Cher Ami or Chere Ami?
Last week, I recounted my ongoing investigation into the gender of a World War I carrier pigeon named Cher Ami, who saved the lives of almost 200 American soldiers in the Argonne Forest. According to the Smithsonian, where the stuffed bird stands on display today, the bird was a cock. But according to Wikipedia, an autopsy revealed Cher Ami was a hen. So which one was right?
I googled around to find out more. I landed on this page of the United States Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) website. Oddly, at some point since my investigation began, the page started returning a "Not Found" message. But you can find the original version of the page here, thanks to the Wayback Machine.
According to the CECOM page, Cher Ami was Chere Ami (see: the tab). A girl.
Identification: N.U.R.P. No. 615, Black Check Hen
War Record: Delivered twelve important messages from the Verdun front to loft at Rampont. Average distance thirty kilometers. Average time, twenty-four minutes. Returned on last occasion with leg shot away, message tube containing important document hanging by tendon. Missile which carried away leg also passed through breast. Wonderful vitality of bird enabled it to recover quickly. In this seriously wounded condition, "Cher Ami" flew forty kilometers in twenty-five minutes, being liberated at 2:30 PM, arriving at loft at 3:00 PM. Point of liberation was Grand Pre.
General Information: "Cher Ami" was returned to the United States with other distinguished pigeons on the transport "Ohioan" on April 16, 1919. She lived only a short time after her historic flight, dying at Camp Alfred Vail, New Jersey, on June 13, 1919. Her body was mounted and placed in the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. National Museum, Washington, DC, where it is now on exhibition.
The French "Croix de Guerre" was bestowed upon a very few pigeons during World War I, 1914-1918. "Cher Ami" received this Croix de Guerre with palm (citation a l'orde de l'Armee) for playing an important part in the communications between the Forts of Verdun, surrounded by the Germans during several months service.
Armed with this information, I contacted the Smithsonian. Wouldn't they want to know the famous bird they'd identified as a war hero wasn't male, as their exhibit label claimed, but female?
Next, I'll share what the Smithsonian said.