SERGEANT STUBBY, WAR HERO
Wars affect everything and everyone, including all creatures great and small. In my World War 1 presentation, I talk about the many animals, and even some insects, which played an important role in the fighting between the British allied countries and the Germans and their allies.
This Memorial Day, I decided to focus my BLOG on one of the bravest canines of all time – a dog that received international acclaim and numerous medals for his heroism. We don’t know his real name, but Corporal James Conroy of the 102nd Infantry called him “Stubby” because of his diminutive size. And the name stuck.
The year was 1917, and hundreds of American men were training at Yale University before they were to be transported to the war front in France. Lost and alone, the shabby Boston Terrier wandered into the military encampment where he found open hands and open hearts. He was adopted by the troop of soldiers and was fed and cared for. When it was time to leave for France, Corporal Conroy smuggled the small dog on the ship that would take them to the war zone.
When Stubby’s presence was discovered by Conroy’s commanding officer, the dog saluted him as every good soldier would do. Conroy had trained his dog to prepare him for that very moment. And it worked. Stubby was allowed to stay as the troops’ mascot.
Living conditions in the trenches were terrible, and the constant sound of machine guns and cannon fire must have been difficult for the dog. Rather than simply keeping the men company, Stubby was soon put to work doing his part in the war effort. He was an intelligent dog and quickly learned what was needed of him. But it wasn’t long before the little dog was injured during a mustard gas attack. The soldiers created a special gas mask for their mascot, and from that time on, Stubby would warn his fellow soldiers when a mustard gas attack was about to begin. His barking allowed the men enough time to put on their gas masks…and his.
Each day, the terrier roamed the battle zone, known as No Man’s Land, between the German and Allied troop trenches, searching for wounded soldiers. He would return to the trench and guide the rescue team to the injured men. Months later, he was injured by a hand grenade. But like a true hero, he recovered and went back to work in the trenches helping to save wounded soldiers.
There are many stories of Stubby’s bravery. On one occasion, he’s credited with attacking a German who was sneaking up on the American encampment. Barking and biting the enemy soldier, he held onto him by the “seat of his pants” until members of Stubby’s regiment arrived. The commanding officer recognized the pup’s bravery by officially making him a sergeant.
The German troops soon became aware of the dog’s important role in protecting his men. Snipers used binoculars to search for his small silhouette in the foggy, smoke-filled areas between the trenches. Stubby was injured yet again by another grenade. And once again, the tough terrier recovered. His legacy grew, and women in the French town of Chateau-Thierry made him a chamois coat so that he could wear the numerous medals he had been awarded.
When the war ended in late 1918 and the troops were sent home, James Conroy took Stubby with him to Connecticut. But the story doesn’t end there. Stubby’s fame had traveled back to America. He was a famous war hero and made personal appearances in parades, sporting events, and even at vaudeville shows. Stubby was introduced to three American Presidents and in 1921, he was presented with a gold medal by General John J. Pershing.
After his death in 1926, Stubby was preserved by a taxidermist. The famous little dog now resides at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In 2018, an animated film about the life and legacy of the brave terrier, Sgt. Stubby, An American Hero, was released. After the death of James Robert Conroy, his family had a life-size bronze statue of Stubby placed at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Middletown, Connecticut. And Stubby, the hero dog of World War 1, is still remembered through books and articles and even a website for his fan club: http://www.stubbysquad.com