Meet Stubby, The Stray Dog Who Became US’ Most Decorated Animal

A couple of years after World World I broke out, the United States decided to join the war to support Great Britain and France. All of a sudden, tens of thousands of soldiers had to be sent to the battlefield, many of whom were extremely inexperienced. But this wasn’t the case of Stubby, the four-legged doggo! Here’s the story about a super brave stray dog who came to be the United States’ most decorated animal in history. Believe or burst!

Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

#22. The Spark That Lit The Bonfire

The First World War (WWI) broke out on July 1914, and it was triggered by the assassination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian nationalist. The war opposed the Allied Powers (mainly Russia, France, and Great Britain) against the so-called Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire).

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However, it wasn’t until April 1917 that American president Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany, thus marking the U.S.’ involvement in the war in support of the Allied Powers. Nearly 2 million soldiers were to be sent to France to fight the armies of the Central Powers, but how well-trained were they?

#21. Preparing For War

The truth is that the US Army began training their soldiers for the battlefield even before President Wilson declared war on Germany. The Army knew that they would soon become involved in the conflict but they didn’t want to send its men to war unprepared.

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Thus, the Army officials set up training camps all across the country and all the soldiers had to undergo a three-month-long military training. By the time the US joined the war, most soldiers had already gone through such training. But what did it consist of?

#20. Intense Military Training

For three months, American soldiers spent their days exercising, marching, learning new warfare techniques, and learning how to handle different military equipment. It was as wearing as it was necessary.

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The 102nd Infantry carried out their training within the premises of Yale University, and as the weeks went by, they gained themselves an unexpected admirer. There was someone who kept gazing at the soldiers as they exercised, and it seemed as if he desperately wanted to be part of it.

#19. The Most Unexpected Admirer

The admirer that we’re talking about was no other than a stray dog who would wander around the campus night after night. He was a one-year-old homeless pit bull who had always gone unnoticed by the students at Yale, but it didn’t go unobserved by the soldiers.

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Once the Infantry noticed that the dog would stand there at the sidelines and gaze at their training every day, they would spend each of their breaks playing with him. The truth was that spending time with the dog served as a great distraction for them.

#18. Stubby, The Stray Pit Bull

This adorable stray dog was both short and stocky, and that’s why the Infantry chose to name him Stubby. But even though all the soldiers came to like him, one man in particular grew fond of Stubby.

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This man was Private John Robert Conroy. He was a 25-year-old orphan who had grown up without a family, so he was glad to have found a friend in this homeless dog. But there was a problem, however: technically, soldiers were not allowed to own pets of any kind.

#17. The Infantry Mascot

However, the ranking officers began to realize that the little pooch seemed to boost the soldier’s morale. Therefore, they let the little dog stick around, and this is how he became the Infantry’s mascot.

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Stubby couldn’t have been happier, as the soldiers often fed him with the little leftovers they had. In fact, sometimes the officers would even let him go inside the restrooms and drink water from the toilet.

#16. A Well-Trained Pooch

As the weeks passed, the bond between Stubby and the soldiers grew closer and closer and the pooch wanted to be with them all the time.. Whenever the soldiers would jog or march in formation, the doggo would be right beside them.

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But as time went by, the soldiers began to train Stubby, to the point in which he learned how to respond to drills and bugle calls. But what would happen with Stubby when the time for war came?

#15. Inseparable Friends

Once the soldiers had completed their training, it was time to head towards European soil and fight the enemies. But Conroy was heartbroken: he just couldn’t stand the idea of leaving his best friend behind and fighting in the war without him.

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It goes without saying that pets could not be taken to the battlefield, but little did Conroy care. He chose to go against the orders and smuggle Stubby onto the USS Minnesota, the navy ship that transported them across the Atlantic.

#14. Keeping Him Unnoticed

Many privates and soldiers knew about Conroy’s secret, but since they all loved Stubby, they committed to keep it a secret. But keeping him unseen and unheard proved to be quite a challenge. After all, how can you help a dog from barking or growling?

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The privates would help Conroy hide the little pooch, either beneath the blankets or inside coal bins, and some other times Conroy would hide him in his coat. But how long would this last? Would Stubby make it to France unnoticed?

#13. Land In Sight

The machinist soon learned about Stubby’s existence, but little did he mind; on the very contrary, he also grew fond of him, to the point in which he engraved a few dog tags for him to carry at all times.

Photo: Courtesy of The Wild Geese

But as much as Conroy struggled to keep him unnoticed, he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep this secret forever. As the ship neared the French coast, he knew he had to make a decision, and soon.

#12. The Secret Revealed

Once the soldiers disembarked in French soil, they were moved from the USS Minnesota to their assigned base near the coast. And guess what? Conroy hid the pooch inside his coat! How didn’t anyone notice, one may wonder?

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But even though Conroy managed to hide him for a few days once in the base, his commanding officers soon discovered Stubby. Can you guess who they reacted? Do you think this got him into trouble?

#11. A Risky Idea

Conroy was fully aware that he had violated army regulations and he knew that Stubby was at risk of being sent to the streets to fend for himself. But at the same time, he was willing to do anything to not leave him behind.

Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Crompton

But even though he was in trouble, Conroy came up with an idea. He decided to show the officers just how well-trained the pooch was. He screamed “Present arms!” at him, and the dog lifted up his paw in a second. But would these tricks be enough to impress the officers?

#10. Off To The Battlefield

Luckily, the officers came to love the cute little pooch just as much as the soldiers did and they allowed him to remain at the base. And can you guess what the condition was? Stubby had to stay with Conroy at all times.

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This meant that if Conroy was to be sent to the battlefield, the pooch had to go with him. Millions of soldiers from all over the world had already perished during the past two and a half years of wartime, so how would a dog ever survive?

#9. Life At The Trenches

The unit put up with the horrors of war for over eight months, so much so that they soon grew used to the grueling trench environment. Luckily, Stubby didn’t seam to mind the life at the trenches. It seemed to be he was even bolder than the soldiers themselves!

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In fact, the pooch would often chase away one of the soldiers’ greatest enemies: rats. Rats would constantly show up and feed on the men’s food rations and they often carried diseases. They were all lucky to have the pooch by their side!

#8. German Offensive

For quite a while, it seemed that everything was under control for this battalion of soldiers. But on February 1918, the American troops were bombarded for German forces, and this offensive lasted nearly a month.

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But Stubby proved everyone he was afraid of nothing and he fought alongside his soldier friends. In fact, once the bombing started, he was of great help to the whole battalion. But how, exactly?

#7. Stubby And His Superpowers

Thanks to his natural hearing abilities, Stubby was able to detect coming artillery way quicker than any other human being. Thus, each time he barked, the soldiers knew they had to take cover and prepare for the worst.

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Also, when it was time to leave the trenches and enter “No Man’s Land”, Stubby would jump over the barriers and look for any injured soldiers. Not only this: he was also able to recognize the difference between American and German voices!

#6. Just A Fright

But as the war went on, things began to grow bloodier and more gruesome. German troops began throwing mustard gas, which started filling the trenches. But Stubby didn’t have a gas mask like his fellow soldiers, so his lungs became damaged by the chemicals.

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Due to his lung injuries, Stubby was quickly taken to a field hospital and the doctors did all they could to aid him. Luckily, he made a quick recovery and was soon taken back to his troop.

#5. The Masked Dog

Once Stubby joined the troops, Conroy made him his own gas mask, just to make sure he was protected. And guess what? There’s a photo that proves it! But now that he had his own mask, the pooch had learned his lesson!

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Stubby learned how to recognize the odor of the mustard gas. So, from now on, each time he would smell the gas from a distance, he would head to his mask and wait until someone placed it. But this was not all! Slide next to find out what other item the dog was gifted with.

#4. A True Hero

Stubby proved everyone that he was one of the loyalest members of the unit, and that’s why the soldiers made him a few medals to honor his bravery. And guess what? Soon, a group of women from a nearby French village made him a leather coat!

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With his own medal, mask, and coat, Stubby became one of the hippest dogs out there. But one day, Stubby left his mark in history by making a truly heroic act, which led him to become the first dog to ever be inducted into the military.

#3. Sergeant Stubby

One day, a German spy went unnoticed while he was stalking the unit. But Stubby identified him in an instant because of his smell and unhesitatingly attacked him. He dug his teeth into the man’s uniform and didn’t let him go until the soldiers came and captured him!

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The unit couldn’t believe that they had actually been saved by a stray dog! By the time the war came to an end, Stubby was named Sergeant and earned more respect than any other human in his unit.

#2. Honored By The Presidents

Sergeant Stubby became the American Army Yankee Division’s official mascot. Believe it or not, he managed to survive a total of 17 battles and received countless honors, including a Purple Heart. Beat that!

Photo: Courtesy of Lapham’s Quarterly

He was also honored by three US presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding! Look at this touching photo of Stubby in the middle of an official state ceremony. But what was his fate once the war ended?

#1. Stubby, The American Patriot

Once the war was over, Private Robert Conroy went back to his home town and went on to study law at Georgetown University. It’s needless to say that he took Stubby with him, and they lived a relaxed life together.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

And guess what? When Conroy joined the uni football team, there was Sergeant Stubby taking the field at half-time as the team’s official mascot. Can anyone ever argue with the fact that he was a true American friend, patriot and hero?

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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