Homing Pigeons in the Military

Homing pigeons have been used by militaries throughout history. They can provide relatively secure communication on the battlefield. Unlike radio communication, which requires electrical power of some kind, the homing pigeon only needs food and water. In October of 1918 a U.S. battalion of around 200 men was trapped behind German lines and under heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire. They were also under misdirected fire from their own forces. Cut off and with no way to communicate with their headquarters, they turned to Cher Ami.

Cher Ami was their last homing pigeon. They wrote a message asking their forces to cease-fire before they were wiped out by the friendly fire. Cher Ami took off with the desperate message. But the Germans shot him out of the sky. Though he was severely wounded, he managed to take off again and fly the 25 miles back to headquarters. He had lost a leg and an eye and was shot through the breast. Subsequently, he was awarded Croix de Guerre by the French army.