I have begun to believe my mind is full of tiny little topics that act like pimples.

No one can predict the order they start to fester in, or when they’ll get ripe and burst.

Monday, 11 August 2014

A Forgotten Hero

Sergeant Stubby

(1916 or 1917- March 16th 1926)


Sergeant Stubby displaying his many medals
Although dogs were highly utilized in Europe, the USA was reluctant to use dogs in World War One. It did make use of a few hundred which belonged to the Allies, but did not employ nearly the same number of dogs as European countries did. However, one dog, a bull terrier cross affectionately named Stubby became the crowning glory of the US army.

Stubby's beginnings were humble. A stray Bull terrier cross, he found himself wandering through an army training session at Yale Field in Connecticut. After befriending the soldiers, one in particular named Corporal Robert Conroy took a shine to the dog. Conroy named him Stubby, probably on account of his short and stubby tail. Legend has it that Corporal Conroy was so smitten with Stubby that when it came time to ship out to the Western Front, he smuggled the dog onto the vessel bound for France. Even when he was discovered, he was allowed to remain with Conroy and so found himself on the Western Front in the thick of combat.

Stubby remained with the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division, known as the Yankee division. He was present at many battles, including at Chateau-Thierry, the Marne and St. Mihiel. Over time, he survived a number of injuries, including those from shrapnel and gas attacks. It is said he became so well-known and admired that he was treated in Red Cross hospitals, as human soldiers were.

Having survived gas attacks, he became very sensitive to the smell of gas, and with his sensitive dog nose, was able to detect gas much earlier than his human comrades and alert them in time. His acute doggy hearing, allowed him the advantage of hearing even the quietest sounds from advancing enemy and so Stubby proved excellent at silently alerting his comrades when he could hear the enemy was near. His major triumph was hearing a German spy who had tried to sneak into Conroy's camp during the dead of night. The loyal and diligent Stubby managed to grab the intruder's leg and immobilize him until Conroy and other troops came to investigate and imprison the German. He also asserted himself as a 'mercy' dog, scanning the battle fields for injured soldiers and comforting them whilst they lay dying or alerting paramedics to the wounded.

Stubby was named a hero, to the point where, after the liberation of Chateau Thierry, the women of the town made him a special chamois blanket, for which his many medals and service chevrons were displayed. Stubby returned home a hero and became somewhat a celebrity in the USA. He received more medals than any other soldier dog and even outranked his owner. Stubby was even awarded lifetime membership of the American Legion and participated in every march and convention until his death in 1926, all the while, remaining in the care of Corporal Robert Conroy. Conroy himself enrolled at Georgetown University to study law. Such was the country's pride in Stubby that on his death in 1926, the New York Times submitted an obituary which read,

'On Feb. 5, 1918, he entered the front lines of the Chemin des Dames sector, north of Soissons, where he was under fire night and day for more than a month. The noise and strain that shattered the nerves of many of his comrades did not impair Stubby's spirits. Not because he was unconscious of danger. His angry howl while a battle raged and his mad canter from one part of the lines to another indicated realization. But he seemed to know that the greatest service he could render was comfort and cheerfulness.'