Sergeant StubbyA portrait of Stubby, who made a name for himself on the World War I battlefields of France and then became a regular in D.C.'s social scene.

Mighty Yet Stubby: A Four-Legged War Hero Takes D.C. By Storm 

By Meaghan Kacmarcik
via the Boundary Stones WETA television (DC) blog

Sergeant John J. Curtin found himself dozing while in the trenches during the Battle of Chemin des Dames.[1] Feeling as safe as one could in the break between enemy fire, Sgt. Curtin fell into a deep and bone-tired sleep. His rifle and bayonet were haphazardly strewn across his lap as his back pressed against the cool damp wall of the trench. The duckboard on which he sat just barely kept him protected from the stagnant water that was omnipresent in the dugouts, which scarred the French countryside in 1917 and 1918. The khaki uniform that denoted him as belonging to the 102nd Regiment of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was stained with dirt, sweat, and perhaps even a little blood from the seemingly endless death and destruction which surrounded him.

Despite being scared beyond his wit’s end that he would not be able to react in time to save himself from a deadly German artillery shell, exhaustion hung over him like a weighted blanket. Closing his eyes for a few minutes would not hurt anyone, he decided. With his chin tilted forward resting against his sternum and his helmet falling down to just block out the light, Sgt. Curtin fell into the sort of sleep one experiences while under extreme stress and deprivation.

Seemingly just as soon as he began dreaming of his home in Connecticut, Sgt. Curtin was abruptly awoken by the frantic howling and barking of a dog.[2] As he quickly came to, he realized all too fast what was going on. Stubby, the 102nd’s dog, was warning him of an impending mustard gas attack by the Germans, located just a few hundred yards across “no man’s land.”[3] With great haste, Sgt. Curtin secured his gas mask upon his face, grabbed the mutt, and traversed the maze of trenches in the hopes of evading the noxious chemicals.[4]

Once the man and pooch reached relative safety— only experiencing minor injuries from exposure to the thick yellow fog— the weight of what Curtin just went through hit him like a ton of bricks: he was nearly killed by the German gas. The only reason his body was not lifeless at his duty station was because of the heroics of Stubby.[5] This was neither the first nor the last time Stubby had saved an American Service member. But Stubby was no specially trained dog – he was not even supposed to be in the war at all.[6]

Stubby’s illustrious story begins across the pond in New Haven, Connecticut, with one special man. After being drafted into the Army National Guard at the United States’ entrance into the Great War, Robert J. Conroy was sent from his home in New Britain, Connecticut, to the campus of Yale University where he and his fellow members of the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division were preparing for war.[7]  A stray dog with a short tail, made Conroy’s acquaintance (most likely due to the food Conroy gave the pup).[8] Soon enough, the two were inseparable, with Conroy spending his free time teaching the newly named dog, Stubby, a variety of tricks, including how to salute.[9] The brindle Boston bull terrier shortly became as much a part of the 102nd as Conroy, himself.[10]

Although the pair had not known each other long when it was time for the 102nd to ship out to Europe, Conroy decided he couldn’t leave Stubby behind. But getting the canine to France would take some doing as Army rules forbid the possession of personal pets.

Read the entire article on the Boundary Stones blog.

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