Dogs in History: Sergeant Stubby, the Iconic WWI War Dog

As time goes by people’s stories tend to get buried in time that was the case of our little war dog named Stubby. Despite his post-war stardom, Stubby has faded from memory in the century since the war commenced.History books and stories of triumph in the past were more often than not reserved for those who made the biggest impact.

We rarely ever hear of those who made significant contributions but were not big enough to be constantly talked about or remembered. That’s why we’re here to shine a light on our furry friends who are history-makers in their own right.

Stubby’s story depicts the American Army as it prepared to fight its first modern war—and afterward, a bruised nation as it celebrated a triumph won at inconceivable human sacrifices.

Aside from what they know of him ever since he was found wandering the grounds of the Yale University, specifically the university’s football stadium where the soldiers of the 102nd Infantry were doing their basic training before their deployment, no one knows where he came from — There are no records and not one person knows.

His breed was even something that people could not pinpoint at that time, they said he was a dog of uncertain breed, described in early news stories as either a Bull Terrier or Boston Terrier, with short stature, barrel shape, and friendly temperament.

Sergeant Stubby

In a paper, someone wrote this about him: “The brindle-patterned pup probably owed at least some of his parentage to the evolving family of Boston Terriers, a breed so new that even its name was in flux: Boston RoundHeads, American…and Boston Bull Terriers.”

Stubby the World War Dog

The dog’s fortunes changed from being a stray that wandered the streets of New Haven, Connecticut to an unofficial mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment (United States) and was assigned to the 26th (Yankee) Division in World War I.
Stubby the World War Dog

Sergeant Stubby the War Dog

In July 1917, he began hanging around a group of soldiers, members of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, as they trained on the grounds of Yale University. One soldier, in particular, developed a fondness for the little dog, Corporal James Robert Conroy (25 years old at that time). Ann Bausum, author of Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog, wrote that he forged the closest bond with the mutt. The two were soon inseparable.

Stubby Memorial

Sergeant Stubby the War Dog
Although the US military didn’t yet have an official ‘military working dog’ program, Stubby’s instincts and charm made him a firm favorite with the men of the regiment, who taught him how to raise his paw ‘in salute’.

A few months after their troops had adopted Stubby, they were faced with the biggest question, what to do with the dog? Dogs, at that time, were forbidden in the U.S. military.

They soon had to leave for Europe and even though they managed to keep the stray as a pet during their three-month trying, bringing him along would be a daunting challenge.

When it came time for the unit to leave for France, Private Conroy decided to take the risk and stow the pup with him. The troops traveled by rail to Newport News, Virginia, a newly designated port of embarkation for soldiers heading to France. The 26th Division was slated to board one of the largest freighters navigating the Atlantic, the SS Minnesota.

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