Nearly 100 years ago there was a stray dog who went on to become the most decorated American War dog of all time. Sergeant Stubby was a short-tailed bull terrier who was part of the 1917 Yankee forces in Connecticut’s 102 infantry during World War I. He soon became the soldier who had unparalleled bravery and loyalty on the field of battle.
While the 102nd infantry was training at Camp Yale, Stubby wandered into the encampment as a puppy and befriended the solders. He became the soldiers’ unofficial mascot and in October 1917, when the unit shipped out for France, Stubby was smuggled aboard the troop ship in an overcoat by his best friend Private J. Robert Conroy.
The war in the trenches of France was brutal, with deadly gas attacks and poor conditions. Stubby helped lift the soldiers’ spirits as well as helped protect them. He would walk up and down the lines to check on the soldiers and boost morale. He would also detect early signs of a gas attack, sniffing out the scent of the deadly gas and then bark to alert the men in advance of an attack.
Stubby excelled at locating wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and even captured a German spy. When a solder got lost or fell near the enemy trenches, he would listen for the sound of English and then go to the injured man’s location, barking until paramedics arrived or leading the soldiers back to the safety of the trenches.
One time he came across an enemy spy. He sniffed out where the enemy soldier was hiding and grabbed hold of the surprised soldier. He grabbed onto the man’s pants, tripping him and then pinning him to the ground until his fellow soldiers came and took the man away. Stubby was promoted to Sergeant for his capture of the enemy spy – the first dog ever to be given rank in the United States Armed Forces.
During one raid on a German-held town, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by a grenade tossed by retreating German soldiers. When the town was taken back by Allied troops, grateful townspeople made Stubby a special embroidered chamois blanket that was adorned with flags of allies and later with his service chevrons and medals.
Stubby was also gassed a few times and ended up in hospital where he was reunited with his injured friend Robert Conroy. The pair eventually returned to the 102nd where they served for the remainder of the war. Stubby was then smuggled back home the same way he came.
When he arrived home and the story got out about his exploits, Stubby became a national celebrity. Every newspaper in the country wrote about him. He met three presidents and was given the red-carpet treatment wherever he went. He continued to do good deeds by helping to recruit members for the American Red Cross and selling victory bonds.
When Robert Conroy went to Georgetown to study law, Stubby became the mascot for the football team. He would nudge the ball around the field during halves, delighting the spectators. Some say Stubby’s show was the origin of the Half Time Show for football.
Sgt. Stubby’s decorated chamois blanket has been preserved and presented for display at the Smithsonian Museum where visitors can find out more about the heroic canine.
In 1926, Stubby passed on and he was eulogized throughout the country. The New York Times wrote a three-column obituary in honor of him.
Today, Sgt. Stubby is remembered as one of the most heroic wartime dogs in history.
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