Pigeons in War

Home / Our Sport / Pigeons in War


As Written By Otto Meyer, U.S. Army (Retired) Former Commander of the U.S. Army Pigeon Service

“G.I.JOE” is the most outstanding military pigeon in history and is credited with saving the lives of at least 1,000 British troops during World War II.

The British 56th Brigade was scheduled to attack the city of Colvi Vecchia, Italy, at 10 a.m., October 18, 1943. The U.S. Air Support Command was scheduled to bomb the city to soften the entrance for the British Brigade. The Germans retreated, leaving only a small rear guard, and as a result the British troops entered the city with little resistance and occupied it ahead of schedule.

All attempts to cancel the bombings of the city, made by radio and other means of communication, had failed. Little “G.I.JOE” was released with the important message to cancel the bombing. He flew 20 miles back to the U.S. Air Support Command base in 20 minutes, and arrived just as our planes were warming up to take off. If he had arrived a few minutes later it might have been a different story.

General Mark Clark, Commanding the U.S. Fifth Army, estimated that “G.I.JOE” saved the lives of at least 1,000 of our British allies.

In November 1946, “G.I.JOE” was shipped from Fort Monmouth, N.J. to London, England, where he was cited and awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry by the Lord Mayor of London. “G.I.JOE” is the only bird or animal in the United States to receive this high award. “G.I.JOE”, a dark checker pied white flight cock, was hatched March 24, 1943, at the Pigeon Section in Algiers, Algeria, North Africa. Later he was taken to the Tunisian front, then to Bizerte, and from there to the Italian front.

After World War II, “G.I.JOE” was housed in the Churchill Loft, the U.S. Army’s “Hall of Fame” at Ft. Monmouth, N.J., along with 24 other pigeon heroes. In March of 1957, the remaining pigeon heroes were placed with different zoological gardens throughout the U.S.A. “G.I.JOE” was placed with the Detroit Zoological Gardens where he died June 3, 1961, at the age of 18. “G.I.JOE” was returned, mounted, and placed in the Historical Center, Meyer Hall, at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

“Cher Ami”

Heroically Saves the Lives of Almost 200 Soldiers in WW I Cher Ami

An excerpt from Readers Digest: Pigeons aren’t often thought of as the smartest of our feathered friends, but the incessantly cooing, bread-crumb-eating birds have their uses. During World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages. One such pigeon, Cher Ami (“Dear Friend” in French), flew for the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during WWI. He flew 12 important messages before being struck by enemy fire. Despite being shot in the breast and leg, he managed to deliver the message, which was found dangling from his shattered leg.

His brave dedication to the mission led to the rescue of 194 soldiers in Major Charles Whittlesey’s “Lost Battalion.” Cher Ami, who died in 1919, likely as a result of his battle wounds, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre award for his heroic service and was inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame. His one-legged body is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s “Price of Freedom: Americans at War” exhibit in Washington, D.C

Links to articles about racing pigeons in war

Famous War Pigeons
Pigeons in War Time
The Pigeon in War Time.
Carrier Pigeon in War
Pigeons in Combat

Links to Videos about racing pigeons in war

The Real G.I Joe
G.I. Joe saves 1000 lives during World War II.
The Real G.I Joe
G.I. Joe receives Dickins Medal for Bravery.
Pigeons Deliver Mail Safely
ArmNews – Canadian soldiers use pigeons to send messages.
Pigeons in Combat
Racing Pigeons in World War II
Video by Animal Planet