West Haven Vets Museum to hold reception, showing of ‘Sgt. Stubby’ animated film
WEST HAVEN — The West Haven Veterans Museum & Learning Center is getting ready to celebrate the achievements of one of its own — of the tail-wagging variety — when it holds a showing of the new animated film “Sgt Stubby: An American Hero” on April 13.
“Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” which is headed for nationwide release, is being shown at 8 p.m. April 13 at the Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas, 86 Temple St., New Haven.
The museum is hosting the showing of the film, based on the life of Stubby the dog, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“Sgt Stubby,” aimed primarily at middle schoolers, tells the story of Stubby, a New Haven stray dog who became a national hero during World War I.
In 1917, 101 years ago this spring, a stray dog with brown-and-white fur and a thick snout wandered onto New Haven fields near Yale Bowl, where the 102nd Infantry of the Army’s 26th Yankee Division camped and trained.
Pvt. J. Robert Conroy, a 25-year-old New Britain man, adopted the dog and named him Stubby because of his stub of a tail.
Conroy and Stubby went on to serve in the trenches of France during World War I, where the dog would bark, salute, charm, and earn his way into history for a number of heroics.
The museum, which houses the memorabilia for what is now the Connecticut National Guard’s 102nd Infantry Regiment, is going all-out to celebrate the movie’s release.
For the exclusive showing, the museum, located opposite the West Haven Metro-North rail station at 30 Hood Terrace, is offering two packages, said volunteer event coordinator Carole Laydon McElrath.
The reception package costs $25 and includes a reception at the museum, with access to a special exhibit on Stubby and the 102nd, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., plus bus transportation to the theater and admission to the movie, McElrath said.
The museum’s collection includes Charles Ayer Whipple’s famous portrait of Stubby. It also has artifacts from Stubby’s post-war years, when he went on tour with Conroy as a national war hero.
A movie-only package that also includes the bus but no access to the reception costs $15 for adults and $10 for children. The bus leaves for the theater at 7 p.m., she said. The museum has reserved a 200-seat theater for the showing, she said.
To buy a package, call the museum at 203-934-1111 or email email@example.com. Tickets must be paid for in advance and will be held at the museum until that evening to be picked up, McElrath said
In addition, McElrath will sell tickets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday in the first-floor lobby of City Hall, 355 Main St., she said.
Any money the museum raises from the event will be used for the restoration of some World War I oil paintings in its collection, McElrath said.
“I really am” looking forward to seeing the movie, and “we’re looking forward to the reception,” McElrath said. “We’re having T-shirts made up.”
Students from the University of New Haven’sHospitality and Tourism Management Program’s Food Service Management concentration will cater the reception, she said.
She pointed out that while the museum is named “The West Haven Veterans Museum & Learning Center,” it is “also the home of the 102nd Infantry Regiment ... and Stubby was part of that regiment, because Conroy was in that regiment.”
Over the past year, McElrath has had a number of conversations with representatives of Fun Academy Motion Pictures, creators of the movie. The museum is an official partner with the film company, she said.
According to McElrath, the filmmakers’ historical research has included the Connecticut State Library and the Connecticut Military Department, she said earlier this month.
Actors voicing the movie include Helena Bonham Carter, who narrates it, and Gerard Depardieu, who is the voice of Gaston Baptiste, a fictional French soldier. Logan Lerman, who was seen in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Percy Jackson & the Olympians,” voices Conroy, the young New Britain soldier who adopted Stubby.
According to Ann Bausum’s book “Stubby the War Dog,” when the soldiers prepared to ship out to Europe that summer, Stubby followed them to the train depot and hopped on board. After the troops and their mascot arrived in Virginia, Conroy persuaded a crew member of the European-bound ship to wrap Stubby inside a blanket and walk up the gangplank with him.
Stubby was allowed to stay on board because he was so friendly. Bausum recounted the story that a commanding officer spotted the dog but before any disciplinary action could be taken Stubby showed off his trick of sitting down on his haunches and raising his right paw in a salute.
When the American soldiers arrived and set up in the brutal trenches of France, Stubby was a godsend.
“He saved a lot of troops because his hearing was acute and he could smell the mustard gas before the soldiers could,” McElrath recently told Register columnist Randall Beach.
According to Conroy’s accounts, Stubby saved the inhabitants of the French village of Chateau-Thierry from a gas attack. The grateful women of the town made an “Army” coat for him.
On March 16, 1926, at the estimated age of 11 or 12, Stubby died in Conroy’s arms. Conroy never owned another dog. Stubby’s remains have been preserved at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The city of Middletown and partners, including Conroy's grandson, Curt Deane, recently announced plans to erect a bronze sculpture tribute to Stubby this spring at the CT Trees of Honor Memorial in Veterans Memorial Park.