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Stubby’s tale: When pit bulls were heroes

Given the Pentagon’s decision to ban pit bulls and other “dangerous” dog breeds from Army housing, we thought it would be a good time to revisit Stubby, the stray pit bull who became the most decorated canine soldier of World War 1.

At war’s end, Stubby was treated like a hero. Doors were opened for him, as opposed to being slammed in his face. Today, in light of a recently approved Pentagon policy, soldiers returning home — if they have a pit bull, Rottweiler, chow or Doberman Pinscher in their family — won’t be allowed to keep them if they live on a military base. (Thanks for fighting for our “freedom,” though.)

It’s just the latest breed-specific slap in the face to pit bulls, a breed that once served not just in battle (Stubby saw action in 17), but as corporate mascots (Nipper for RCA Victor) and TV show characters (Petey on “Our Gang”).

Stubby, though he entered the armed forces surreptitiously, was the only dog to be promoted to “Sergeant” through combat.

Stubby was found on the Yale campus — parts of which were being used as a training encampment — in 1917. He was taken in by John Robert Conroy and other soldiers, marched alongside them through training and, when time came to ship out to France, was smuggled aboard the USS Minnesota in an overcoat.

Overseas, he served as a morale-booster, sentry and more.

In April 1918, Stubby, along with the 102nd Infantry, participated in the raid on the German held town of Schieprey. As the Germans withdrew they threw hand grenades at the pursing allies, one of which wounded Stubby in the foreleg.

In the Argonne, Stubby was credited with ferreting out a German spy and holding on to the seat of his pants until soldiers arrived to complete the capture.

Stubby eventually ended up in a hospital when his master, Corporal J. Robert Conroy, was wounded. After doing hospital duty, he and Conroy returned to their unit, and served for the remainder of the way.

At war’s end, he was smuggled back home.

Upon his return, he was made a lifetime member of the American legion. He marched in every legion parade and attended every legion convention from the end of the war until his death. He met three presidents — Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.

In 1921 General Pershing, commander of American Forces during the War, awarded Stubby a gold hero dog’s medal that was commissioned by the Humane Education Society.

One New York City hotel, the Grand Hotel Majestic, lifted its ban on dogs so that Stubby could stay there enroute to one of many visits to Washington.

When Conroy went to Georgetown to study law, Stubby went along and served as mascot for the football team. Some say his halftime antics — he would push a football around the field with his nose — was the origin of the halftime show.

Stubby died in 1926. His obituary in the New York Times ran three columns wide for half a page.

His remains were mounted by a taxidermist and presented for display at the Smithsonian. From 2000 to 2003, he was loaned to the Connecticut National Guard Armory, where he was exhibited for three years.

All that history seems to be lost on the Pentagon — as does that of Rottweilers and Dobermans who have served the country, and continue to.

If remembering Stubby’s life isn’t enough to persuade the Pentagon that their action was rash, ill-conceived and discriminatory, then they should borrow from another chapter of his legacy, that being the last one:

They should take their new policy and stuff it.

(Photos and source material: Connecticut Military Department)


Comment from Clay
Time March 18, 2009 at 11:33 am

[quote]They should take their new policy and stuff it.[/quote]


Comment from LuluAndLolly
Time March 18, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Great, great piece. We posted a link, not enough people call see this. thanks, Cynthia (Human), LuLu and LoLLy (rescue), Dogs!

Comment from Carolyn
Time June 1, 2009 at 3:49 pm

fully agree, stuff it. there is nothing wrong with Pit Bulls, Dobermans or any of the others, I own a dangerous breed the Chow chow, but she has never bitten anyone, does not even growl at anyone dangerous my ass.

Comment from Vickie
Time November 12, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Okay this makes me VERY ANGRY! I hope more people log onto this site and read it. You would think that the government would have more sense than to ban breeds when actually what they need is to educate people about these breeds and how ANY DOG NO MATTER WHAT THE BREED CAN BITE. Education is the key. I am a proud owner of a rottie who is so gentle that when my 3 year old grandson aggravates her, she gently shoots him away from her with her head.

Comment from jay
Time December 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Racial profiling is WRONG..
keep the PB & ban man

Comment from jerry
Time September 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Apparently the policy makers that made this decision have no idea what they are talking about (sounds familiar ?). Pits are an excellant breed , loyal to their masters and very loving without a doubt. I’ve owned Rotties , pits, chow mixes and they are all excellant breeds.

Comment from Lisa Dirker
Time September 22, 2011 at 11:35 am

They obviously haven’t read the reports that it’s three times more likely that a small breed (like chihuahuas, etc.) will attack and bite than it is for larger breeds. Smaller breeds also fail temperment tests much more often. IT’S NOT THE DOG, IT’S THE OWNER!

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