Sergeant Stubby – The hero dog of World War I
History books reveal that Stubby was one of the most famous and popular sergeants of the 20th century. He probably became famous for his courage, or his boldness, but I think he became a renowned member of the army due to his innate charisma as, in times of World War I, with his magnetism and positive energy, he managed to keep his troops united and the spirit of his soldiers up. Sergeant Stubby was, without any doubt, a positive and charismatic leader. Perhaps, that contributed to the excellent performance of his men and, ultimately, to the Allies’ victory at war.
Sergeant Stubby with his medals
Back in 1917, Stubby was wandering aimlessly through the Yale Field Stadium in Connecticut, USA. He soon caught the eyes of a group of soldiers doing training exercises at that baseball field because they would soon be traveling to Europe to act at war. He immediately became friends with all the soldiers, but especially with private Robert Conroy. They became such close friends that when the 102nd Infantry Regiment left for Europe, Conroy hid Stubby and took him with him.
Stubby was a stray dog, a cross between a pitbull and a French terrier, of brown and white fur, whose joining the 26th Infantry Division was secured when he lifted his right front leg and put it on his eyelid, as if saluting the officers, during their voyage to Europe. When they arrived at the Port of Saint-Nazaire on the west coast of France, Stubby was the mascot of the “Yankee” Division.
Unexpectedly, Stubby formidably served as a member of the 26th Division and, because of his feats of war, he was the first dog promoted to the rank of sergeant. In February 1918, the 102nd was at Chemin des Dames, in the west of France, where they were expecting the Germans to attack from one moment to another. Stubby and Conroy were stationed near the Marne River. In mid-March of that year, bombs with toxic gases began to rain and that lasted a whole day. Stubby and Conroy survived because they were using gas masks and Stubby, since dogs have a much more developed sense of smell, remained sensitive to that smell, which allowed him to save his men from a similar attack: one morning, the troop was asleep when German artillery relaunched toxic gases. Stubby identified that smell immediately and began to bark and bite his companions to awaken them. Ultimately, he saved their lives and, since then, he was promoted to his first military rank: corporal.
Stubby was already an official member of the army and, as such, he patrolled the “no man’s land” with his fellow soldiers. Once, the Germans wounded him in the leg: one of his first war wounds. But Stubby became a very useful soldier… as he helped to find wounded or dead soldiers on the battlefield and to identify enemy spies. Once, he identified a German spy who had been mapping the American positions. When American soldiers caught the German spy, they took the cross of German war he was carrying and gave it to Stubby. For that important feat, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and became the first dog with the military rank. In Chateaux Thierry, some women made him a blanket in which his medals and badges were hung.
Sergeant Stubby decorated
Stubby participated in seventeen battles in Europe, where he remained one and a half year. He became a national hero and got to meet three U.S. presidents in office: Harving, Coolidge and Wilson and, when Conroy went on to study law at the University of Georgetown, Stubby became the official mascot of the university. Also, he was named life member of the YMCA, a member of the Red Cross and the American Legion, as well.
He died in 1926, in his sleep, in the arms of Cornoy. At present, he is displayed with all his decorations at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, along with pigeon Cher Ami, and other characters from the Great War. The exhibition is called The Price of Freedom. Americans at war.
Sergeant Stubby´s memorial brick
He did not know it, but history was saving an important place for him. He went from stray and wandering dog to wartime hero… all thanks to his courage and charisma, but also thanks to Conroy, who adopted him as a pet. Stubby, a sergeant dog.