Cher Ami

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Cher Ami
Cher Ami cropped.jpg
The stuffed body of Cher Ami on display at the Smithsonian Institution
BornApril 21, 1918
DiedJune 13, 1919 (aged 1)
Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, USA
Place of display
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1918
Unit77th Division
Battles/warsWorld War I
Awards
Other workDepartment of Service mascot

Cher Ami (French for "dear friend", in the masculine) was a male[1] homing pigeon who had been donated by the pigeon fanciers of Britain for use by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I and had been trained by American pigeoners. He is famous for delivering a message from an encircled battalion despite serious injuries during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, October 1918.[2]

World War I service[edit]

On October 3, 1918, Major Charles White Whittlesey and more than 550 men were trapped in a small depression on the side of the hill behind enemy lines without food or ammunition. They were also beginning to receive friendly fire from allied troops who did not know their location. Surrounded by the Germans, many were killed and wounded and only 194 men were still alive and not captured or wounded by the end of the engagement. Because his runners were consistently intercepted or killed by the Germans, Whittlesey began dispatching messages by pigeon.[3] The pigeon carrying the first message, "Many wounded. We cannot evacuate." was shot down. A second bird was sent with the message, "Men are suffering. Can support be sent?" That pigeon also was shot down. The artillery batteries supporting Whittlesey's men attempted to provide a "barrage of protection" for Whittlesey's men on the northern slope of the Charlevaux Ravine, but believed Whittlesey was on the southern slope of the ravine, resulting in a barrage inadvertently targeting the battalion,[4] "Cher Ami" was dispatched with a note, written on onion paper, in a canister on his right leg,

We are along the road paralell [sic] to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake stop it.

As Cher Ami tried to fly back home, the Germans saw him rising out of the brush and opened fire.[5] After several seconds, he was shot down but managed to take flight again. He arrived back at his loft at division headquarters 25 miles (40 km) to the rear in just 25 minutes, helping to save the lives of the 194 survivors. He had been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, and had a leg hanging only by a tendon.

Cher Ami became the hero of the 77th Infantry Division. Army medics worked to save his life. When he recovered enough to travel, the now one-legged bird was put on a boat to the United States, with General John J. Pershing seeing him off.

Awards[edit]

The pigeon was awarded the Croix de Guerre Medal with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster for his heroic service in delivering 12 important messages in Verdun. He died at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, on June 13, 1919 from the wounds he received in battle and was later inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1931. He also received a gold medal from the Organized Bodies of American Racing Pigeon Fanciers in recognition of his service during World War I.[6]

In November 2019, he became one of the first winners of the Animals in War & Peace Medal of Bravery, bestowed on him posthumously at ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.[7]

Legacy[edit]

To American school children of the 1920s and 1930s, Cher Ami was as well known as any human World War I heroes. Cher Ami's body was later mounted by taxidermist Nelson R. Wood at the National Museum of Natural History. When the Smithsonian requested information about Cher Ami, the Signal Corps reported they could not find any war record of Cher Ami being the pigeon "which carried the message from The Lost Battalion." Listing the known details of the bird, the Army, without explanation, described Cher Ami as "he" and the Smithsonian's label reflected the bird's sex as a cock bird. In 2021, the National Museum of American History, together with the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian's National Zoo, had DNA samples from Cher Ami analyzed which concluded the bird is a cock bird.[8] Since 1921, Cher Ami has been on display at the Smithsonian Institution. He is on display with Sergeant Stubby, the (presumed) Boston Terrier mascot of the US Army's 102nd Infantry, in the National Museum of American History's "Price of Freedom" exhibit.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Books, essays, and short stories[edit]

Film & TV[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blazich, Frank (2021-07-15). "He? She? Or just plain Cher Ami? Solving a century-old pigeon mystery". O Say Can You See?. National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2021-07-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "Cher Ami "Dear Friend" WWI". Flickr. 25 September 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  3. ^ "The 'Stop It' Telegram". www.lettersofnote.com. 25 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
  4. ^ "Myths and Legends". The US WWI Centennial Commission. Archived from the original on 2019-01-26. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  5. ^ Jim Greelis. "Pigeons in Military History". World of Wings. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  6. ^ National Pigeon Day (29 March 2008). "History of Cher Ami". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  7. ^ The Washington Post, "New animal bravery medal honors heroic dogs, pigeons and horse," Nov. 18 2019 [1]
  8. ^ Blazich, Frank (2021-07-15). "He? She? Or just plain Cher Ami? Solving a century-old pigeon mystery". O Say Can You See?. National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2021-07-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "Cher Ami - World War I Carrier Pigeon". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
  10. ^ "Cher ami: The Movie". Archived from the original on 21 June 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2013.

External links[edit]