The Drool Sergeant of World War I
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
– Mark Twain
Sergeant Stubby, the ‘Hero Dog of WWI,’ once caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants and held him until American soldiers came. He also served in 17 battles, saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, and helped locate wounded soldiers.
On April 6th 1917 the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany officially entering a conflict that over the course of three years would become World War I or “The Great War”. In the following months all men between the ages of 21 and 30 that were eligible for military service were traveling to various locations including Yale University who was lending their athletic fields to the training effort beginning in July 1917.
One of the soldiers training at Yale, 25-year old J. Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment 26th “Yankee Division”, quickly caught the eye of one campus resident in particular, a small brown and white dog with stub for a tail.
No one is entirely sure when the pup first arrived on the grounds of Yale but he definitely made a good impression in a short amount of time while visiting students and getting some friendly scraps to eat. Even though he was no stranger to everyone on campus, it was Conroy that he attached himself too and he gave his new friend the name “Stubby”.
The furry little guy became an instant companion but after a short amount of time he also became a training partner. While the men practiced their drills Stubby marched alongside them memorizing the various commands. He also learned the bugle calls that set the daily schedule and, in a move that further endeared him to everyone, Stubby learned to stand on his hind legs and raise his right paw in a salute that he would not break until answered. He trained, slept, ate, and relaxed with the men and before long Stubby was considered not just a friendly pup, but a fellow soldier.
As the days moved on and the situation overseas intensified the atmosphere at Yale became markedly more serious as the men began to accept that they were moving closer and closer to facing actual combat. Letters written by Conroy jokingly talk about his telling Stubby he would not be allowed to move on with him but that the dog simply “could not understand that”. When the men marched to a railway depot and boarded a train for Newport News in Virginia, Stubby was still by Conroy’s side and no one stopped their four-legged friend from boarding the train with them.