If your battle buddy fought in 17 major battles, saved an entire regiment from a chemical attack, and then pulled everyone out of an artillery barrage before he went back to find the missing and wounded, you’d probably feel pretty good about having him around.
No wonder he was the only dog to ever receive a combat promotion.
Yes, the aforementioned heroic NCO that saved upwards of a thousand American GIs on World War I’s Western Front was a bull terrier mutt named Sgt. Stubby. There was even a movie made about him in 2018, just in time for Stubby’s 100th anniversary of becoming a soldier.
A private in the U.S. Army’s 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division named J. Robert Conroy smuggled Stubby to Europe along with the rest of the American Expeditionary Forces in 1918. Though not specifically trained to fight the Germans, Stubby was like any other soldier. He learned the bugle calls, the drills, and even a sort of pup-salute when called to attention.
Stubby was more than a mascot. His unit fought in four major offensives that are now enshrined in history books as pivotal battles of World War I: Aisne-Marne, Champagne-Marne, Saint-Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. With 17 battles total, Stubby and the 102nd fought for a total of 210 days – more than any other American division during the war.
He was able to sniff out mustard gas before it became a danger to his fellow troops – especially when they were sleeping. He earned his first combat promotion to Private First Class for just such an action. He even had his own gas mask when needed. Not to spoil the ending, but Stubby survived the war. That doesn’t mean he escaped unharmed.
At St. Mihiel, Stubby was wounded by shrapnel after an artillery barrage decimated the 102nd. He wasn’t out of the fight for long. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, he chased down a German spy hiding in nearby bushes and dragged the man back to the American lines. For his effort, his fellow soldiers awarded Stubby the Iron Cross – removed from his captured prisoner’s uniform.
After the war ended, Stubby was a hero. He was invited to the White House many times and met three Presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, and Calvin Coolidge. As a soldier, however, his greatest honor was the gold medal awarded to him and his fellow soldiers from the 102nd from Gen. John J. Pershing himself.
Since Stubby was a stray, no one really knows how old he lived to be. But he died in Conroy’s arms in 1926, a life member of the American Legion, YMCA, and the Red Cross. After he died, his body was preserved by a taxidermist and sent to the Smithsonian Institution. You can see the actual Stubby at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., in uniform – along with all his medals and awards.