Often when we hear the words "wartime heroes," we think of strong men and women fighting battles to protect their country. But did you know that dogs have helped protect many of those in battle? Yes, dogs have been wartime heroes for years. They have been welcomed on the front lines and trenches to warn of dangers and to help boost the morale and spirits of soldiers.
There are several famous canines that have made their mark on history. But Sergeant Stubby is one of the most famous wartime doggy heroes. During World War I, he was a brave "soldier" in the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division of Massachusetts.
Stubby was a short-tailed stray first discovered sniffing around the Yale campus in 1917. A man by the name of John Robert Conroy took the pup in and taught him tricks such as how to march and how to do a dog version of a salute. Conroy and his military troop were so fond of Stubby that they snuck him onto their ship, the USS Minnesota, inside someone's overcoat.
It wasn't until the ship was in the middle of the sea that Conroy brought Stubby out from a coal bin to meet his shipmates. With his fine doggy salute and ability to follow bugle calls and drills, Stubby was fast on his way to becoming the soldiers' brave mascot.
It was in the trenches in France that the soldiers learned to trust Stubby's keen sense of smell and hearing. After being gassed and injured in raids, Stubby was able to warn soldiers of poisonous gas attacks and looming artillery shells. He could also locate lost and wounded soldiers in a place called "no man's land" between the trenches of the fighting armies. He was even responsible for uncovering a German spy. Legend has it that Stubby pinned down the spy by biting down on the seat of his pants until other soldiers came to secure his capture. For this courageous act, Stubby was awarded the rank of sergeant.
When it was finally time to return home to America, Conroy smuggled Stubby back onto the USS Minnesota.
Once home, Stubby became an instant celebrity. His photos and stories of his journey were splashed across newspapers everywhere. With 17 battles and four offensives under his doggy collar, he was deemed a brave and loyal pooch. He was the star and leader of many parades, fancy hotels made exceptions for his stay, and he even visited the White House. A few presidents were honored to meet Sergeant Stubby, too, including Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge.
Stubby was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, the Red Cross, and the YMCA. In 1921, he was honored for his service to America. General John Pershing presented Stubby with a special gold medal on behalf of the Humane Education Society.
After all the glamour of newspaper articles and parades, Stubby went on to follow his favorite human, Conroy, to Georgetown University where he became the football team's beloved mascot. He thrilled crowds by using his nose to nudge a football around the field at halftime.
This dedicated sergeant left behind a legacy of courage and loyalty. For 30 years after he passed away, there was an exhibit at the American Red Cross Museum honoring Sergeant Stubby. It has also been said that Stubby helped inspire the creation of the United States "K-9 Corps" whose doggy members have served in the military since World War II. Not bad for one pooch!