Standing alert and dignified, ‘Sergeant Stubby’ squints past the camera with his famous short tail and assortment of medals. You could be mistaken for presuming this little fluffy veteran has dawned his Halloween outfit a tad early this year! However, this unassuming soldier is known to have displayed “heroism of the highest caliber” and is one of the most decorated animals in the American military. This c. 1920 snap of Stubby shows just how celebrated a military-animal he was with his snug jacket weighed down by numerous medals.
Known for the role he played during World War I, this terrier/pitbull cross was initiated into the U.S. 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division through his emerging friendship with Private Robert Conroy during training in New Haven, 1917. Such good buddies they had become, that this wayward stray was smuggled by Conroy under his jacket onto a ship bound for Europe. Stubby had to validate himself once the Division settled in France. It would not be until this audacious hound gave his commanding officer a salute, as learned from the other lads in the Division, that he would be accepted into the unit for good.
Once serving, this remarkable dog proved to be a valuable asset to those he served for and with. Animals provided a service to the brave soldiers battling during WWI, from carrier pigeons to mules who do the heavy carrying. It has not been unusual for humans to enlist the help of animals during wartime. However, Sergeant Stubby proved to be a league above the rest of his animal peers. He had attuned hearing, meaning he could detect the whistling of artillery from afar and soldiers at close range sooner than the human ear could have picked it up. He also had a developed sense of smell and could use this to detect dangerous gas used by the Germans. By detecting this sooner, he could alert the soldier with a bark to let them know. Perhaps the most poignant role Stubby played was as a mercy dog, providing invaluable consoling and comfort to injured or dying soldiers in No Man’s Land. This act alone allowed Stubby to save numerous lives and as such get recognized accordingly.
Famously, this heroic hound sniffed out and attacked a spying German who was hiding in bushes. It would be a defining moment for this budding Privates career as it saw him get promoted to Sergeant, and gain a rank higher than some of his fellow troops. But all’s fair in war and Stubby was no exception to the ruthlessness experiencing some narrow escapes, and famously surviving a grenade explosion.
Sergeant Stubby would go on to survive the war, play a role in the Battle of Chateau Thierry, and return to America with Private Conroy when the war had ended. With a momentous 17 fighting battles under his neck, a great deal of courage, and “comfort and cheerfulness”, Stubby was rightfully involved in the Victory Parade and celebrated upon his return from war. Having gained the respect he deserved, this veteran attended 2 White House visits and was known for his bravery through shows and appearances, it wouldn’t be until 1926 at the age of 10 Stubby would peacefully pass away. A hero in his very own right.