Dogs are known as man’s best friend. But if you think all they’re capable of learning is to play fetch, think again.

During the first World War, a soldier in boot camp came upon a stray dog in New Haven, Connecticut. Against every military rule, he took the dog into the barracks where the four-legged friend became popular with the whole unit.

Rather than leave him behind, the soldiers snuck him on board of the transport ship headed to the front lines in France. It was there that a trick he was taught would save his own life and eventually the lives of hundreds of soldiers.

“And the captain caught them with the dog half way across the ocean and he was very upset until someone gave Stubby the signal and Stubby saluted the captain, and again the story goes the captain falls on the floor laughing and said keep the dog, keep the dog,” says Norn Conard, Ex. Director, Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.

Now with the blessing of the army brass, Sgt. Stubby would go with his men into the trenches where the two biggest dangers soldiers would face were shelling and deadly gas. Again, Stubby was able to learn when both were on the way.

“Now Stubby can smell a second or two ahead of everyone else this gas coming in or with his great hearing he can hear the artillery shells coming a second or two faster, and a second or two is enough to grab a mask or hit the ground,” says Norn Conard.

Staff workers at the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott have now released a book, telling the tale about the K-9 hero called “Why Did Sgt. Stubby Go to War.” There is also a major animated motion picture now showing in Joplin and coming to Fort Scott called “Sgt. Stubby: an American Hero”

To this day, Sgt. Stubby remains the most decorated animal in U.S. military history. After the war, the dog became the mascot of Georgetown University and eventually met three U.S. Presidents. Stubby was stuffed and is now in the Smithsonian.