Dog of War: This Brave, Stubby-Tailed Pit Bull Was America’s First War Dog

By | June 17, 2017

In 1917, a Pit Bull puppy was roaming the streets of New Haven, Connecticut near an Army training camp at Yale University and it was there that Private J. Robert Conroy found and adopted him. He was named 'Stubby' for his stubbed tail.

Stubby underwent training at the camp. He was taught to respond to bugle calls, march with the troops, and salute fellow soldiers. When it came time for Conroy to ship out, he smuggled Stubby aboard the USS Minnesota in his overcoat, so Stubby became part of the group.


Stubby was smart enough to know the difference between English and German soldiers and he used this to determine which wounded soldiers to help on the battlefield.

One time, Stubby sniffed out a German spy, bit him on the butt and held on until help arrived!

For this brave act, Stubby became the first war dog ever to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant. This meant he now outranked his human, Corporal Conroy.

Another time, mustard gas almost killed the Stubby. After he recovered from this, he developed the ability to detect incoming attacks and alert the human soldiers. In the image below you can see the Stubby patches his regiment wore on their gas mask packs.

Stubby served one and a half years on the frontlines - he fought in 17 different battles and four major campaigns. He carried messages under fire and survived shrapnel wounds.

General John J. Pershing, Commander of the US Forces, personally awarded Stubby a gold medal for heroism. And that wasn’t his only award. Sutbby also earned a Purple Heart, the Medal of the Battle of Verdun, and the Republic of France Grande War Medal.

After the war, Stubby was awarded lifetime membership in the American Legion, YMCA and American Red Cross. He went on to meet Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

His human, Conroy eventually attended Georgetown University where he studied law school. While Conroy studied, Stubby parlayed his fame into a sweet gig as the Hoyas mascot.


In 1926, Stubby died in Conroy’s arms. The New York Times ran a 3-column -wide and half a page long obituary for the well-loved hero.