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The True Story of World War I Canine Hero Sergeant Stubby

Readmikenow has written about various medical conditions. He has previously written a series of articles on Polyarteritis nodosa.

Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant Stubby

Dogs Fighting Wars

The year was 1917, and nobody in the U.S. Army wanted to hear about dogs fighting in a war. Animal mascots were only used for sports teams. Service dogs were only considered useful by the police force. There were strict regulations that kept any animals from living on military property.

These are some of the reasons it was unthinkable that a stray bull terrier could become one of the most decorated canine soldiers to serve in a war.


It was a special dog that had a huge impact on the U.S. military from Connecticut to the front-line battlefields in France and then back again. The dog was adopted by U.S. soldiers and given the name of Stubby. Nobody knows much about Stubby before he became part of the Army. It is known that he was a lost and lonely canine trying to find his purpose in the world. Stubby was discovered on the grounds of Yale and destiny would take him the rest of the way to greatness.

Joining the Army

When he was training for the war, Private J. Robert Conroy discovered a snub-tailed bull terrier roaming around the grounds. It was a time when the rules of the military camp were often changed. At times, they were completely flouted. Conroy adopted the dog and named the bull terrier Stubby because of his tail. Soon, the other soldiers of the 102nd infantry developed a bond with the canine, and he became the unit's mascot.

Sergeant Stubby with members of the 102nd infantry unit

Sergeant Stubby with members of the 102nd infantry unit

Military Skills

Over time Stubby developed some important military skills. He was able to do more than just be a representative of the troops. Stubby could follow drills and salute when necessary, just like the other soldiers. He trained with the soldiers and was as dedicated as any of them. The grounds of Yale would not be his permanent home. The 102nd would soon be deployed to the battlefields of Europe and Stubby would go with them.

Western Front

The 102nd Infantry unit was part of the 26th Yankee Division of Massachusetts. The unit was shipped out to the Western Front in October of 1917. They made their way to Europe on the S.S. Minnesota. Conroy and the other members of the unit snuck Stubby aboard the ship. During most of the time at sea, Stubby was hidden in a coal bunker. After the ship docked, Stubby was discovered by some officers. They decided to let the dog stay with the unit since he had come that far. When Stubby was brought before the commanding officer, he was a canine who believed he was just another soldier. Stubby won over the commanding officer when he saluted him.

Gas Attacks

Stubby went with Conroy and the other members of the 102nd to the trenches close to Soissons, France. He was involved in over 16 battles. Stubby survived his first gas attack but was then very sensitive to its smell. He could smell a gas attack on its way. Stubby could sense an attack before the other soldiers. He would run around barking and biting to get the men awake. Stubby was very effective at detecting danger from gas. A specialized gas mask was made for Stubby. It is accepted that if it wasn't for Stubby, many men would have experienced harm from gas attacks.


Stubby was wounded once during a battle. During the raid of Schieprey, Stubby was wounded a second time after a grenade went off near him. He had shrapnel lodged in his chest and leg. Stubby was taken for surgery at a Red Cross Recovery Hospital. He recovered completely from his wounds. During his recovery, Stubby worked as a hospital dog. He would visit recovering soldiers and improve their morale. Stubby seemed to win the hearts of all those who met him.

Canine Hero

Stubby was a hero many times on the battlefield. He could easily go into No Man's Land when other soldiers could not. Stubby wasn't large and didn't appear to be a threat to the enemy. Stubby would locate wounded soldiers. He would then point them back to the trenches where American soldiers were located or help search parties locate wounded soldiers.

Captured German Spy

Stubby impressed the members of the 102nd when he captured a German spy. It happened when the enemy soldier was in No Man's Land. He was busy making a map of Allied front lines. Stubby sniffed him out. The German tried to speak in a soft tone to Stubby to placate him. It didn't work. Stubby knocked down the German by biting him on the leg. He wouldn't let the German go anywhere until the 102nd soldiers were on the scene. Stubby was given the German's Iron cross for his bravery.

Sergeant Stubby getting a medal from General John Pershing

Sergeant Stubby getting a medal from General John Pershing

Awards and Military Rank

After capturing an enemy spy, Stubby was officially given the rank of Army Sergeant. He was given an embroidered blanket by the women of Château Thierry after it had been liberated. The blanket had three service chevrons, flags of the Allies as well as a medal recognizing the battle. For his participation in the Battle of Verdun, France gave Stubby the Republic of France Grande War Medal and the French Medal. The United States Army gave him the St Mihiel Campaign Medal, Yankee Division YD Patch, New Haven WWI Veterans Medal as well as the revered Purple Heart.

Highly Decorated

When World War I ended, Stubby was a highly decorated canine. He was presented a medal from the Humane Education Society by General John Pershing, the Commanding General of the U.S. Armies. The American Legion made him a lifetime member. In 1919, Stubby was given the 1st Annual American Legion Convention Medal. Later, he was also given the 6th Annual American Legion Convention medal. Stubby was given lifetime memberships with the YMCA and Red Cross.

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Sergeant Stubby selling victory bonds

Sergeant Stubby selling victory bonds


When Stubby arrived back in the United States, he was paraded all over the country. This included Omaha, Boston, Kansas City, and other cities. He was the subject of many news articles in newspapers around the country. Stubby was used to sell victory bonds as well as recruit for the red cross. In New York City, the legendary Hotel Majestic ended their ban on dogs. This was so Stubby could be an honored guest there. He was also able to meet with three different presidents of the United States. They were Wilson, Harding as well as Coolidge.

Sergeant Stubby marching with troops during a victory parade

Sergeant Stubby marching with troops during a victory parade


J. Robert Conroy was the person who adopted Stubby when he was training to be a soldier at Yale. He took care of Stubby after the war. When Conroy began to study law at Georgetown, he lived with him. Stubby died in 1926. They estimated he was 14 years old. The New York Times gave Stubby an obituary that ran for three columns. It was heartfelt and humorous. The obituary honored Stubby and his life in great detail.

Poster for animated movie about Sergeant Stubby

Poster for animated movie about Sergeant Stubby


Stubby became the official mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas. He was the inspiration for a children's book in the 1970s. It was called Stubby – Brave Soldier Dog. Stubby has been talked about in many books concerning canine and military history. An animated movie about him called Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero was released in 2018.

Sergeant Stubby statue

Sergeant Stubby statue


The American Kennel Club commissioned a statue of Stubby. It was unveiled on May 23, 2019. The statue is called Sergeant Stubby Saluting. It is permanently displayed at the AKC Museum of the Dog.

Sergeant Stubby remains on display at the Smithsonian

Sergeant Stubby remains on display at the Smithsonian


After his death, Stubby's remains were stuffed and put on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. His display has all the medals he was given except the German Iron Cross. It was unfortunately lost.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on March 29, 2021:

MG, thanks. I appreciate your comments.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 28, 2021:

Mike, this was a wonderful article and added to my knowledge.

Readmikenow (author) on March 28, 2021:

Louise, thanks. Sergeant Stubby will always be an inspiration.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 28, 2021:

Aww, that's a lovely story. I'm glad they made a memorial for him.

Readmikenow (author) on March 28, 2021:

DW, thanks. His is an incredible story.

DW Davis from Eastern NC on March 28, 2021:

Thank you for telling this story. I was unaware of Stubby but will now do more reading about him.

Readmikenow (author) on March 28, 2021:

Peggy, thanks. I agree with you.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2021:

We have a war dog memorial in Houston, and when I was doing some research about the two dogs that have statues there, I learned about Stubby. It is good to honor such dogs!

Readmikenow (author) on March 28, 2021:

Pam, thanks. I know the Army does now have canine units.

Readmikenow (author) on March 28, 2021:

Liz, thanks. This was one incredible dog.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 28, 2021:

I really enjoyed this story about Stubby, Mike. He sounds amazing, and I am glad he was awarded for his efforts. It sounds like the military's attitude about dogs changed at this point.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 28, 2021:

This is a fascinating tale. What an amazing dog. It sounds like he certainly deserved all the recognition he received.

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