September 11, 2015 | Posted in War Dogs

Dog Wearing Military Medals

Sergeant Stubby wearing his uniform and medals

Sergeant Stubby, most likely a Boston terrier, was America’s first war dog. He served with distinction during WWI and had the honor of being the war’s most decorated war dog. In fact, he earned the rank of sergeant in combat.

The story of Sergeant Stubby mirrors that of many other war dogs in that he was found by a soldier who took a fancy to him, adopted him, and then our hero traveled with his owner as a stowaway. Sounds familiar?

It was the spring of 1917 and the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division, was training at Yale Field, New Haven, Connecticut.  Corporal Robert Conroy decided to take ownership of Stubby, the two sailed with Conroy’s unit to France, Stubby having been smuggled aboard ship. Upon discovery by the commanding officer, Stubby flashed a prompt salute like a regular solider and that secured him a berth. He was no longer a stowaway. This was in July 1917, the ship was S.S. Minnesota. Stubby repaid the faith shown in him many times over.  From the 5th of February, 1918 when the 102nd Infantry reached the front and over a period of one and a half years, the little warrior participated in seventeen battles spread over four Allied offensives. These were at Aisne-Marne, Champagne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse Argonne. The war in France involved long periods of trench fighting that tested the spirit of even battle-hardened soldiers. Sergeant Stubby was in the trenches too.

During an Allied raid on Schieprey, the redoubtable Sergeant Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by shrapnel from hand grenades. He was moved back from the front for recuperation. While convalescing, his mere presence lifted the morale of wounded soldiers recovering from injuries suffered on the front.

After being exposed to poison gas once, Stubby learnt to send out early warnings about incoming poison gas shells. He would also warn the soldiers about incoming artillery shells. One of his more remarkable achievements was when he succeeded in capturing a German spy by clamping his jaws on the soldier’s trousers. He kept the spy at bay till the American soldiers arrived. For this marvelous act of intelligence and courage, Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and became the first dog in the U.S armed forces to have earned a rank.

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Sergeant Stubby wearing his uniform and medals

After the war ended, Stubby had an audience with President Woodrow Wilson, who visited the unit in France on 25thDecember, 1918. Stubby arrived back in the U.S and was soon savoring his celebrity status. Perhaps no other dog in history has had the distinction of being granted an audience with three presidents. Stubby visited the White House in 1921 and 1924 and spent time with President Harding and President Coolidge, respectively.

When Conroy enrolled with Georgetown University, Stubby was very soon the beloved mascot of the college athletics team, The Hoyas.

Stubby died in 1926 after having lived an action-packed life that also included vaudeville appearances.  Today, a plaster cast of Stubby along with his favorite chamois blanket and his medals is in possession of the Smithsonian.