Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Writing - Pigeon who became a war hero


My submission for this week is a Christmas Story available on the link below:-

http://www.readwave.com/a-christmas-story_s18217

You may have to copy and paste into your browser.

The story below is by a fellow writer and it was redolent of Christmas during the First World War. There were many Christmas truces in 1914 including the football match between the Bedfordshire regiment and German troops. 
Lisa Vooght's story is not about a truce but it is about courage but this time not of people.


The Pigeon Who Became A War Hero

by

Lisa Vooght

During World War 1, homing pigeons were frequently used to carry communications between front line troops and commanders/support personnel in the rear. Troops carried pigeons with them in crates; when a message needed to be sent, it was written on paper, rolled up, inserted into a canister strapped to the pigeon's leg, and the pigeon was then released to fly to its coop in the rear. When it arrived at the coop, a bell would sound alerting someone that a message had arrived.

The US Army Signal Corps had been given 600 pigeons by the British; many flew multiple successful missions, while others were shot down by enemy fire. One, by the name of Cher Ami (Dear Friend) saved close to 200 men from "the Lost Battalion" by barely surviving enemy fire and delivering his message.

On October 3, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, more than 500 men of New York's 77th Infantry Division (the Liberty Division) were trapped on the side of a hill, cut off and nearly surrounded by enemy troops, without  food or ammunition. Allied troops were unaware of their location and American artillery units began to shell them. Quite a few were killed or wounded; by the second day, barely 200 men were still alive. With no other means of communication available, Major Whittlesey dispatched messages by pigeon. The bird carrying the first message "Many wounded. We cannot evacuate." was shot down. A second was sent with the message, "Men are suffering. Can support be sent?" As the soldiers watched, that pigeon also was shot down. Only one was left: 'Cher Ami'. He was dispatched with a note in a canister on his left leg. “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

He too was shot down.

And then, miraculously, Cher Ami struggled into the air again. Though badly injured, he flew the 25 miles to the rear, delivering the message and stopping the "friendly fire" barrage. He arrived with one eye shot out and the leg holding the all-important message canister hanging by a shred of tissue.

Army medics fought to save the bird's life; he survived, but lost his leg and was given a wooden peg leg. Eventually he was sent to the US by ship, seen off by no less a personage than General Pershing, where he took up residence at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, but eventually died from his injuries. Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster by France for his wartime service and heroic flight. He was also inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1931 and was awarded a gold medal from the Organized Bodies of American Racing Pigeon Fanciers for extraordinary service during World War I.

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God Bless