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Darn Wright | A doggone good Veteran's Day tale

 

Last updated 11/1/2019 at 3:22pm



It was another grayish darkened day as they waited in the soupy muddy, varmint infested four-foot-wide trenches. Their hearts beating faster and faster as they waited for the sergeant’s whistle to blow, telling it was time to go over the head-high trench. When the dreaded high pitch sound reverberated in their ears and minds, the four-footed solider was first to leap onto their death-calling battlefield.  It was this kind of write-up that introduced me to the “War to end all wars,” heroic Sergeant Stubby. 

“Four-footed” U.S. solider?  I tried to remember if any of my previous GI peers even came close to fit this image. So, I decided to read more about this honorable sergeant. As I did, I learned there were not only books written about this American hero there was an animated movie, too.  Naturally I had to get a copy of Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero on DVD. After watching this war movie and from my readings, I became even more intrigued by the exploits of Sgt. Stubby. 

With Veteran’s Day on hand, it seems appropriate we should all be aware of the story about the “doughboy” who went to war in France, became a heroic army sergeant, and was made the most decorated four-legged hero in our nation’s long military history.  

Before fate brought the “tramp” together with Private John Robert Conroy, this stray, homeless, and scrounging for scraps skinny dog was wandering the streets of New Haven, Connecticut near Yale University fields. It was then that this beggar was rescued by Private Conroy.

At the time, Private Conroy was in training to be shipped overseas to fight on French soil. Conroy’s heart instantly went out to the stray dog and he didn’t want to leave his newly-named friend, Stubby, behind. He concealed his dog inside an overcoat and smuggled him onto the S.S. Minnesota transport ship. Once they were in France, Stubby became the “unofficial official mascot” of the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division in France.

During Stubby’s 18-month combat tour, he was active in 17 battles on the Western Front. Our fearless “man’s best friend” was hit in the leg by a grenade, but that didn’t put a pause in Stubby’s fighting spirit. Not long after his leg healed, he returned to his combat unit where the German’s covered his unit in mustard gas. 

This biological agent didn’t stop his heartfelt support for his peers. In fact, this added challenge led to him having even more resources to assist his comrades. This “private” remembered the mustard gas scent and that deadly smell become part of his unit’s safety repertoire. By using this four-legged combatant’s powerful nose, he was able to save countless lives since he would constantly be out barking in order to warn the soldiers of subsequent gas attacks.

This battlefield hero dog’s heightened sense of smell saved lives, but so did his faculty for hearing. He was aware of the whining noise that the artillery shells made and before the soldiers could hear “the incoming,” Stubby would let them know they should take immediate cover. 

Stubby was unmistakably the shortest GI, and due to his closeness to the ground stature, he could easily scoot under barbed wire that was stretched over “no man’s land.” And, he did so often in order to bring supplies to wounded soldiers.

Our famous war dog even caught a spy. This came about when a person began speaking German to Stubby, whereupon our hero’s teeth chomped onto the seat of the pants and he held on until fellow soldiers arrived and took his POW away. 

At the end of WWI and back in the good old USA, this first and only military dog sergeant received his well-deserved hero’s welcome. He met presidents, led parades, and became an honorary lifetime member of the American Legion. 

Around the age of 10, this war hero died peacefully in the loving arms of Conroy. Then to unendingly honor Sergeant Stubby, and due to the skills of a taxidermist, he can be found in the Smithsonian’s “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War” section. 

Darn right, this is just one of thousands of doggone good Veteran’s Day tales. There’re a lot more to be told, so take the time to listen to veterans as they talk about their service-connected adventures.  

 

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