How’s about this for the strange but true file…For those of you who might be animals rights activists, I just call ‘em as I see ‘em.
Cher Ami (French for Dear Friend) was the name given to a carrier pigeon in World War I. It seems that over 600 carrier pigeons were donated by British pigeon enthusiasts and used in France by Americans to shuttle messages back and forth between the front lines. What was so special ‘bout Cher Ami?
Well, all in all he “flew” twelve missions in and around Verdun. If that wasn’t incredible enough, on his last mission, he was credited with saving upwards of 200 lives. Huh?
It seems that a battalion of American Troops (the so- called “Lost Battalion”) got isolated behind German lines and was taking on friendly fire. According to legend, one of Cher Ami’s fellow pigeons was sent up with the message “Many wounded, we cannot evacuate.” It was subsequently shot down. A second pigeon was sent up bearing the message “Men a re suffering, can support be sent?”. Unfortunately for this pigeon/warrior, it too was shot down. The situation seemed desperate. There was only one carrier pigeon left. A message bearing the words "Our artillery is dropping a barrage on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it!"was attached to Cher Ami and off he soared.
Not for long. Troops witnessing the events saw him shot down. Apparently though, Cher Ami was no ordinary carrier pigeon. He managed to take off again and made his way back home with the message intact. The shooting was stopped and many lives were saved. Cher Ami though, was another story. Upon his arrival his injuries included one leg blown off, a missing eye and a bullet had pierced his breastbone.
For his heroics, Cher Ami was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Oak Leaf Clusters. He was shipped back to the States but died as a result of his injuries at Monmouth, New Jersey on June 13th , 1919.
Cher Ami’s legacy lives on though. His body was stuffed and displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. A plaque bearing these words adorns his final resting place:
CARRIER PIGEON "CHER AMI."
One of 600 birds donated by the pigeon fanciers of Great Britain for use in France during the World War. Trained by American pigeoneers and flown from American lofts, 1917-18. "Cher Ami" returned to his loft with a message dangling from the ligaments of a leg cut off by rifle or shell shot. He was also shot through the breast and died from the effects of this wound June 13, 1919.
TRANSFERRED FROM THE UNITED STATES SIGNAL CORPS.
May I say, rest in peace my fine-feathered friend, I shall now look at pigeons through a new set of eyes.