One of Connecticut’s most highly decorated World War I veterans is featured in a new animated film, opening in theaters nationwide Friday. He warned his fellow soldiers of a possible gas attack, located wounded men in the field, and even helped to catch an enemy spy hidden in the Allied trenches.
Sergeant Stubby: An American Hero is the story of a small dog who began his life on the streets of New Haven.
In 1917, Private Robert Conroy of New Britain was in basic training with the 102nd Infantry Regiment at the Yale Bowl when a stray dog wandered into camp.
“They just, I guess, fell in love with each other at that point, " said Christine Pittsley, of The Connecticut State Library who worked closely with the filmmakers. She said most of the movie’s early footage is set in New Haven.
“Anyone who knows New Haven will recognize the churches on the green. You know there’s a few liberties they took,” she said. “You can see Harkness Tower in the background which wasn’t built until 1922.”
Conroy and the brindle bull terrier became inseparable. When the National Guard soldiers left the Elm City for Europe, Conroy smuggled the dog onto the ship. Once on the front lines in France, Stubby proved himself to be a brave comrade-in-arms. And Pittsley said the dog became a true mascot for the Connecticut National Guard.
“There’s not a guardsman in the Guard today that doesn’t know who Stubby is,” she said. "That’s how much of an impact Stubby made on the Connecticut National Guard, which is part of the reason that Connecticut is the only National Guard unit in the country that has a working dogs unit today.”
The film features the voices of Helena Bonham Carter and Gerard Depardieu with Logan Lerman as Robert Conroy.