Sergeant Stubby: The Most Decorated Dog of The First World War

Dogs are often regarded as man’s best friend. They are loyal animals, can be very protective and can be trained to do many tasks. For this reason, they are used by the police, search and rescue operations and the military.

Dogs have been utilized in the army for a long time, and some have gone on to become more prestigious than others. Such is the case for Sergeant Stubby, a dog whose breed was not known but was likely a Bull Terrier or a Boston Terrier.

He served in World War I and is regarded as the most decorated dog of that time. He spent 18 months in the war, assigned to the 26th Yankee Division.

How it All Began

Stubby’s story started when he was found on Yale University Campus while a group of the 102nd Infantry was training. The year was 1917, but his exact age was not known.

As the group trained Stubby hung around, watching. One man, Robert Conroy, took a strong liking to the dog and kept him as his own.

The dog would end up going to war with Conroy, but without anyone knowing. When it was time for Conroy to board a ship, he took Stubby along by hiding him. The dog was discovered, but Stubby saluted the man who found him and was allowed to stay.

Military Duty

Stubby spent most of his time in trenches over the 18 months he was in the war. He fought in seventeen battles, and four offensives.

His first combat experience was in February 1918, where he stayed under constant fire for several weeks. During a raid, just two months later, he was wounded in a leg, having been hit by a hand grenade thrown by the Germans. Once he was better, he was sent back to the trenches.

Stubby was valuable to his team. He was good for morale; for those injured and those about to fight. He was a distraction in the awful mud filled trenches of World War 1. He also had a more practical purpose by helping troops in battle.

Stubby saved lives by warning soldiers of gasses that had been deployed by the enemy. Also by catching Germans; although not many.

One of Stubby’s first instances with gas, specifically mustard gas, left him wounded. A special mask was made for him, allowing him to return to the battlefield. It allowed him to warn troops of gas nearby.

He learned how to locate the wounded and could warn of artillery coming long before the soldiers heard it.

Stubby did capture a German by the leg of his trousers. He stayed with the soldier until Allied troops turned up. The full story of this is not known, but the German may have been injured.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the war, he was wounded again by a grenade, this time injuring his legs and chest, but he survived.

Stubby finished the war with several medals and awards and the “Sergeant” title. It is not known if he was officially a part of the military, but none the less, his role in his division was important.

Stubby's exact breed is not known, but he's thought to be a Bull or Boston terrier. Pictured above is a Boston terrier. Photo credit
Stubby’s breed was not known, but he was thought to have been a Bull or Boston terrier. Pictured above is a Boston terrier. Andreas Schlaugat – CC BY 3.0

Post Duty

When Conroy’s service in the war ended, he took Stubby back home with him. Again by hiding him.

Stubby’s return to the U.S. was highly celebrated. His achievements during the war had been reported back in the States. Over the course of a few years, he was in various parades, met with Presidents and was a dog celebrity.

Stubby became the mascot for Georgetown University, often coming out at half-time during events.

Public Domain
Stubby played a significant role in his Division, providing both relief and protection.

Stubby lived until 1926. He died peacefully in his sleep and was preserved after death. Conroy donated him to the Smithsonian Museum in 1956. He is currently on display in the Price of Freedom exhibit.

A Lasting Animal

Since his death, Stubby has been written about in four books. He has a brick in the Walk of Honor in Kansas City. Children have learned of his exploits in schools. Portraits have been made of him, and an animated film is being made about him, set to release in 2018.

Public Domain
Stubby’s brick that was awarded in 2006. It was placed in the Walk of Honor at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.

Stubby is often called the most decorated animal of World War I, and the celebration of him reflects that. When he died, the New York Times ran a half-page obituary for him, which is more than world leaders often get.

Although he entered the war almost 100 years ago, Sergeant Stubby will likely be celebrated for many years to come.

Lincoln Riddle

Lincoln Riddle is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE