What would you do if you saw a dog on the battlefield? Most people would think they were seeing things, but the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division actually brought a pup into battle with them. Sergeant Stubby served as the infantry’s mascot during World War I. Meet the first dog to be given military rank in U.S. history.

Humble beginnings

Although many thought that Stubby was a Boston Terrier or a Bull Terrier, he’s also been described as belonging to an “uncertain breed.” According to author Ann Bausum, “the brindle-patterned pup probably owed at least some of his parentage to the evolving family of Boston Terriers, a breed so new that even its name was in flux: Boston Round Heads, American Bull Terriers, and Boston Bull Terriers.”

Stubby was discovered while he was strolling around the campus of Yale University in Connecticut. It was July 1917, and several soldiers of the 102nd Infantry happened to be there for military training. The dog followed the men around, and eventually, Corporal Robert Conroy took a shining to the small pup. When the soldiers sailed off a new location, Corporal Robert snuck Stubby onboard. As they arrived in France, he kept Stubby inside of his coat to conceal him. Once the commanding officer found out, Stubby saluted the man and was permitted to stay on the ship.

Brave beast

After landing in France in October 1917, Stubby was injured by a gas attack. However, the courageous mutt survived, and learned how to detect gas with his nose. Soon, Stubby saved his men by warning them of another gas attack while they slumbered.  He became well-known for discovering damaged soldiers, taking them to safety, and finding paramedics. Once, Stubby even apprehended a spy from Germany. The tiny dog assaulted the spy while he was preparing to reveal Stubby’s units’ position. He kept him there until other officers showed up. This epic victory is what gained Stubby the title of Sergeant.

Stubby fought alongside the 102nd Infantry Regiment in France for eight months. His first day of battle was on February 5, 1918, at the Chemin des Dames in France. During that time, he was under fire 24/7 for more than 30 days. He was harmed in April 1918 when he was hit in the foreleg with a hand grenade by German soldiers. He was removed from the front line of battle and cheered up soldiers from the back. Once he healed, Stubby was back at it. He suffered two wound stripes. When the war ended, the brave beast was snuck back home.

Stubby’s pawprint

Sergeant Stubby gained celebrity status once he returned back to the United States. He regularly marched in and led a ton of parades throughout America. He also got to meet American presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. During the year 1921, he was given the Humane Education Society’s gold medal. Stubby even got to go to Georgetown University Law Center with Corporal Conroy and served as the mascot for the Georgetown Hoyas’ team. They even passed him the football during halftime shows!

The little puppy passed away during his sleep in 1926. When he died, his body was maintained by arranging his skin on a plaster cast. His obituary was also given a half-page slot in the New York TimesIn 1956, Corporal Conroy gave Stubby to the Smithsonian Museum. Stubby’s likeness has been portrayed in many different portraits, movies, books, docu-series, comics, and more. In May 2018, Conroy’s family established a bronze statue called “Stubby Salutes” at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Middletown, Connecticut.