One of the most famous combat veterans from World War I is a stray bull terrier mutt from New Haven whose wartime exploits made him the first military dog to be promoted to sergeant.
When Stubby died in April 1926, the New York Times ran a half-page obituary that began, "Stubby is dead." There was no need to explain who he was.
Stubby became a national figure after the war and attended American Legion conventions. He met three presidents — Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, and was awarded more than a dozen medals, which were pinned to an embroidered blanket women in France had made for him.
"Stubby was kind of a small spot of sunshine in a very bleak, very costly war in terms of human lives," said Kathleen Golden, associate curator of the Smithsonian Institution's Division of Armed Forces History. " He was an unofficial military working dog before the United States began using dogs officially."
Today, 88 years after his death, Stubby's legend lives on.
His military career began in 1917, when strayed onto a New Haven field where members of the 102nd Infantry Division were training. Pvt. James Robert Conroy of New Britain adopted the dog and named it Stubby for his short tail. He smuggled the dog to France, hidden in a troopship coal bunker. Once in France, in January 1918, the unit commander allowed the well-trained dog to stay as a mascot.
Stubby took part in 17 battles in France. He alerted soldiers of impending gas attacks and ran to wounded soldiers in the field and barked to get them medical attention. He captured a German spy by chomping on the man's buttocks; that resulted in Stubby's promotion to sergeant.
After the war, Stubby outranked his owner and was made a life member in the American Legion and American Red Cross. The YMCA promised him a room and three bones a day. He marched in military parades across the country, and had an audience with Gen. John Pershing, supreme commander of American forces. Stubby saluted Pershing, touching his right front paw to its right eye, just as he was taught by soldiers in the 102nd.
In 1921, Stubby went to Georgetown University when Conroy enrolled in law school there. The school football team used Stubby for halftime entertainment, where he would push a football across the field.
The Connecicut Military Department has a page on its website dedicated to Stubby. "Stubby symbolizes, in a four-footed way," the service and sacrifices of the American military in World War I, said Col. John T. Wiltse, public affairs director of the Connecticut National Guard.
At the Connecticut National Guard's 928th Military Working Dog Detachment in Newtown there is a stone monument engraved with Stubby's likeness and life story. Stubby is also on social media — there are three Twitter acoounts in the dog's name.
"He's a very famous dog, more mascot than a war dog, but he proved to be a loyal member of the unit," Ronald L. Aiello, a U.S. Marine dog handler during the Vietnam War and president of the United States War Dogs Association Inc., a New Jersey-based nonprofit dedicated to educating people about the role of military dogs. After World War I, dogs came to regular use in the U.S. military.
Since 1956, Stubby's stuffed remains have been on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution's American History Museum in Washington, D.C. Stubby shares a case with another World War I animal hero, the wounded carrier pigeon Cher Ami. The bird carried messages that saved "The Lost Battalion" during the Battle of the Argonne Forest.
The Connecticut National Guard's historical office gets more requests for information about Stubby than for any other single state figure in World War I, unit clerk Donna Motuzick said.
"We get many, many requests from families seeking information about relatives who served in World War I, but there is always a lot of interest in Stubby," she said. "If someone is writing an article or book, it's usually about Stubby. He is the number one request by authors."
"It's such a wonderful story," said Kelle Ruden, programs director for the Westport Library. She said she learned about Stubby earlier this year. The library brought in Ann Bausum, author of two books on Stubby, on May 16 to talk with librarians from across the state and to give a public presentation the next day. In Westport, Stubby will be theme of the library's float in this year's Memorial Day parade, Ruden said.
In 1997, the state military department borrowed Stubby from the Smithsonian for three years for display in the state armory. Stubby arrived with blanket, plaque and a medal. Stubby was insured for $50,100, according to documents from the Smithsonian. The value of having Stubby back in the state from August 1997 to July 2000 was far greater, Wiltse said.