They say heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Never has this been more true than the story of Stubby, a stray mutt who went on to become the first dog ever promoted to the rank of sergeant in the U.S. Army, and the subject of a new animated family feature, "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero," to hit theaters on April 13.
It’s a fascinating tale that starts shortly before World War I, so let’s begin.
From humble beginnings
Stubby’s path to the military began when he was adopted off the streets of New Haven, Connecticut, by Pfc. Robert Conroy, who was a member of the 102nd Infantry Regiment 26th "Yankee" Division training on the parade grounds of Yale University.
As Conroy’s charge, Stubby stayed with the Private and the dog quickly became recognized as the regiment’s mascot, accompanying them as they trained before being shipped to Europe.
At the time, of course, the U.S. Army did not have a formal training program for working dogs, but Stubby’s instincts made him an invaluable resource to Conroy and his companions.
Accompanying them to France, Stubby saw action during 17 different battles while fulfilling his primary duties of keeping the trenches free of vermin and helping U.S. Soldiers locate wounded allies on the battlefield. He even proved adept at detecting incoming chemical attacks, raising the alarm for both American and French Soldiers.
But Stubby’s most notable achievement was catching a German spy, a feat which earned him the honor of being the first dog to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant. To this day, Sgt. Stubby is recognized as the most decorated canine in the history of U.S. Armed Forces.
When Sgt. Stubby and Conroy returned home after the war, Stubby led the Yankee Division’s victory parade and was named a lifetime member of the YMCA and American Legion. He received numerous medals, appeared in Vaudeville theaters, met three sitting U.S. presidents and visited hospitals to boost morale for fellow veterans.
Conroy went on to become an agent in the Bureau of Investigation, the precursor to the FBI, and attended law school at Georgetown University, bringing Sgt. Stubby to campus with him, of course.
While at Georgetown, Stubby performed tricks at pep rallies and football games, setting the standard for all Hoya mascots. Some people even credit Stubby as the creator of what is now known as the halftime show.
Stubby’s story was chronicled in several national publications, and when he passed away, the New York Times paid tribute to this historic canine with a three-column obituary. Today his remains are preserved by the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the “Price of Freedom” exhibit at the National Museum of American History.
Bringing Sgt. Stubby’s tale to a new generation
A visit to the Smithsonian is one way to learn more about Sgt. Stubby, but another is Fun Academy Motion Pictures' debut feature film, sharing the "tail" of this four-legged military hero.
"Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" is a family-friendly animated film retelling Stubby’s amazing journey from abandoned mutt to American hero. Starring Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gérard Depardieu and directed by Richard Lanni, this animated film offers a “dog’s-eye view” of history for the entire family.
"Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" will open in approximately 3,000 theaters April 13 across the U.S. and Canada, coinciding with the year-long 100th commemoration of the U.S. role in the “War to End All Wars.”
You can learn more about the film at www.StubbyMovie.com. It’s a fascinating story and one that can be enjoyed by heroes of any shape or size ... or species!