The Mysterious Gender of Cher Ami
Sex and color
Originally registered as a Black Check cock, Cher Ami was a Blue check, and she was discovered after death upon taxidermy procedure to be a hen. She is still erroneously represented as a cock bird at the National Museum of American History and by many other educational and military history information sources.
Apparently, Cher Ami, who, despite having been "shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood and with a leg hanging only by a tendon," delivered a message that saved the lives of American soldiers, was not male, as everyone had thought, but female.
Online, I found that, indeed, as Wikipedia notes, the Smithsonian, where a taxidermied Cher Ami stands in a glass case on permanent display in the National Museum of American History's "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War" exhibit (as pictured here), an organization that prides itself on its expertise in American history and therefore getting it right, refers to Cher Ami as "he" on its website.
"Cher Ami" was a registered Black Check Cock carrier pigeon, one of 600 birds owned and flown by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I.
He delivered 12 important messages within the American sector at Verdun, France. On his last mission, "Cher Ami," shot through the breast by enemy fire, managed to return to his loft. A message capsule was found dangling from the ligaments of one of his legs that also had been shattered by enemy fire. The message he carried was from Major Whittlesey's "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Infantry Division that had been isolated from other American forces. Just a few hours after the message was received, 194 survivors of the battalion were safe behind American lines.
"Cher Ami" was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre" with Palm for his heroic service between the forts of Verdun. He died in 1919 as a result of his battle wounds. "Cher Ami" was later inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1931 and received a gold medal from the Organized Bodies of American Racing Pigeon Fanciers in recognition of his extraordinary service during World War I.
But, I wondered, did the exhibit itself name Cher Ami as male or female?
Tomorrow, I'll share what I learned when I hired an emissary to go to the Museum and find out.