New Haven during the early months of America’s involvement in World War I.

He and a Guardsman formed a special friendship and Stubby ended up going overseas with the regiment.

This unit formed one of four infantry regiments in the 26th Division, which was nicknamed the “Yankee Division” because it was made up of the National Guard units of the New England states.

The Yankee Division ended up being the first full division to reach France (parts of the U.S.

Army’s 1st and 2nd Divisions were already there but they were not yet at full strength) in October, 1917 and it would take part in some of the fiercest combat of the Western Front in 1918.

The division would spend from February to November on the front lines, with only one two week break in August. Most of the infantry units of the division took fifty percent casualties. It was termed one of the “old reliable” divisions of the American Expeditionary Force.

The story of Stubby is in some sense the story of the Yankee Division, since the scrappy pup embodied the fighting spirit of the newly arrived Yanks. Brash, bold, and not yet worn down by years of fighting, the Doughboys exhibited a spirit that was a wonderment to their British and French comrades in arms – although their bravery often came at the cost of heavy casualties.

Sergeant Stubby: How Did One Dog Become a Decorated War Hero?

It was a most unusual way to join the US Army. But then again, he was a most unusual recruit. Stubby sauntered onto the Connecticut training ground of the 102nd Infantry Division, wagged his tail and signalled his desire to serve in the First World War. It was the beginning of a long and illustrious canine military career.

See also:  Is the radiation from my cell phone dangerous?

A Soldier’s Best Friend

Stubby was a brindle puppy with a short tail. Homeless and apparently ownerless, he was adopted by Private J. Robert Conroy and began training with the 102nd Infantry’s 26 Yankee Division.

He proved quick to learn. Within weeks he knew all the bugle calls and drills and had even learned to salute his superiors, placing his right paw on his right eyebrow.

The time soon came for the Infantry Division to sail for France. Stubby ought to have been left behind, but Private Conroy smuggled him aboard the SS Minnesota. He was kept hidden in a coal bin until the ship was far out at sea; he was then brought out and introduced to the sailors, who were amused by his canine salutes.

The Yankee Division headed for the front lines at Chemin des Dames, near Soissons, in the first week of February 1918. Stubby was allowed to accompany them as the division’s official mascot. Under constant fire for over a month, he soon became used to the noise of shelling.

Sergeant Stubby

Stubby’s first injury came not from gunfire but from poison gas. He was rushed to a field hospital and given emergency treatment. The gassing left him sensitive to even minute traces of the substance in the atmosphere.

When the Infantry Division was the target of an early morning gas attack, the men were asleep and their lives were at great risk. But Stubby recognized the smell and ran through the trench barking and biting the soldiers in order to wake them.

In doing so, he saved them from certain death.

Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant StubbySergeant Stubby c. 1920Born1916DiedMarch 16, 1926 (aged 9–10)[1]Place of displaySmithsonian “The Price of Freedom” exhibitionAllegiance United States of AmericaService/branch United States ArmyYears of service1917–18Rank SergeantUnit102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th (Yankee) DivisionBattles/warsWorld War I

  • 17 battles on the Western Front  (WIA)

AwardsHumane Education Society Gold MedalWound stripeOther workmascot for Georgetown Hoyas

Sergeant Stubby (1916 – March 16, 1926) was a dog and the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment (United States) and was assigned to the 26th (Yankee) Division in World War I. He served for 18 months and participated in 17 battles on the Western Front. He saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, found and comforted the wounded, and allegedly once caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants, holding him there until American soldiers found him.[2] His actions were well-documented in contemporary American newspapers.[3][4][5]

Stubby has been called the most decorated war dog of WWI, and the only dog to be nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through combat.[6] Stubby's remains are in the Smithsonian Institution.[3][4][6]

Stubby is the subject of a 2018 animated film.

Early life

Stubby was described in contemporaneous news items as a Boston Terrier or “American bull terrier”[a] mutt.

[5][8] Describing him as a dog of “uncertain breed,” Ann Bausum wrote that: “The brindle-patterned pup probably owed at least some of his parentage to the evolving family of Boston Terriers, a breed so new that even its name was in flux: Boston Round Heads, American…and Boston Bull Terriers.

“[9][10] Stubby was found wandering the grounds of the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut in July 1917, while members of the 102nd Infantry were training. He hung around as the men drilled and one soldier in particular, Corporal James Robert Conroy (1892-1987), developed a fondness for him.

[4] When it came time for the outfit to ship out, Conroy hid Stubby on board the troop ship. As they were getting off the ship in France, he hid Stubby under his overcoat without detection.[11] Upon discovery by Conroy's commanding officer, Stubby saluted him as he had been trained to in camp, and the commanding officer allowed the dog to stay on board.[6]

Military service

Sgt. Stubby wearing his coat, dog tag and medals.

Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. He entered combat on February 5, 1918, at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons, and was under constant fire, day and night for over a month. In April 1918, during a raid to take Seicheprey, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by retreating Germans throwing hand grenades. He was sent to the rear for convalescence and, as he had done on the front, improved morale. When he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches. He ultimately had two wound stripes.[4][12]

In his first year of battle, Stubby was injured by mustard gas. After he recovered, he returned with a specially designed gas mask to protect him.

[13] Thus learning to warn his unit of poison gas attacks, locate wounded soldiers in no man's land, and—since he could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before humans—became very adept of alerting his unit when to duck for cover.

See also:  What is subject-complement agreement?

He's solely responsible for capturing a German spy in the Argonne, leading to their units' Commander nominating Stubby for the rank of Sergeant.

[6] Following the retaking of Château-Thierry by the US, women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat upon which his many medals were pinned. He was later injured again, in the chest and leg by a grenade. At the end of the war, Robert Conroy smuggled Stubby home.[6]

After the war

Gen. John Pershing awards Sergeant Stubby with a medal from the Humane Education Society at a White House ceremony, 1921

After returning home, Stubby became a celebrity and had marched in, and normally led, many parades across the country. He met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding.[6] He also appeared on vaudeville stages owned by Sylvester Z. Poli and was awarded lifetime memberships to the American Legion and the YMCA.

In 1921, General of the Armies John J. Pershing presented a gold medal from the Humane Education Society to Stubby, the subject of a famous photograph and other artistic media.

[4][5][12][14] During that same year, he attended Georgetown University Law Center along with Conroy, and became the Georgetown Hoyas' team mascot.[14] He'd be given the football at halftime and would nudge the ball around the field to the amusement of the fans.

[15][16] While still a student at Georgetown, Conroy was also employed as a special agent of the Bureau of Investigation, precursor to the FBI.[17]

Stubby died in his sleep in March, 1926.[4] After his death, he was preserved with his skin mounted on a plaster cast. Conroy later presented Stubby to the Smithsonian in 1956.


Sgt. Stubby's brick at Liberty Memorial

Stubby received an obituary in the New York Times following his death in 1926. The obituary was half a page, much longer than the obituaries of many notable people of that time period.[14]

He's also the subject of a portrait by “Capitol artist” Charles Ayer Whipple.[5] He was featured in the Brave Beasts exhibit at the Legermuseum in Delft, The Netherlands July 18, 2008 – April 13, 2009.[18] During a ceremony held on Armistice Day in 2006, a brick was placed in the Walk of Honor at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City to commemorate Sergeant Stubby.[19]

Stubby became the subject of at least 4 books.[11][20][21][22] In 2014, BBC Schools WWI series used Stubby as a Famous Figure to help teach children about the war, along with creating an animated comic strip to illustrate his life.[23][24]

Stubby has his portrait on display at the West Haven Military Museum in Connecticut.[11]

The descendants of Robert Conroy dedicated a life-size bronze statue of Stubby named “Stubby Salutes,” by Susan Bahary, in the Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial at Veteran's Memorial Park in Middletown, Connecticut, in May 2018. The statue pays tribute to fallen Connecticut Veterans, where both Stubby and Robert Conroy are from.

Animated Film

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Stubby the Military Dog

The story of STUBBY actually starts with the beginning of the Great War in Europe. From 1914 to 1917 the French, Germans and others struggled with each other for control of France and Europe. In April of 1917 America finally entered the war and mobilized its National Guard forces.

The 1st Connecticut from the Hartford area and the 2nd Connecticut from the New Haven area were sent to Camp Yale in the vicinity of the Yale Bowl for encampment and training. It was during this phase that two important things occurred.

The 1st and 2nd could not muster the required number of forces between them to form a fully manned regiment of 1000 + so they were combined. The 1st and 2nd with nothing in between became the 102nd Infantry and was made a part of the 26th (YANKEE) division of Massachusetts.

It was also around this time that STUBBY wandered into the encampment and befriended the soldiers. In October 1917 when the unit shipped out for France, STUBBY, by this time the “UNOFFICIAL – OFFICIAL” mascot, was smuggled aboard the troop ship S.S.

Minnesota in an overcoat and sailed into doggy legend.

Times were not good in France, the American Expeditionary Force was looked upon as second class soldiers, not to be trusted without French oversight and trench warfare combined with deadly gas took a toll on both the men and their spirits.

STUBBY did his part by providing morale-lifting visits up and down the line and occasional early warning about gas attacks or by waking a sleeping sentry to alert him to a German attack.

In April 1918 the Americans, and the 102nd Infantry, finally got their chance to prove their mettle when they participated in the raid on the German held town of Schieprey, depicted here in an original oil painting, by John D.

Whiting, that hangs in the 102nd Regimental Museum in New Haven. As the Germans withdrew they threw hand grenades at the pursing allies.

STUBBY got a little over enthusiastic and found himself on top of trench when a grenade went off and he was wounded in the foreleg.

See also:  Title capitalization rules

This occurred in the vicinity of “Deadmans Curve” on the road outside Schieprey so named because to negotiate the curve vehicles had to slow down making them an easy target for German artillery.

After the recapture of Chateau Thierry the women of the town made him a chamois blanket embroidered with the flags of the allies. The blanket also held his wound stripe, three service chevrons and the numerous medals, the first of which was presented to him in Neufchateau, the home of Joan of Arc.

Sergeant Stubby

The bravest dog of World War I started his military career as a stray who wandered onto Yale Field, and became the mascot of the 102 Infantry 26th Yankee Division. Yet unlike most mascots, Stubby, a pit bull mix named for his short tail, went to war and experienced 17 major battles on the Western Front.

Following training with his division, the beloved dog was snuck onboard by his unit’s soldiers. After being discovered, Stubby won over the commanding officer by sitting and saluting with his paw at the command to “Present Arms.

” He stayed with the soldiers for 18 months, once being hospitalized for mustard gas, another time being injured by a German grenade. He proved an invaluable compatriot as he could warn of mustard gas attacks, hear incoming missiles before the men, and find the living wounded in No Man’s Land.

He even caught a German spy hiding in the bushes, for which he was promoted to Sergeant, the only dog to have such a position in the US Army at that time.

The most decorated dog of World War I returned to his country a hero, met with presidents and was draped with medals that he wore on his coat. With his longtime master Robert Conroy, he went on to attend Georgetown University Law where he continued to raise morale as the school mascot, even learning to push around a football on the field at halftime to the cheers of the crowd. 

As a tribute to his memory, his ashes were placed inside a taxidermy of the dog, which is now front and center in the “Price of Freedom: Americans at War” exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. 

All military dogs have one rank above their handlers. This is to maintain order and discipline among soldiers so that if they abuse, neglect or even fail to heed the feedback of the dog (especially with bomb or drug sniffers) the soldiers can get UCMJ (punishment)

heroes of taxidermy



fascinating fauna

5 of History’s Most Dedicated Dogs

On a fateful day in 1917, a stray pit bull mix wandered onto the Yale University campus while members of the 102nd Infantry Regiment were training.

This lost pup fit right in, participating in drills and even learning to salute with his right paw. He won the heart of Private J.

Robert Conroy who adopted the dog, dubbed him Stubby (because of his short, stubby tail) and smuggled him to the trenches in France.

It was there that Stubby was exposed to mustard gas. After he recovered, he returned to the frontlines with his own specially-designed gas mask. This exposure, combined with a dog’s heightened sense of smell, allowed him to warn the 102nd of imminent poison gas attacks.

He also learned how to locate wounded soldiers during patrols. This brave mascot earned the rank of sergeant after he spotted a German spy and attacked the bewildered man until reinforcements arrived.

In his 18 months of service, Stubby participated in 17 battles, survived a series of wounds and provided a much-needed morale boost to his fellow soldiers.

PHOTOS: Dog Heroes of WWI

After the war, the decorated hero made his way back to the United States with Conroy (the dog now outranked his owner) becoming a national icon, leading parades and receiving awards until his death in 1926. Stubby’s body was donated to the Smithsonian in 1956, where he is still on display to this day.

2. Owney—The U.S. Postal Pup

Owney with some of his dog tags. (Credit: Public Domain)

Adopted in 1888 by post office workers at a branch in Albany, New York, after his previous owner abandoned him, Owney became an unofficial mascot of the U.S. Postal Service. This border terrier would sleep on mailbags, until he eventually started accompanying his new owners on their delivery routes. Within a few years, he was traveling the country by train with them, and then the world.

As newspapers chronicled this canine’s travels, his fame grew. Clerks affixed so many medals and tags to his collar that he needed a harness to hold all the bounty.

In 1895, Owney embarked on a 129-day “Around the World” publicity tour aboard the Northern Pacific mail steamer Victoria.

Over the course of his nine years of service, he traveled more than 140,000 miles as a mascot of the Railway Post Office and the United States Postal Service.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.