Meet Stubby. The Pitbull That Was Smuggled To France And Became A War Hero.

Meet Stubby. The Pitbull That Was Smuggled To France And Became A War Hero.

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Licking His Wounds

Stubby’s transition from mascot to hero came in February 1918 when he suffered his first injury at the hands of a mustard gas attack. Chemical weapons were a new and horrifying innovation of the Great War, and Stubby learned their effects first hand when he nearly died from his exposure. After that, a special gas mask was created to fit his face, and Stubby returned to Conroy’s side at the front knowing exactly how he was going to prove himself useful. 

Having been exposed to the attacks relentlessly, Stubby learned to recognize the smell of an incoming gas attack and detect the high-pitched whine of artillery fire before anyone else could. As soon as he did, he sprang into full alert, charging up and down the trenches barking bloody murder for the soldiers to put their gas masks on and get down. [4]

Old Dog, New Tricks

But that wasn’t the only trick Stubby learned. When he wasn’t in the trenches saving lives, he would often venture out into the ravaged no man’s land to search for wounded soldiers. He quickly learned how to tell the difference between American and German uniforms, and even more impressive, differentiate between someone crying for help in English and German. He would lead those able to walk back to the trenches, but if they were too wounded he would simply stand there and bark until a medic arrived to help. Reportedly Stubby’s kindness to his comrades was only matched by his viciousness to the enemy, and he had to be tied up around German prisoners for fear of destroying their trousers.

It was this ability that must have been what allowed him to take his very own prisoner at the battle of Argonne. Stubby discovered a camouflaged German soldier making a map of the trenches and gave him a piece of his mind, eventually running down the spy and taking him down by biting him in the rear. As a trophy, the American’s took the German prisoner’s coveted Iron Cross and pinned it to Stubby’s jacket. [5]

A Hero's Welcome

Eventually the November 11th armistice brought the war to an end, and Stubby was ready to return home with Conroy having done his duty. While waiting out the long process of disentangling the western front, President Woodrow Wilson got the chance to meet the hero-dog in person. The first of three presidents that Stubby would get to shake his paw with. 

By the time he was brought back to the United States, Stubby had become an international hero. He was given honorary membership in organizations from the Red Cross to the YMCA, appeared in newspapers across the country and was even afforded a stay in one of New York City’s most expensive hotels. Just like he was in the thick of the fighting, at home he was a perfect, stoic mascot for victory. [6]

At Ease, Sergeant

Stubby died in his sleep in 1926, held in Conroy’s arms. His owner may have been the only one left who could separate the dog from the myth anymore, the Stubby that appeared on the front pages from the scrappy mutt that wandered into Yale Stadium so many years ago. In remembrance, Conroy collected everything he could about the dog and put it into a leather-bound scrapbook. Today you can still see that scrapbook at the Smithsonian next to the taxidermied statue of the dog himself, forever on watch. [7]

Good boy Stubby.


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