Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Marion Pellicano Ambrose

While visiting a friend today, she told me about a TV show she had seen, which documented  the life  of a very unusual dog named Stubby. After hearing a little a bit about the show, I felt I wanted to learn the whole story for myself. I read several articles, watched some  videos and checked the web for everything I could find. So here is the story of  Stubby, WWI Veteran and Hero!

 Stubby was a stray Pit Bull Terrier who was abandoned in New Haven, Connecticut during the time of World War I. He was a homeless, stray living out of garbage cans. One fateful day, he wandered on to the parade ground of the Yale University campus. At that exact time, the 102nd Regiment, 26th Infantry Division happened to be training to be deployed. A soldier named John Robert Conroy, took pity on the pathetic little dog and named him “Stubby” because of his stubby little tail. Conroy started leaving food and water for the dog and let him sleep in the barracks on occasion. Stubby’s winning personality and great intelligence soon endeared him to all the other soldiers. This dog was so smart that he learned the bugle calls, learned to march in formation with the men and believe it or not, learned to salute superior officers by raising his forepaw to his brow.

Stubby truly became “one of the men” and when it came time for the 102nd to ship out, Stubby was conveniently stuffed in Conroy’s coat and smuggled onto the ship headed for France and the War. Once at sea, Stubby was allowed on deck and the sailors also fell in love with him. The machinists’ mate made him asset of his own dog tags.

Eventually, Conroy’s commanding officer caught wind of the dog aboard. When confronted, Conroy gave the command: “Present Arms!”  Stubby saluted the officer who immediately gave his blessing for Stubby to stay with the 26th, even into battle.  Stubby became the official mascot of the American Expeditionary Force and gave support and encouragement to each of the homesick soldiers on the front lines.

During his tour of duty, Stubby participated in 17 battles and 4 major offensives. In 1918 he was wounded in action and almost died, in a chemical weapons attack where the Germans launched mustard gas. But Stubby was too tough to let a little gas get him, and because of his experience, he became a “mustard gas detection dog”, letting the men know there was gas before it got to a lethal level. He would warn the men to put on their gas masks by running up and down the line, barking and nipping until they put on their masks. His actions saved countless lives this way.

Stubby was also able to detect artillery fire before the shells started exploding. This also saved many lives, as Stubby could sense German ground attacks before the men. They said he could sniff bratwurst coming from miles away and would warn the sentry by barking or even biting him until he would sound the alarm.

  Stubby spent much of his free time looking for wounded and dying Allied soldiers to rescue. According to first-hand accounts, this dog could hear English being spoken and he'd immediately run over and check out the wounded man. If the wounded man was able to walk, Stubby would lead him back to friendly lines. If the soldier was too wounded to move, Stubby would stand there and bark until a medic arrived.

Stubby the War Dog was wounded again in combat in April 1918, when he was hit with a German hand grenade while participating in the assault on the German town of Schieprey. Despite receiving shrapnel wounds to his forelimbs and chest, Stubby survived the grenade blast, lived through some emergency surgery, and spent his convalescence time cheering up the wounded men in the field hospital. He returned to action a few months later and helped participate in the liberation of Chateau Thierry, a deed that impressed the  French ladies living in the city so much that they made him a chamois blanked decorated with the flags of the Allied countries to thank him. The men of the 102nd, for their part, made Stubby a jacket designed to look like an American military uniform, and then they decorated it with Stubby's name, rank, and medals – medals that included the Purple Heart, the Republic of France Grande War Medal, the Medal of Verdun, and medals for every campaign in which he'd served.

But this thing wasn't done yet. While serving in the Argonne Forest during the Meuse-Argonne campaign of September 1918, Stubby was patrolling the trenches when he discovered a camouflaged German spy hiding out mapping the Allied trenches. Stubby must have smelled the bratwurst on this man or something, becaude he started barking and circling the soldier,  the spy made a run for it but Stubby chased and took him down. Stubby bit the spy in the rear causing him to curse spontaneously, and in German. He held the spy down until the Americans could take him into custody. For his bravery and diligence, Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, which meant that the dog now outranked his owner, who was only a Corporal at this time. Stubby became the first dog to be promoted to a rank the army. When the Americans brought the German spy back to camp they stripped the prisoner of his Iron Cross and pinned the German military medal on the dog's jacket instead.

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 out of war bonds promotion tours five-star hotels would relax their "no dogs allowed" policy for the canine war hero. He went to the White House twice, met three presidents, and in 1921 the American overall commander "Black Jack" Pershing personally pinned a one-of-a-kind "Dog Hero Gold Medal" on Stubby's military jacket.

When Robert Conroy ended up attending Georgetown University for law school after the war, Sergeant Stubby went with him. The dog immediately became the official mascot of the football team – and to this day the University sports mascot is still a dog . In addition to hanging out with the players, it eventually became tradition to bring Sergeant Stubby out on the field during Halftime of football games and he'd pump the crowd up by running around the field pushing the ball around with his nose. Nobody had really done anything like this before, meaning that, Sergeant Stubby might have possibly invented the Halftime Show.

Sergeant Stubby, American war hero dog, died in 1926, at the (approximate) age of ten. Stubby was preserved and is displayed in his own exhibit at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.

And that’s the story of a true American World War I Hero – Sergeant Stubby.


  1. What a touching story! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Awwwww! Loved this story.