What She Found at the Smithsonian

Was a famous war hero pigeon male, as many believed, or female, as an autopsy purported to have proved? If you've been following along this week, you've joined me on my journey to figure out if Cher Ami, who saved the lives of nearly 200 American soldiers during the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a cock or a hen.

Wikipedia claimed Cher Ami was a she. But the Smithsonian website claimed Cher Ami was a he. So which one was it?

To found out if the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, billed the taxidermied Cher Ami on permanent view in "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War" as male or female, I hired a young DC-based journalist, Laura Wagner, who writes for Slate and NPR, to go to the museum. (You can read about how I found Laura and review our exchange here.)

Laura headed down to the museum the same day I hired her.

A few hours after I enlisted her, she filed her report -- via DM on Twitter.

She wrote:

"You were right. The plaque identifies Cher Ami as a male"

She included photographic proof.

 Photo credit:  Laura Wagner

Photo credit: Laura Wagner

 Photo credit:  Laura Wagner

Photo credit: Laura Wagner

 Photo credit:  Laura Wagner

Photo credit: Laura Wagner

The museum label read:

Cher Ami, one of 600 carrier pigeons deployed by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for his heroic service.

His heroic service. But what if Cher Ami was really a she? If that was the case, she had stood behind that glass for years, as adults and children had admired the war hero pigeon ... who was really a girl.

Next week, I'll share what I learned from the Army about the curious case of Cher Ami.