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 1918
DiedJune 13, 1919 (aged 1)
Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
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 female[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. She 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 her left 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 her rising out of the brush and opened fire.[5] After several seconds, she was shot down but managed to take flight again. She arrived back at her loft at division headquarters 25 miles (40 km) to the rear in just 25 minutes, helping to save the lives of the 194 survivors. She 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 her life. They were unable to save her leg, so they carved a small wooden one for her. When she recovered enough to travel, the now one-legged bird was put on a boat to the United States, with General John J. Pershing seeing her off.

Awards[edit]

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

The man responsible for training and caring for the pigeon in the signal corps, Enoch Clifford Swain, was given an award for his service.

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

Remembered[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 a taxidermist, who discovered that the "male" pigeon was actually a female,[8] and enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution. She is on display with Sergeant Stubby in the National Museum of American History's "Price of Freedom" exhibit.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Books, essays, and short stories[edit]

  • Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, a novel by Kathleen Rooney
  • Cher Ami by Marion Cothren
  • Cher Ami a poem by Harry Webb Farrington
  • Finding the Lost Battalion - Beyond the rumors, myths and legends of America's famous WWI Epic by Robert J. Laplander
  • Cher Ami a short story by Heather Rounds
  • Viva Cuba Pigeon a short story by Susannah Rodríguez Drissi
  • The Ruby Notebook by Laura Resau
  • "War Pigs", an essay in the collection Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello

Film[edit]

  • The Lost Battalion, a 1919 silent film, includes the living Cher Ami hopping on one leg. This film also includes many of the soldiers playing themselves, including Lt. Col. Charles Whittlesey. The entire film is available on YouTube.
  • Cher Ami... ¡y yo!, a 2008 film directed by Miquel Pujol and produced by Accio Studios. Also known as Flying Heroes or The Aviators[10]
  • Flying Home, 2015 a romantic drama, starring Jamie Dornan features the story of Cher Ami's heroic feat.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Myths and Legends". The US WWI Centennial Commission. Archived from the original on 2019-01-26. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  2. ^ "Cher Ami "Dear Friend" WWI". Flickr. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  3. ^ "The 'Stop It' Telegram". www.lettersofnote.com. 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. "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. ^ "Myths and Legends". The US WWI Centennial Commission. Archived from the original on 2019-01-26. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  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]