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Tag: world war 1

Movie industry does what World War I could not: It silences Stubby, the heroic canine

The animated, true story of Stubby, the most decorated dog of World War I, was overshadowed by big studio releases when the movie came out this Spring, and now it appears to be getting overlooked when it comes to DVD sales.

As the film’s writer and director sees it, his movie about the underdog who became a military hero, is finding itself in an underdog position as well.

The movie was the first release by Fun Academy Motion Pictures Studios, which writer-director-executive producer Richard Lanni describes as a new company “carving a new niche for real-life storytelling in a crowded family entertainment landscape of fantasy and fairytale.”

But judging from open letters he has written to fans on the movie’s website, that has been tough going.

Stubby was saved from the streets in New Haven, Connecticut, where Private First Class Robert Conroy was training for duty nearby on the grounds of Yale University. When Conroy was sent overseas, he snuck Stubby along with him.

He would go on to serve as a messenger, guard and more. Over the course of his life, Stubby served in 17 battles and is credited with finding wounded soldiers, catching a German spy and, thanks to his sharp sense of smell, warning an entire platoon of a mustard gas attack.

When he returned home, Stubby was the center of attention at parades and met three presidents, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Stubby merited a half-page obituary in the New York Times when he died in 1926 in the arms of Conroy at his home.

Stubby’s remains were gifted to the the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where the public can visit a stuffed version of him at the National Museum of American History.

The animated movie, while it got decent reviews, didn’t sell too many tickets upon its release and theater chains all but snubbed it after that.

“Everyone who saw the movie fell in love with Stubby, but there were far too many empty seats in theaters nationwide,” Lanni wrote. “Despite the enthusiastic responses we’ve received from parents, dog lovers, teachers, military families, history buffs, and kids of all ages, we simply can’t guarantee the film will remain available …

“After a challenging opening weekend, we must remember the story of Stubby. He was tenacious, resilient, and determined, and we must be the same. We’re not dead, but we are wounded and must stay in the fight.”

Now Lanni is finding the Blu-Ray version is difficult to get to consumers, as well.

“…We find ourselves fighting yet another uphill battle to make this film available to the wide audience it deserves,” Lanni wrote on the website, saying, because his new studio isn’t recognized, he has been denied the opportunity to sell DVDs on both Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

“The rationale, it seems, stems from those stores’ vendor approval policies. To put it simply, they don’t accept that a company capable of producing and distributing an award-winning animated feature film on four continents is also capable of delivering product to their store shelves…

“To put it another way, we are not recognized as a film studio in our own right and have not been presented with a process to apply for consideration as a film studio.”

As a result, he is offering it on his own, through the movie’s online store. The DVD will come out in early November, but you can pre-order it here.

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)

Army breed bans come under fire

A Pentagon memorandum issued earlier this year that bans pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and chows from living on Army bases has come under fire as being cold, backwards, misguided and an insult to soldiers who have served their country.

The Pentagon memo, dated Jan. 5, 2009, specifies that those breeds will no longer be allowed in Army housing — but it exempts those already housed. Any member of the military who switched bases, however, would be subject to its terms. The Air Force also has enacted a breed-selective policy and the Navy is expected to do the same.

Best Friends Animal Society in Utah said yesterday it is calling on the U.S. military to reverse the ban, which the organization says is “tearing apart families and their dogs at bases across the country.”

Best Friends attorney Ledy VanKavage said the memo is a “knee-jerk reaction” that “targets the wrong end of the leash. Our armed forces should target reckless owners, not a particular breed of dog.”

The memorandum states families “may not board in privatized housing” any dog of a breed — or a mix of breeds –that is deemed aggressive or potentially aggressive. The memorandum defines “aggressive or potentially aggressive breeds of dogs, “as pit bulls (American Staffordshire bull terriers or English Staffordshire bull terriers), Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chows, and wolf hybrids.”

”Behind that cold language are stories of our heroes and their families being separated from their dogs,” VanKavage said.

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