Memorial Day Reminder: America’s Other Coalition Heroes
Indianapolis, IN, May 30, 2011 – City pigeons—nuisance wildlife. Versatile, adaptive and opportunistic friends, sitting at every street corner and on statues in every town.
In World Wars I and II, Carrier Pigeons were magnificent warriors, carrying messages across the frontlines—almost equivalent to the Army’s internet today.
Bred by the British Armed forces, given to American combat troops, honored with military awards by the French.
With a tiny message capsule attached to a leg, the birds were tossed into the air by American troops—then the birds flew through enemy fire to reach their home coops located at major headquarters.
”Ding, you have mail,” sounded the bell wired to the coops which signaled when a pigeon had landed.
According to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian, one of the most famous was Cher Ami during the last battles of World War I. An infantry battalion in the 77th Infantry Division, composed of 500 men, was surrounded by enemy troops. In a last-ditch move to save the last 200 men, the battle commander launched the only surviving pigeon in the battalion. The frantic message aimed to stop friendly fire from America’s largest artillery which was landing accidentally on the “Lost Battalion.”
“We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it,” read the short message from the embattled battalion commander, according to a history posted online at www.homeofheroes.com.
The bird flew 25 miles to accomplish the mission which saved the “Lost Battalion.”
In its last mission, Cher Ami was blinded by enemy shrapnel in one eye, crippled by a wound in the chest and one-legged, collapsing in a heap of blood and feathers. Dangling from its limp body was the ever-important capsule. For this action, the bird was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with a palm leaf by French soldiers attached to the American division. The bird was treated by frontline medics and then returned to the United States where it recovered.
Upon its death in 1919, a taxidermist preserved the body of Cher Ami.
Today, visitors to the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. can still see Cher Ami and its military decorations on display.
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