Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker

The Amazing Story of Sergeant Stubby

By: Ben Buchanan |

Today, as a small change of pace from my usual ramblings, I’d like to share a favorite story of mine that, if you should feel so inclined, may corroborate any of the seemingly fantastical elements through the Smithsonian.  This is a story of heroism and courage, an informal rejection of opulence and vanity. Which instead focuses on one of the great American war heroes: Sergeant Stubby.

Smithsonian National Museum of America History / Via

Smithsonian National Museum of America History / Via

The great American hero was a dog – his breed is somewhat in dispute, though in the common vernacular would probably be considered a pit-bull. Sergeant Stubby valiantly served in the military during World War I, where he became the most famous dog in US military history.  Before being going overseas to fight in the trenches, he was a just a lowly stray who began hanging around the infantry training grounds on Yale’s campus in Connecticut.  Several of the local soldiers and one in particular, Robert Conway, began to notice him. This led him to train the pup with some of the basic marching patterns and how to salute an officer.  Conway became so attached to Sergeant Stubby – at that time, known only as Stubby – that he snuck him on board the Navy vessel that would carry the boys off to war.

Unfortunately, Stubby was eventually discovered, when the commanding officer called for the troops to fall into rank, the dog fell in rank along with the men.  As the soldiers saluted their commanding officer, the dog saluted as well. The commanding officer purportedly stated “This dog is obviously a soldier.”  After this, Stubby was officially a part of the US military.

Upon reaching Europe, he spent the next eighteen months on the front, serving in seventeen battles and four offensives.  There are numerous stories of his valor, though a few in particular stand out.  The first is an instance when Stubby was hit with mustard gas, nearly killing him, though he was eventually able to recover. Ultimately, this may be considered a blessing, as the near-fatal injury allowed for Stubby to have a custom gas-mask made for him, and he was able to recognize the scent of mustard gas, enabling him to give warning whenever a strike was imminent.

Smithsonian National Museum of America History / Via

Smithsonian National Museum of America History / Via

The second story is similar in nature, as Stubby was capable of detecting the high-pitch squeal of mortar strikes well before his comrades could, allowing him to bark a warning to his soldiers.  It reportedly did not take long for his fellow soldiers to understand when he was barking a warning.  The final incident this is subject to some debate, gave Stubby his official rank of sergeant. It’s still unclear whether he was ever actually raised to this rank, though I prefer to think that he was. The act of valor occurred when he overheard a man speaking German in the trenches.  Stubby pinned the man, and it was eventually discovered that the man was an enemy spy.

The stories I recounted above may not be perfect in its authenticity, as it has been a while since I heard the tales surrounding Sergeant Stubby.  What I can be sure about is that he was, and remains, a true American hero who proudly served his country during World War I.  And if I did accidentally give any inaccuracies, I do apologize, though that is a natural part of how legends grow. But if it weren’t for legends like that of Sargent Stubby we wouldn’t get awesome animated movies about him coming out next year…check out the trailer below!

And for even more Sergeant Stubby photos check out this photo post!