Dogs of War
Gideon D. Asche
The American dog has a long history of serving their nation in wartime. You K-9 handlers can reflect all the way back to the Second Seminole war of 1835 when 33 Cuban-bred bloodhounds and five handlers were used by the US Army as part of organized units.
American dogs, like American men, have a long history of voluntarily serving their flag. Dogs the likes of Sallie and Jack have served in every US war the United States has engaged in.
Sallie was a stray that followed a Union infantry company becoming the unofficial mascot. She served in several battles then was assumed killed at Gettysburg. She was wounded but alive and spent the night of July 3rd, standing guard and giving comfort to her wounded soldiers. There is no way to know how many dying men new her gentle touch as their last memory.
Sallie recovered to return to battle and was with her men, serving faithfully, the day the Minié Ball struck her in the head. Sallie’s lifeless body was found with her men at the battle of Hatcher’s Run.
Jack was another canine volunteer serving with the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteers. He was wounded but recovered and later taken prisoner. As a POW, Jack is reported to have “given great cheer to his fellow Union prisoners.”
Jack’s incarceration ended when he was exchanged for a Confederate soldier, and Jack returned to his unit. In the thick of many battles and skirmishes, Jack was captured a second time but escaped within six hours; he was severely wounded at Malvern Hill and suffered several lesser wounds elsewhere.
Jack is said to have even understood the unit’s bugle calls and searched out his fallen comrades on the field. Except for six months as a prisoner of war, Jack remained with the regiment from 1861 through 1864.
From Civil War pups like Sallie and Jack to Stubby and “Bart,” the SEAL Dog who was killed on Extortion – 17, The American War Dog has served this Republic with honor. Today’s War Dogs come from good stock, and the American Fighting Man has had the benefit of hundreds of his four-legged buddies serving next to him, but none is more decorated or well known as Sgt. Stubby.
August of 1917 saw the most massive National Guard call up in history. This wasn’t one of those “Grazing Herd” MOBEXs. The entire complement of the National Guard was federalized and drafted into service for World War I.
One of the volunteers who answered the call was a young pup who went by the name “Stubby.” Stubby wandered upon a company of the 102nd Infantry in training on the Yale campus in 1917. When the 102nd boarded a troopship for France, Stubby was concealed in a coal box until the vessel was well out to sea.
Upon arrival in France, Stubby was initially in charge of company morale, but when the bullets began to fly, Stubby stepped right up to the bowl and ate it up.
Injured in a gas attack, Stubby was sent to the rear for treatment, where he served as Aid Station Morale officer. Upon his return to duty, it was discovered that he had developed a unique ability to detect gas; his talent saved the lives of many of his comrades. Stubby used his sense of smell and exceptional hearing to warn his men of impending attacks and infiltrators.
Being wounded a second time, by shrapnel, didn’t dampen Stubby’s resolve, and one night, as stubby was walking his post, he discovered an enemy infiltrator in the trench. – Sgt. Stubby brought an inglorious and bloody end to the enemy soldier’s career.
Stubby was involved in a total of 17 battles, and four offensives. After the battle for the French village of Domremy, women of the village fashioned a hand-sewn chamois coat for the pup. Stubby later wore it to display his service chevrons, medals, pins, and buttons when he attended veterans’ functions after the war. Stubby was even a White house guest three times – Presidents: Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge.
In 1921, like many other veterans, Stubby headed to College, Georgetown, to be exact, where he served several terms as mascot to the football team.
Sgt. Stubby made that last formation on April 4, 1926. He passed peacefully in the arms of John Conroy, the Soldier who found him in 1917 and with whom Stubby served faithfully within France.
Sgt. Stubby’s Combat Awards include:
- 3 Service Stripes
- The Yankee Division – YD Patch
- French Medal of the Battle of Verdun
- Republic of France Grande War Medal
- St Michael Campaign Medal
- 2 Wound chevrons. (converted to Purple Hearts in 1932)
- Chateau Thierry Campaign Medal
- A battlefield promotion to the rank of Sgt.
A solid gold Medal for Valor, the Doggie Medal of Honor, was also personally presented to Stubby by Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American forces in Europe during the war.
Pershing spoke of “this Soldier’s heroism” and “bravery under fire” Then, the General pinned the award to the fuzzy hero’s uniform. The NY Times reported, the solider “licked his chops and wagged his diminutive tail.”
Oddly enough, after the equivalent of 51 human years of service to his country, when Stubby died of natural causes, someone decided to stuff him.
Sgt. Stubby is on display at the Smithsonian institute today.
I had the privilege of rendering a Salute to Stubby on a trip to DC several years ago.