Submitted by: Laura A. Macaluso
Sgt. Stubby served in World War 1 as a military service animal. The dates of service are: Known July 1917-April 1919.
In 2018, Stubby, a street dog from New Haven, Connecticut, will achieve what few other canines who served during World War I can claim: he will be the subject of a full-length animated film shown across the nation. He is already seen by thousands of tourists every year—a version of him stands erect near Cher Ami the famous carrier pigeon of WWI in the National Museum of American History. His famous coat of medals, a harness and a collar are all in the museum’s collection of nationally significant war material.
Although the story of Stubby can be traced through the medals and inscriptions his coat and collar document, the question still boggles the mind—just how did a street dog end up traveling with a Doughboy on the western front during the last eighteen months of a horrendous world war?
The Western front today is peaceful. Off the beaten track for most tourists, eastern France, where the Yankee Division fought, is a land of rolling hills, farms, vineyards, forests and small towns. Military cemeteries for World War I—French, Belgian, German, American—are not hard to find. Bob Conroy and Stubby could have ended up in one of the American cemeteries, just like 80 members of the 102nd Regiment after the small, but deadly Battle of Seicheprey in April of 1918, but, they did not, and after healing from gas and shrapnel wounds, continued participating in all of the campaigns of the war until its end on November 11, 1918.
Like all of the members of the American Army, Stubby, and Bob and members of the Yankee Division stayed in France through the winter, until the earliest of spring 1919 when the 102nd Regiment left Paris for the United States. In the City of Light, safe from war, Bob had his and Stubby’s photograph taken in a Paris studio. Both man and dog survived intact, and Stubby wears the coat fashioned for him by women in an unknown French village.
World War I was, in some ways, a trial run for what would come later in World War II. Because in 1917, Americans had little understanding of what a fighting a world war was like. The American Army was miniscule, supplies almost non-existent, with a population generally uninterested in participating in world affairs. But after a series of events, the army was mobilized and every city, town and farm in the United States was pressed into service—men and women went to the front, served in hospitals, drove ambulances, ran fundraising drives, grew food, manufactured munitions and supplies, and collected books which would be sent over by the bushel for the troops.
In this developing world of war, things that seem strange to us today were very common one hundred years ago. The number and type of animals that shipped overseas with their regiments or with individuals is one of those astounding stories. Donkeys, foxes, cats, dogs, birds, and goats (and even a bear with the Canadians and a baboon with the South Africans), and who knows what else were taken along by troops—for companionship and for service.
Stubby’s service story, which starts in New Haven, Connecticut, with the 102nd Regiment, of the 26th “Yankee” Division is a special one, though. Bob Conroy, his Doughboy, was deeply attached to Stubby, and both became minor celebrities after the war, participating in veterans’ events and parades—even receiving a medal from Gen. Pershing himself. Conroy had Stubby’s portrait painted in Washington, D.C. by one of the leading American artists of the time. After Stubby died in 1926, Conroy never owned another dog in his life.
Go see the film Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (Opening in April 2018) and then visit Stubby in the National Museum of American History and see his portrait in the West Haven Veterans Museum and Learning Center in Connecticut.