June 13, 1919 – Death of Cher Ami, Carrier Pigeon & Hero of Verdun

The Lost Battalion is the name given to the nine companies of the United States 77th Division, roughly 554 men, isolated by German forces during World War I after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner before the 194 remaining men were rescued.

For the survivors, food was scarce and water was available only by crawling, under fire, to a nearby stream. Ammunition ran low. Communications were also a problem, and every runner dispatched either became lost or ran into German patrols. Carrier pigeons became the only method of communicating with headquarters. Cher Ami was a registered Black Check cock carrier pigeon, one of 600 employed by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I. With a tiny metal canister fastened on his left foot, Cher Ami was sent on twelve dangerous assignments. On his last mission – conveying a cry for help from The Lost Battalion on October 4, 1918, he was shot by enemy fire. In spite of being severely wounded, he still returned to his loft with the critical message.

Cher Ami
Armed Forces History, Division of History of Technology, National Museum of American History

Cher Ami delivered the following:

WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL [sic] 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.”

The commanding officer of the Lost Battalion, Major Charles White Whittlesey, was unsure if any of the carrier pigeons had actually made it through. But he believed that his orders to hold this position still applied, because the position was the key to breaking through the German lines. The men held their ground and caused enough of a distraction for other Allied units to break through the German lines, which forced the Germans to retreat.

Major Charles White Whittlesey

Cher Ami had been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, and had a leg hanging only by a tendon. The pigeon was tended to by army medics, and was considered a hero of the 77th division for helping to save the lives of the 194 survivors.

For his heroic service, Cher Ami was awarded the French “Croix de Guerre.” He was returned to the United States where he died on this day in history as a result of his injuries. He was inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1931 and received a gold medal from the Organized Bodies of American Pigeon Fanciers for his war service.

One Response

  1. No bone spurs on that guy!

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