The Hero Pigeon
Yesterday, I started writing about a hero war pigeon and whether or not said pigeon is a male (cock) or female (hen). Here's more of that story.
I wish I could remember how I came across the story of Cher Ami, but I can't. I can tell you where I was. I was on Martha's Vineyard. Edgartown, to be exact. I'd been picked to do a writing residency there. This was last September. It sounded terrific, but something wasn't right. I was working on a novel; maybe that was it. Or maybe it was the tiny desk with the tiny uncomfortable chair wedged into the small space between the bed and the window that faced Main Street. Or maybe it was the preppy WASPs attending weddings down the road and the gross elitism crawling the streets and the general feeling that if you weren't from old money you were nobody. Or maybe it was the novel. I'd reached an impasse, and I wasn't sure where to go, and I was stuck on an island that I'd gotten on a terrifyingly small plane to reach with nothing else to do.
Either way, at some point, I was wandering around the internet, and I found Cher Ami. Some of you probably know who Cher Ami is. Some of you don't. Cher Ami was a famous carrier pigeon who saved the Lost Battalion during the Battle of Argonne in 1918. Several hundred soldiers were trapped behind enemy lines. They were being hunted by Germans and under friendly fire. The men launched a series of carrier pigeons, in hopes of delivering the coordinates that could save their lives. The first pigeon was shot down. The second pigeon was shot down. Then Cher Ami took flight. The message Cher Ami carried read:
"WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR AR ILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT."
The Germans took aim at Cheri Ami and shot down the bird. Somehow, despite having been shot in the chest and a leg nearly blown off completely, the pigeon was able to get airborne again, reach division headquarters, deliver the message, and save nearly 200 men.
Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre Medal and returned home a war hero. Sadly, the bird died less than a year later, due to injuries suffered during battle.
After Cher Ami's death, an autopsy was performed. Which raised an interesting question that continues to be debated to this day:
Was Cher Ami a boy or a girl?
I'll be continuing this series tomorrow and talking about what I've found out in my investigation thus far.