History of Pigeons in War
The history of pigeons as message carriers goes back over 5,000
years. However, none of the various types of pigeons used as the early message
carriers were capable of flights much farther than about 40 miles.
Nevertheless, by the middle of the twelfth century A.D., a well-organized
pigeon post, with post office and postmasters, was being maintained. By 1819,
however, the homing pigeon was developed sufficiently to fly 200 miles in a
day, and at that time when the principle mode of travel was either by foot or
horse, 200 miles was a great distance. For centuries, because Homers were the
fastest and most reliable means of communication, leading newspapers of many
countries used them to carry news of importance. And, in the early nineteenth
century, Homing Pigeons were used in many Belgium cities to bring news of stock
exchange quotations from London across the English Channel.
Homing Pigeons were used in antiquity to bring back results
of the battles, and in World War I and World War II to carry vital messages.
Many books have been written about their heroic feats, in which they were often
injured by shell fire during their delivery of vital messages. Their vital
messages have saved the lives of many thousands of combatants and civilians.
When total radio silence is necessary or where radio communications have been
cut-off, they may be the only means of communication. They have provided the
balance between victory and defeat in many crucial engagements, unerringly
delivering their vital messages even over large bodies of open water, through
rain and fog over high mountains and against treacherous winds.
As a result of their heroic efforts, many Homing Pigeons
received medals and honors. One United States Homing Pigeon, called "G.I.
Joe," was awarded the Dicken Medal for bravery by the Lord Mayor of London
for saving over 1,000 British soldiers in World War II. "G.I. Joe" is
the only bird or animal in the United States to be given this high award.
In 1957, United States Signal Corps transferred two hero
pigeons to the National Zoological Park, located in Washington D.C. Anzio Boy
and Global Girl completed sixty-one missions between them.
Mocker flew 52 missions and was wounded on his last mission.
He was awarded the "Distinguished Service Cross," as well as the
French "Croix De Guerre." This pigeon, in splendid time, on the morning
of September 12, 1918, from the vicinity of Beaumont, France, arrived bearing a
message of great importance, which gave the location of certain enemy heavy
batteries. This information enabled the American artillery to silence the
enemy's guns within twenty minutes. Mocker is the last WWI hero pigeon to die
(1937). Spike delivered messages between combat squads in the heat of battle.
He flew 50 missions without getting injured and earned the Distinguished
"Each loft carries 100 birds during combat. Crowder
has well over 10,000 + more coming in from the Pacific. Sept
This is Carl and I, in front of a Combat loft. These lofts
are taken right up to the fronts in actual Combat fighting, and moved each and
every time our Army advances. They hold about 20 birds nicely. Oct 24, 1945,
20:30, Wednesday night"