Tomorrow is Anzac Day, a public holiday throughout New Zealand and Australia. Last year, I wrote about Caesar the Anzac Dog. This year, it is Sergeant Stubby. Although not from New Zealand or Australia, this dog embodies the spirit and companionship that were hallmarks of WWI.
Thousands of young Americans answered a call to arms in 1917. In New Haven, Connecticut, a four-legged volunteer (a bull terrier mix) wandered into a local training camp for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division and befriended a young private named J. Robert Conroy. Lacking official papers, Conroy smuggled his canine friend aboard the troop ship Minnesota.
Stubby, as he was named (for his short tail), became New England’s most decorated canine war hero.
By February 1918, Stubby was experiencing the battlegrounds of France. He would leave the trenches and go into the dangerous “no man’s land” of exploding mines, barbed wire and bomb craters to find, comfort and lead rescuers to missing or wounded soldiers. Once he experienced mustard gas, he was a keen gas detector and warned his fellow soldiers when gas attacks were imminent.
During the Battle of the Argonne, he helped to capture an enemy spy. Official accounts note that Stubby leaped from the safety of the trench, bit a previously undetected intruder on the seat of his pants and held him there until the alarmed German was disarmed.
Grateful residents sewed Stubby a chamois blanket that became his uniform. On it were embroidered the flags of The Allies, three chevrons indicating the rank of sergeant and a fourth “wounded chevron” which he received for injuries suffered in a grenade attack. Service medals for action at Verdun, St. Mihiel and Chateau Theirry and Meuse-Argonne were later pinned to his blanket. It now sits with his stuffed remains at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
Stubby survived the war and returned to the United States with Robert Conroy. When Conroy enrolled at Georgetown University to study law, Stubby became a mascot to the local team, the Hoyas. The pair also visited the White House and were featured in numerous parades. When he died in 1926, Stubby’s obituary was published in many newspapers.