The battlefields of World War I were the scene of much heroism. These heroes came from all walks of life. One unique hero, however, walked on all fours!
Stubby was a Terrier type dog that wandered into the grounds of Yale University in July 1917. It just so happened that members of the 102nd infantry were training in Yale on this particular day. The young dog found his way to Pvt. Robert Conroy who took the dog under his wing, naming him “Stubby” due to his short tail. 1 Thus, the story of the most decorated dog of World War I was born.
As the soldiers were training to deploy to Europe, Stubby refused to leave their side. After growing fond of the friendly pup, Pvt. Robert Conroy decided that when it was time to ship out, he would hide Stubby on board the S.S. Minnesota. 2
When they departed in France, Corporal Conroy hid Stubby in his jacket. When he was eventually discovered by the commanding officer, he was aghast to see Stubby salute him. The soldiers had trained him to salute upon request. He was allowed to stay, it was decided.
For 18 months, Stubby served in the trenches of France; he participated in four offensives and 17 battles. His first injury was inhalation of toxic gas. As a result, Stubby became very sensitive to the smell of looming toxic fumes. When Stubby smelt the gas, he would run to all of the soldiers, barking to awaken them. His second injury came when he received a large amount of shrapnel in his chest and front leg during a grenade attack. While recovering in a Red Cross field hospital, Stubby visited the bedsides of other injured soldiers, giving them all that boost of morale they needed.
Additionally, Stubby would run through the trenches to find wounded soldiers in “no man’s land.”
Due to his sensitive hearing, he was able to hear incoming artillery shells before his human counterparts and therefore warn them to take cover. 3
He was trained to differentiate between English and German language and bark whenever he found an English speaking soldier who was injured. In one of his most impressive endeavours, he captured a German spy. As he was mapping out the allied trenches, the German spy spotted Stubby and called out to him in German. Recognising the language of the enemy, Stubby attacked him. It was this heroic event that promoted Stubby to rank of sergeant.
After the war, he became an American celebrity and was at the forefront of many parades. He was awarded many medals for heroism and bravery including three service stripes and a Gold Hero Dog Medal from the Humane Society. Stubby was invited to the White House in several occasions and met U.S. presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. Following the war, Pvt. Robert Conroy attended Georgetown University Law Center and brought Stubby along with him. It was here that he became the Hoyas’ team mascot.
Stubby passed away in 1926 and his body was donated to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. and was featured in the Price of Freedom exhibit. Little Stubby started his life out as a lonely stray dog on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut, and went on to become one of America’s most treasured and adored heroes.
- US Fed News – 20 September, 2013 – “Beale’s Squadrons Shared World War I Battlefields with Sergeant Stubby”
- Evansville Courier & Press – 7 June, 2015 – “Advocate”
- Springfield Examiner – 17 April, 2011 – “An Unlikely Hero”