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Great Frathounds in History: Sergeant Stubby, Hero Dog of WWI

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In 1917 Europe was devastated by the still ongoing First World War and the United States was readying itself to enter the bloody fray (and eventually win the first of two back to back World War championships). Throughout the United States military units were organizing and preparing to deploy to the entrenched and terrifying battlefields of France. One particular unit preparing for the war to end all wars was the 102nd Infantry of the 26th (Yankee) Division. The 102nd Infantry was a National Guard unit hailing from Connecticut. The unit spent its days training on Yale Field in New Haven, and by a stroke of extreme luck, one day a feisty little stray dog decided it wanted to play with them.

No one knows where Stubby came from. No one knows when he was born. No one is even exactly sure of his breed, though the highest Earthly authority on dogs, Cesar Milan, classifies Stubby as at least a partial pit bull. Of course none of that mattered to the men of the 102nd Infantry, who were happy just to have a distraction from the constant drilling and training. Stubby endeared himself to the 102nd so much that one of its soldiers, Corporal Robert Conroy, decided to smuggle the stray dog onto the troop ship so that Stubby could keep the unit company in France.

Once in France, however, Stubby went from adorable unit mascot to a fully fledged badass canine defender of freedom. On February 5th, 1918 Stubby entered combat for the first time at Chemin des Dames. Stubby and the 102nd were under constant fire, twenty four hours a day, for over a month. One of Stubby’s most harrowing combat experiences came on April 20th of that year, during a German raid on Schieprey. The raid was one of the first ever attacks by the Germans against American soldiers, and the first true battle test for the 102nd. The battle was intense, beginning with an artillery barrage against the American positions at 0400. The barrage was followed with an assault by German stormtroopers against the village. The Germans overwhelmed a machine gun company and two infantry companies of the 102nd, at one point even breaching the trenches. However the 102nd rallied and drove the Germans out of the town while inflicting heavy casualties. The Germans lost over 600 men, including 150 killed. The Americans themselves lost 634 men, 80 of which were killed in action. Stubby was in the thick of it all. During their withdrawal the German stormtroopers threw grenades to delay the American counterattack. Presumably because the Germans are a sick, deeply disturbed people, one stormtrooper threw a grenade at Stubby. The German grenade exploded, wounding Stubby in the foreleg. Moments later the German soldier turned attempted puppy murderer was riddled with American bullets.*

*Ed. Note: Probably…

The wounded Stubby was sent to the rear to recover from his injuries where, just like at the front, he improved the morale of all the soldiers around him. As helpful as Stubby was to the sick and wounded recovering behind the lines, the dog could not be kept away from the action. Eventually Stubby returned to the front, and to the 102nd, where his legend continued to grow. After having survived a mustard gas attack Stubby became adept at identifying the smell of the poison gas, and frequently warned his unit of impending gas attacks. Stubby’s sense of hearing also came into play, as the dog turned out to be an expert at hearing the whine of artillery shells and warning the 102nd about incoming fire before they knew it was coming.

Stubby’s bravery was not limited to the trenches however. The dog would routinely venture into no man’s land where he would brave the nightmarish hellscape that lay between the trenches, disregarding the mutilated corpses, sniper fire, barbed wire, landmines, exploding artillery, and crisscrossing machine gun fire all so that he could find and comfort wounded American soldiers unable to get themselves back to the trenches and alert medics to their position. Also, because Stubby was able to differentiate between English and German, he only helped American soldiers.

It was Stubby’s ability to tell the difference between English and German that led to perhaps his greatest accomplishment of the war. Because he knew the difference between the two languages Stubby was able to singlehandedly identify a German spy while in the Argonne. Stubby barked at and attacked the sneaky German, hopefully going straight for his junk, until American soldiers were able to apprehend the spy.

Stubby was also a hit with the French ladies, though that isn’t exactly difficult. After liberating Chateau-Thierry with the 102nd, the grateful women of the town made a chamois coat for him so that the dog had something to pin his medals to. Meanwhile Stubby’s master, Corporal Conroy, was no doubt balls deep in half the townswomen, because when you have an adorable dog AND you just liberated a town full of French women from the Germans, your penis is pretty much unstoppable.

By the end of the war Stubby had seen action in eighteen different battles and received a battlefield promotion to sergeant, the only dog to ever reach that rank through combat. All in all Stubby ended his service having received three service stripes, the French Medal of Verdun, The Republic of France Grande War Medal, the St. Mihiel Campaign Medal, the Wound stripe (which was later replaced with the Purple Heart), the Chateau Thierry Campaign Medal, and the Humane Education Society Gold Medal. He is the most decorated animal in U.S. history.

Back home Stubby became a celebrity and met several presidents. In 1921 Robert Conroy enrolled in law school at Georgetown University and became a member of the Sigma Nu Phi Legal Fraternity. Naturally he brought Stubby with him. It wasn’t long before the lovable and now famous dog became the official mascot of Georgetown’s football team. Stubby would entertain the fans at halftime by running around the field and playing with a football. Stubby was made a life member of the American Legion, the Red Cross, and the YMCA. Stubby died in 1926 in the arms of his master, Robert Conroy. Today he is on display in the Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit at the Smithsonian. On November 11, 2006 Stubby was honored with a brick in the Walk of Honor at the United States World War I monument, Liberty Memorial, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Sergeant Stubby, an American hero and one hell of a frathound.


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