Dogs are now specially trained to do amazing things. Many are trained as police dogs, others to sniff out drugs, and some known as cadaver dogs. The military now trains dogs for use in battle. A few dogs were used in WW11, but it was unusual for them to see action in WW1 as did Sgt. Stubby.
Sgt. Stubby was the most decorated war dog of World War 1, and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. How did this happen?
Sergeant Stubby was a stray, homeless mutt who saved more lives, saw more combat, and performed more feats of heroic awesomeness than most humans could ever accomplish. This Pit Bull Terrier started his humble life as most stray animals do – hungry, cold, alone, and stranded in the town of New Haven, Connecticut. Living garbage can to garbage can without so much as a doghouse roof over head, one day this little canine happened to stumble onto the parade grounds on the campus of Yale University. It just happened that the men of the 102nd Regiment, 26th Infantry Division were training for their deployment to fight in World War 1 at this facility.
The pathetic little dog was adopted by a soldier named John Robert Conroy who named the puppy “Stubby” because of his stump of a tail. Conroy started leaving food out and let the little guy sleep in the barracks from time to time. It was not long before every soldier in the 102nd adopted the canine as their mascot.
After just a few weeks of hanging around the drill field watching the soldiers do their thing, this little dog learned the bugle calls, could execute the marching maneuvers with the men, and was trained to salute superior officers by raising his forepaw to his brow.
When the order came down for the 102nd to ship out to battle, Conroy just stuffed the dog into his greatcoat and smuggled him on board a ship bound for France. Once safely out to sea, Conroy brought the dog out onto the deck, and all the sailors decided this dog was so great that they had a machinist’s mate make him a set of dog tags to match the ones worn by the soldiers.
Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division in the trenches of France for 18 months, and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. He entered combat on February 5, 1918 at Chemi des Dames, and was under constant fire night and day for over a month. In April 1918, during a raid, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by retreating Germans throwing hand grenades. He was sent to the rear for convalescence, and was able to improve morale of the other wounded soldiers. When he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches.
After being gassed, Stubby learned to warn his unit of poison gas attacks, located wounded soldiers in “no man’s land”, and – since he could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before humans could – became adept at letting his unit know when to duck for cover. From first-hand accounts, this dog could hear English being spoken and would respond to check for any wounded men. If he heard German spoken he would alert like a bird dog pointing at a quail.
It was reported that in September 1918 while patrolling the trenches, he discovered a camouflaged German spy hiding out while mapping the allied trenches. Stubby smelled the foreign soldier and attacked. He ran the guy down from behind dropping the spy to the ground. Then Stubby clamped down on his posterior and held on until captured by American soldiers.
Following the retaking of Chateau-Thierry by the United States, the women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat on which were pinned his many medals. For his actions Stubby was given a battlefield promotion to the rank of Sergeant, which meant that the dog now outranked his owner who was only a Corporal at this point.
After the war, Sergeant Stubby was smuggled back to the states where he was an instant celebrity. He was inducted into the American Legion, offered free food for life from the YMCA, and whenever he went on tour for the war bond effort, hotels would relax their “no dogs allowed” policy for the canine. He visited the White House twice, met three presidents, and in 1921 commander “Black Jack” Pershing personally pinned a “Dog Hero Gold Medal” on Stubby’s military jacket.
When Robert Conroy enrolled in Georgetown University Law School after the war, Stubby went with him. The dog immediately became the official mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas’ football team, and to this day the University sports mascot is still a dog. In addition to hanging out with the players and cheer leaders it became a tradition to bring Stubby out on the field during halftime at football games. He would run around the field pushing a football around with his nose. Nobody had ever done anything like this before, meaning that Stubby might have possibly invented the Halftime Show at football games.
Sergeant Stubby, American war hero dog, died in 1926 at the age of ten. He was stuffed and preserved by a taxidermist and is featured in his own exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
A New York Times Obituary said it best when they wrote, “The noise and strain that shattered the nerves of many of his comrades did not impair Stubby’s spirits. Not because he was unconscious of danger. His angry howl while a battle raged, and his mad canter from one part of the lines to another, indicated realization”.