Our Brave Little Pigeon Soldier

Today is Memorial Day, which means “No work!” for most of us … one more thing to thank our veterans for. I have the perfect book to read the boys tonight, “Fly Cher Ami, Fly!” which we ran in BIRD TALK’s “New For You” column in the May 2009 issue.

This illustrated children’s book tells the story of Cher Ami, one of the most famous carrier pigeons used by the American Army during World War I. This brave pigeon spent several months on the front lines, during which he flew 12 missions.

If you don’t know Cher Ami’s story, prepare to be amazed:

On Oct. 3, 1918, 500 men were trapped on the side of a hill, surrounded by enemy soldiers. During the afternoon the American Artillery tried to offer protection by firing hundreds of big artillery rounds into the ravine where the German forces surrounded Major Whittlesey and his men.

Unfortunately, the American commanders didn’t know exactly where the American soldiers were and started dropping artillery on top of them. By the second day, only a little more than 200 men were still alive or unwounded.

Major Whittlesey called for his last pigeon, Cher Ami. He wrote a short note that was put in the canister on Cher Ami’s left leg that simply read, “”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.”

He was almost shot down by German soldiers, but Cher Ami made it through. He flew 25 miles in 25 minutes and made it to his coop, although badly wounded. Wounded is an understatement. He was blinded in one eye, and took a bullet through his breastbone. And hanging by a few tendons was his almost severed leg with the silver containing the vital message.

Miraculously, medics saved his life, but not his leg. Cher Ami was awarded the French Croix de guerre medal to honor his bravery and determination.

Redefines the phrase “pigeon brained,” don’t you think?

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