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ISSUE 106 - February 2010
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Words Defining The Rock Dove

By David Rose, Contributing Editor
San Diego, California

"Possessing a gentle nature and the exemplary characteristics of loyalty and devotion to family”. Words defining the Rock Dove.

A few issues ago we related the story of “Cher Ami”, a famous carrier pigeon who in World War 1, braving enemy gunfire and suffering terrible wounds, delivered a desperate message to save trapped soldiers. The response to that article revealed to us the exploits of carrier pigeons in wars dating back a thousand years.

In the history of the United States there have been many lives saved by the bravery of these little birds. Perhaps the most famous of them was “G I Joe”, who, while just six months old and serving with the Fifth Army in Italy, G.I. Joe saved the British 56th Brigade from being annihilated by US bombing. It seems the British 56th Brigade was scheduled to attack the city of Colvi Vecchia, Italy, at 10 a.m., October 18, 1943. U.S. Air Support Command would bomb the city prior to the British Brigade assaulting the city. But the occupying German forces abandoned the city that morning and the British simply moved in ahead of schedule.

Then all radio communication failed to notify US Air Support to cancel the bombing raid, and with time running out, "G.I. JOE" was dispatched to Fifth Army Headquarters with a message that the Brigade now occupied the town. G.I. Joe flew 20 miles in 20 minutes, arriving just as the bombers were about to take off.

In 1946, the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Bracewell Smith, awarded "G.I. JOE" the Dickin Medal. "G.I. JOE" was the only American war pigeon to receive the Dickin Medal. The citation reads "For prompt delivery of a message to XII Air Support Command, thereby preventing the bombing of advanced elements 56th (London) Division." 31 Rock Doves have been honored with the Dickin Medal.

G.I. Joe lived out his long life at the U.S. Signal Corps Pigeon Breeding and Training Center, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. When the Army closed out the Pigeon Service in 1957, "G.I. JOE" was transferred to the Detroit Zoo, and died on June 3, 1961, at the age of 18 and may be viewed at the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Museum at Fort Monmouth New Jeresy.

Beyond “Cher Ami” and “G.I. Joe”, there are recorded countless exploits of carrier pigeon in wars throughout the ages. The little birds were dropped behind enemy lines in small parachutes to be utilized by resistance forces; spy's often used carrier pigeons; some pigeons carried miniature cameras photographing enemy positions; many fell to enemy gunfire while others survived their wars only after being severely wounded

To read the exploits of many of the Dickin Medal winners visit Robin Johnson’s great website

Mr. Alessandro Croseri has cronicaled many carrier pigeons heroics and has presents us with insights into the various circumstances surrounding these exploits on his short film.

Visit Mr. Croseri’s website for access to his film and more of the history of the brave little birds who have given so much of themselves to assist our efforts.

You might also enjoy “Pigeons inTwo World Wars” by Major W H Osman & Col. A H Osman, Racing Pigeon Publishing 1976

This is a double volume containing under one cover two separate books each written about the use of pigeons in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.


By David Rose, Contributing Editor

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