Under the Radar

'Sgt. Stubby' Pays Tribute to World War I's Most Celebrated Military Dog

A private and his dog in "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" (FunAcademy Studios)

"Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" is a family-friendly movie about one of the most brutal war's mankind has known. Somehow, the filmmakers have managed to tell a World War I story that should appeal to both kids and military history buffs. The movie is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Stubby was a scruffy stray taken in by Pfc. Robert Conroy, 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th "Yankee" Division. He followed his new owner to Army training camp and joined the regiment for its journey to France. The dog accompanied troops on four offensives and 17 frontline battles, capturing a German spy and saving men in his unit by alerting them to wear gas masks.

He was "promoted" to sergeant and later toured the United States as part of the country's victory celebrations after the war. When he died in 1926, Stubby received a full obituary in the New York Times. He was stuffed and his body now resides at the Smithsonian.

Since no one alive actually remembers the Great War now, many of its most famous stories have started to fade from our collective memory. Stubby was the most famous dog in America at the time, and documentary filmmaker Richard Lanni wanted to bring his story to a new generation.

To tell Stubby's story, Lanni recruited actors Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gerard Depardieu to provide the voices, and he produced a kid-friendly script that doesn't ignore the violence of war but manages to present it in an age-appropriate way. He also spares parents the sassy caricatures that often populate so many other "family" movies.

Gen. John Pershing awards Sgt. Stubby with a gold medal in 1921. Stubby served in 17 battles and fought in four major Allied offensives during World War I. (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History)
The real Sgt. Stubby

The movie comes with special features that include "The Making of a Hero" featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and cast interviews,"Real to Reel," the true story of Sgt. Stubby and "Animating History," the art of Sgt. Stubby. There's also an historical image gallery that features images of the real dog.

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