It all started on a day in 1917. The place was the Yale University campus in Connecticut where the 102nd Infantry Regiment was training in preparation to join the brutal trench warfare of World War 1 Europe.
What made this day different from the others was how a stray mixed breed dog wandered in amidst the regiment, apparently making himself quite at home. He quickly won over the young soldiers, was named Stubby (due to his short tail), and found himself adopted by Private James Robert Conroy.
Stubby was very popular with the soldiers. He would apparently try to join them in some of the drills and reportedly learned to salute with his right paw.
Finally, the time arrived to ship off to France and join the war for real.
And yes, Stubby went with the regiment.
Over the years, numerous stories and legends have been told about Stubby so that separating fact from fiction can be extremely difficult. One tale says that Conroy tried to smuggle Stubby over to Europe but got caught. The story goes on to say that when the commanding officer discovered what had happened, he was won over by a right paw salute. Great story, but is it true? We’ll likely never know.
What does appear true is that Stubby kept up morale in the front lines and would warn the troops of gas attacks by barking and running through the trenches. Another brave feat was the way he would go into no man’s land between the American and German positions finding wounded soldiers and staying with them until medics arrived.
Stubby was also known to wander, sometimes disappearing for days at a time. But he always found his way back to the 102nd and his owner, James Robert Conroy.
The brave dog suffered multiple battle wounds, but was fortunate enough to survive the war, after which he became a celebrity. He had his photo taken with General John Pershing, commander of all US forces in Europe and became the mascot of Georgetown University, where Conroy studied law.
Stubby passed away in 1926 in his owner’s arms. He was stuffed and eventually ended up with the Smithsonian Institution where the brave pooch is sometimes displayed.