‘Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero’ is more than just a feel good film, it also provides some insight into a little known fact of the history of World War 1, the important role animals played on the battlefields in France. I took my two youngest sons, aged 12 and 15 to see the film, and it was a revelation to them to discover at the end, when we were shown photos of the real Robert Conroy and Stubby, that the film was based on factual events.
Stubby was a stray dog who befriended Robert Conroy, a “doughboy” on his way to basic training in New Haven, Connecticut. When Conroy gives him a treat, Stubby sees it as a ticket to a full belly, and finds his way into the army camp. Although threatened with expulsion on numerous occasions, Stubby shows his usefulness and intelligence and is allowed to stay. It’s intended he become the camp’s mascot, but Stubby has other ideas, and finds his way onto the ship which takes Conroy and his platoon to the battle fields of France. It’s there he proves his true value: during basic training he showed he was not afraid of bullets and loud noises. This made him perfect for rescuing injured soldiers on the field. Additionally, Stubby could hear bombs before humans, and, also minimised the vermin population in the trenches.
Stubby was wounded twice in battle, first by mustard gas, and later injured in the chest and leg by a grenade, but on both occasions he recovered and returned to duty. He was later solely responsible for capturing a German spy, which led his commander to promote him to the rank of Sergeant.
Prior to the screening my sons thought they might be too old for the film. Discussing it afterwards, they decided it was a great film for all ages, but the target market would probably be the 8-12 age group. In any case, it’s a great film for the summer holidays and there’s the added bonus of it being educational as well. If you’d like to find out more about the real Sgt Stubby, there’s plenty of information online, including this from the BBC, The National Museum of American History, Slate, and Wikipedia.