Sergeant Stubby (1916 or 1917 – March 16, 1926), has been called the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through combat, a claim for which there is no documentary evidence, but was recognized in connection with an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution. He was the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry, assigned to the 26th (Yankee) Division. Stubby served for 18 months and participated in seventeen battles on the Western Front. He saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, found and comforted the wounded, and once caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants, holding him there until American soldiers found him. Back home his exploits were front page news of every major newspaper.
Stubby was described in contemporaneous news items as a bull terrier or Boston bull terrier. Describing him as a dog of “uncertain breed”, Ann Bausum wrote that “The brindle-patterned pup probably owed at least some of his parentage to the evolving family of Boston terriers, a breed so new that even its name was in flux. Boston round heads. American hull terriers. Boston bull terriers. Stubby was found wandering the grounds of Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut in July 1917 while members of the 102nd Infantry were training. The dog hung around as the men drilled and one soldier, Corporal Robert Conroy, developed a fondness for the dog. When it came time for the outfit to ship out, Conroy hid Stubby on board the troop ship. Upon discovery by Conroy’s commanding officer, Stubby saluted him as he had been trained to in camp, and the commanding officer allowed the dog to stay on board.
Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. He entered combat on February 5, 1918 at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons, and was under constant fire, day and night for over a month. In April 1918, during a raid to take Schieprey, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by the retreating Germans throwing hand grenades. He was sent to the rear for convalescence, and as he had done on the front was able to improve morale. When he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches. He ultimately had two wound stripes.
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 very adept at letting his unit know when to duck for cover. He was solely responsible for capturing a German spy in the Argonne. Due to his capture of the enemy spy, the commander of the 102 Infantry nominated Stubby for the rank of sergeant. However, whether Stubby was actually promoted or even an official member of the Army has been disputed. Following the retaking of Château-Thierry by the US, the women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat on which were pinned his many medals. He also helped free a French town from the Germans. He was later injured in the chest and leg by a grenade. At the end of the war, Robert Conroy smuggled Stubby home.
After the war
After returning home, Stubby became a celebrity and marched in, and normally led many parades across the country. He met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. In 1921 General John J. Pershing presented a gold medal from the Humane Education Society to Stubby, which was the subject of a famous photograph. Starting in 1921, he attended Georgetown University Law Center with Conroy, and became the Georgetown Hoyas’ team mascot. He would be given the football at halftime and would nudge the ball around the field to the amusement of the fans.
Stubby died in his sleep in 1926.After his death, he was preserved with his skin mounted on a plaster cast. Conroy presented Stubby to the Smithsonian in 1956.
Stubby received a obituary in the New York Times following his death in 1926. The obituary was half a page, which was much longer than the obituaries of many notable people of the time period.
Stubby was the subject of a portrait by “Capitol artist” Charles Ayer Whipple.
Stubby was featured in the Brave Beasts exhibit at the Legermuseum in Delft, The Netherlands July 18, 2008 – April 13, 2009.
During a ceremony held on Armistice Day in 2006, a brick was placed in the Walk of Honor at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City to commemorate Sergeant Stubby.
Stubby was the subject of at least four books.