I hate when poets put wounded birds in their poems. This is not a poem, but a short story about a brave bird. According to several sources, a pigeon won the Croix de Guerre and saved many lives of the 77th division during World War I. My book source claims that Cher Ami "wore the feathered uniform of Pigeon Company No. 1, a part of the American Expeditionary Force" and that "his little pigeon heart was full of Yankee pride when he was sent 'Over There' in the service of his country", which is where the confusion starts.

The British claim Cher Ami was a registered British homing pigeon, donated to the US Army Signal Corps, that had gone through pigeon basic training conducted by American pigeoneers.

All sources agree that at some point during the beginning of October, 1918, Cher Ami ended up in France, "right in the thick of fighting in those thrilling days of the Argonne struggle." There were soldiers trapped behind enemy lines, friendly fire from allied troops, plus an overwhelming number of German forces. The encyclopedia account mentions only one pigeon during the media-dubbed "Lost Battalion"'s predicament, but other sources record three, the first two pigeons shot down with their brief messages, by German snipers.

The first message was: "Many wounded. We cannot evacuate." The second message was: "Men are suffering. Can support be sent?"

Cher Ami's message was more to the point and rather annoyed: "We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens, sake, stop it."

In the encyclopedia account, the sergeant who sent him out was not named. Parts are written from the pigeon's perspective, who apparently knew of General Pershing, and longed for "a word of praise from him which meant more" to Cher Ami, "than even a 'D.S.C.'- referring to the Distinguished Service Cross."

The other sources mention Lt. Colonel Charles White Whittlesey, who wrote the messages that were placed in a metal tube on the doomed pigeons, as well as the one on Cher Ami's left leg.

According to both major accounts, Cher Ami delivered the message, thus saving many of the lives of his human comrades. However, how he was wounded in action by German snipers is where the details differ.

The encyclopedia: "A German bullet had grazed Cher Ami's breast, and, his left leg, with its precious tube, was broken and dangling by a mere shred of bleeding skin."

Wikipedia: "despite having been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood and with a leg hanging only by a tendon..." This source goes on further to say Army medics tried to save his life, but weren't able to save his left leg "so they carved a small wooden one for him."

Cher Ami recovered and returned to the US, with General Pershing personally sending him off from France. Sadly, his battle wounds had weakened Cher Ami and he died on June 13, 1919 at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

Awards: Croix de Guerre with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster, for heroic service in Verdun
Department of Service Mascot
Posthumously inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame and The Organized Bodies of American Racing Pigeon fanciers, in recognition of extraordinary service WWI

Cher Ami's body was preserved by a taxidermist, "enshrined" at the Smithsonian Institution, which is currently on display with Sergeant Stubby in the National Museum of American History.

Source: Comptons Pictured Encyclopedia copyright 1922--1929, Imperial and International Copyright secured. All rights reserved for all countries. Translations into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian, specifically reserved. pages 2803--2806, under general heading Pigeons and Doves, The Bird of Peace and Its Relatives, Ancient History of the Pigeon Family--The Messengers of the Battlefield and The Dove of Noah's Ark And Its Little Descendants All Dressed in Gray

Source: Wikipedia, Cher Ami, Charles White Whittlesey, Croix de Guerre, Sergeant Stubby

Source: military.com. This website includes an excellent review of a movie depicting the events, written by a former Army Officer, Vietnam Veteran, and history professor (alas, no mention of Cher Ami in the review!)

Source: si.edu. A photograph of Cher Ami minus his little wooden leg.