Meet Sergeant Stubby. This stray dog became a World War I hero, defying regulations to become the mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment. First found hanging around Yale University, he joined Private J. Robert Conroy and embarked on a journey to the front lines in France.
Stubby’s extraordinary contributions included warning of incoming artillery and capturing a German spy. With 17 battles and four offensives under his collar, Stubby’s loyalty and bravery earned him medals and a hero’s welcome upon returning to the United States.
This is the tale of a four-legged warrior who left an indelible paw print on history.
The Best Good Boy
Despite his well-deserved status as an American war hero not much is known about Stubby’s early years. It’s believed he was born around 1916 and was definitely a mutt. Best guess, he had a good amount of Boston Terrier or American Bull Terrier in him.
Stubby was a street dog until he was discovered walking the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut in July 1917. America had officially joined the war effort a few months prior and members of the 102nd Infantry were using the campus for training.
Stubby stuck around to watch the men train (and most likely get some rations) and the soldiers grew fond of him. In particular, Corporal James Robert Conroy developed a soft spot for the mutt.
When the unit received their orders to ship out Conroy couldn’t face putting poor Stubby back on the streets. Instead, he hid the dog onboard the troop transport ship with him.
Stubby made it all the way to France and Conroy hid the dog under his overcoat as his fellow troops disembarked. This ruse could only last so long and Stubby was quickly discovered by Conroy’s commanding officer. Stubby simply saluted the officer, as he’d been trained to do back at Yale, and the officer allowed his newest recruit to stay.
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Stubby stayed with his friend in the 102nd Infantry Regiment and lived in the trenches in France for 18 months. During that time, he took part in four major offensives and a total of seventeen battles. Trench warfare was a harrowing experience and on February 5, 1918, he joined the fighting at Chemin des Dames near Soissons.
The fighting was brutal and Stubby and his allies were under constant fire for over a month. Shortly afterward, in April 1918, he took part in the raid to take Seicheprey.
As the Germans retreated, they covered their escape by throwing hand grenades. This led to Stubby taking shrapnel to his foreleg. Happily, he survived and was sent to the rear for medical treatment.
While there he proved to be a fantastic boost to the morale of the other wounded soldiers. He made a full recovery, and once he was healed Stubby rejoined his squad in the trenches.
This wasn’t Stubby’s only war wound. That same year he was also injured by mustard gas and after recovering was given his own specially modified gas mask. Learning how to live in the front lines, he soon became an invaluable asset to his squad in the trenches.
With his special gasmask and superior sense of smell Stubby learned to warn his unit of incoming mustard gas attacks and could be used to safely locate wounded soldiers trapped in no man’s land. His doggy hearing also meant he could hear the whine of incoming German artillery much earlier than the rest of his unit and could tell them when to take cover.
Even more impressively, Stubby captured a German spy during the Meuse-Argonne offensive towards the end of the war. This led to his unit’s commander nominating him for the rank of sergeant, which was well-deserved.
The French were just as fond of America’s most charming soldier. When the US retook Chateau- Thierry the locals thanked Stubby by making him his own chamois, and pinning his many medals on it. Before the war could end Stubby was wounded once again, taking more grenade shrapnel to his chest and leg but survived.
Thankfully, Conroy had also survived the war. When the Great War finally came to a close Conroy and his four-legged comrade both returned home together.
After the war, Stubby retired from military service and enjoyed the life of a celebrity. He first rose to fame by leading marches and parades all over the country. In recognition of his service, he was given lifetime memberships to the American Legion and YMCA and met several presidents including Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding.
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In 1912 Stubby joined the world of academia and alongside Conroy enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center. He then became the Georgetown Hoyas’ team mascot and quickly became a local celebrity, happily entertaining fans with his tricks at halftime.
While studying at the university he was also employed as a special agent at the FBI’s precursor, the Bureau of Investigation, and was awarded a gold star from the Humane Education Society by General of the Armies John J. Pershing.
Stubby passed away in his sleep in March 1926 at the ripe old age of ten. But this was not the end of his story.
After his death Stubby was taxidermized and in 1956 Conroy presented his remains to the Smithsonian where he is part of the permanent collection. The whole of America mourned his passing and he not only received an obituary in the New York Times, he received one which was much longer than usual.
Four books have been written about Sergeant Stubby and his portrait, done by capitol artist Charles Ayer Whipple, is displayed at the West Haven Military Museum in Connecticut. A life-size bronze of him, “Stubby Salutes” can also be found in the Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial at Veteran’s Memorial Park.
Sergeant Stubby’s legacy extends beyond his wartime heroics; it’s a powerful reminder of the extraordinary impact animals can have in the face of adversity. His courage and loyalty not only saved lives on the battlefield but also captured the hearts of those he served alongside.
Sergeant Stubby, a humble stray who became a symbol of resilience, teaches us that heroism knows no boundaries.
Top Image: Sergeant Stubby in his uniform and wearing his military medals. Source: Stubby: Terrier Hero of Georgetown / Public Domain.