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Carrier Pigeons Go to War

Cher Ami saved the day!
© US National Archives - Science Library View Large

In World War I, carrier pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. The most renowned was Cher Ami - or Dear Friend - flown by the US Army Signal Corps during the Battle of Verdun in France. The message Cher Ami carried on October 4, 1918, was vital in saving hundreds of American soldiers of the now famed "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Infantry.

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Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
Carrier Pigeons Go To War

Written by Bob Sundstrom
 
This is BirdNote!

In today’s world of texting and Skyping, it’s amazing to think that, not long ago, the most reliable means of long-distance communication was provided by birds. Those birds were carrier pigeons – ‘specially trained members of the same species as our familiar city pigeons. [Rock Pigeons calling]

The time of their utmost value was World War I. [Cannon fire] Although messages could be sent over field phones, conditions of war – particularly at the front, where battles raged – often made laying phone wires impossible. Pigeons were crucial in relaying messages from the front to positions behind the lines. This was done by enclosing a note in a tiny canister attached to the bird’s leg.

[pigeon taking off]

The most renowned carrier pigeon was Cher Ami – or Dear Friend – flown by the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Battle of Verdun in France. [Cannon fire] The message Cher Ami carried on October 4, 1918, was vital in saving hundreds of American soldiers of the now-famed “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Infantry. Cher Ami delivered the message despite being badly wounded, losing an eye and a leg to German gunfire. This esteemed pigeon later received the French Croix de Guerre, one of the country’s greatest honors. [pigeon cooing]  

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###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by A.L. Priori.
Pigeon taking off recorded by M. Stewart, Naturesound.org
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org     December 2016/2019     Narrator:  Michael Stein
ID# 121906carrierKPLU          carrier-01b

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