Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
I guess you can say that Sergeant Stubby was one of kind. After all, he was the most decorated soldier of his type during World War I. During his period of service the good Sergeant had many heroic deeds to his credit. He saved his regiment from attacks of mustard gas, located numerous wounded soldiers and helped return them to safety and actually apprehended a German spy and held him down until reinforcements came to lead him away.
The horrors of war being what they are, all this might seem commonplace but there was one thing that made Sergeant Stubby stand out from his comrades and put him in a league of his own.
Sergeant Stubby was a dog, and a stray one at that.
The good Sergeant was first discovered wandering the grounds at Yale University in 1917 where members of the United States Army 102nd Infantry were undergoing training. He was soon adopted as their mascot but when the time came for them to ship out the commanding officer was dead set against the idea. Not to be deterred, enterprising soldiers found a way to smuggle him on board the ship and the rest is history.
For the next eighteen months Sergeant Stubby fought alongside his human counterparts in the trenches of France. Eventually, he would participate in four major battles and seventeen offensives. In 1918, Stubby was wounded in the front foreleg as a result of coming to close to a German hand grenade and was sent to the rear to convalesce. While there, his positive outlook helped improve the morale of those who had fallen beside him.
After he recuperated Sergeant Stubby was sent back to the front. Once again, he conducted himself admirably but was later the victim of yet another German hand grenade and suffered wounds to his chest and legs.
Once the war was over, Stubby was once again smuggled aboard a transit ship only this time he was headed for home where he was given a hero’s welcome. He often led the way in many of the victory parades of the day and even had audiences with Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Warren G. Harding. He would eventually settle in at Georgetown University where he became the team’s official mascot and would entertain the fans at football games by chasing the ball around the field during halftime.
Alas, Sergeant Stubby died in his sleep in 1926 and grateful nation mourned his passing. His obituary in the New York Times touted his exploits and went on for over a half a page, thus surpassing many of his human contemporaries of the day.
Following his death, Sergeant Stubby’s skin was preserved and mounted and preserved on a plaster cast which was then donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1956.
Perhaps in defiance of the quote that opened this write up, Sergeant Stubby is once again in the news. An animated version of his life his in the works called Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is in the works and this much-neglected hero will get the recognition he deserves.
One other note, if you happen to be at the Smithsonian and would like to see Sergeant Stubby, you can find him right beside his fine feathered friend Cher Ami, a much decorated carrier pigeon who also served valiantly during World War I. Just look for the “Americans at War: The Price of Freedom exhibit.