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ISSUE 163 - March 2011
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Paul Holsen remembers his Dad

By David Rose, Contributing Editor
San Diego, California

Barnstormers eFLYER carried an article in its #60 edition chronicling the story of "Cher Ami", the celebrated carrier pigeon attached to the New York 77th Division who became a hero of the Great War 1914-1918. We thought you might be interested in the story of Paul J Holsen, one of the pigeoneers of the 77th Division who shared the experiences of that story. Paul Sr. was born in December 1899, he enlisted in the United States Army in January 1918 at the age of 19 and made a Private Soldier in Company ‘H’, 308th Infantry, 77th Division.

Paul Holsen's son very well recalls the stories of his father and some of the men on both sides who served with him. His son Paul Jr. was born in La Ceiba, Honduras. La Ceiba was the main seaport for The Standard Fruit and Steamship Company, now DOLE, a rival to United Fruit and Chiquita Banana. As a kid in the 40's he remembers that in the backyard they had a telephone pole with a pigeon coup at the top. Paul's Dad was a hunter; Honduras in those days was a paradise for outdoorsmen and in the winter his Dad would go duck hunting and deep sea fishing just about anytime. Their yard was a zoo with white and spider monkeys, as many as 12 at one time. There was also a pool with grabs and gators and wild cats were plentiful as well.

When his Dad would leave, hunting or fishing, he'd place a couple of pigeons in a traveling cage and head out. Paul Jr. recalls that their gardener Louis, in the evening would wait by the pole for the sound of the little bell signifying that one of the pigeons had returned. Sure enough, one would come in with a note attached to its leg. Louis would run in with the note and tell Paul if his Dad would be in late. No cellular phones back then.

Paul Sr. would explain that these were homing pigeons and that he had learned to use them in France back in 1918 during WW1. He would talk about the famous pigeon that so valiantly carried the message saving Lost Battalion fame. Paul Sr's experience at the front ended one afternoon around 3 o'clock when he was wounded in the right leg by machine gun fire.

After the war he would graduate from Tulane in 1924. While on his way to China, he happened to be standing by the Mississippi River looking at a banana boat, a man came up to him, "Admiring my boat?" "Your boat?" Paul exclaimed "Yes Sir, that one and that one." Sticking his hand out he said, "I'm Sam Zemurray, CEO of United Fruit." Mr. Sam, as they would call him, made Paul an offer to go to Honduras, Paul accepted and eventually spent many years there.

At one point, Dad ran a brewery in Honduras. He and his Brew Master, a Mr. Don Lorenzo who also fought in WW1 but on the German side, would talk of their experiences on the front. They would be heard saying, "You're sure you were on this hill, at 3 PM at this position with a machine gun shooting at the Americans, hell you're the one who shot me!" Paul would insist.

Paul Jr relates that his Dad returned to the states, joined the Army Air Corp, and became a pilot retiring in 1939 as a Major. Paul J Holsen died in 1994.

By David Rose, Contributing Editor

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