Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pigeon Heroes! By Shirley Raye Redmond

My father was a Marine in WWII, so I’ve always been fascinated by that time period in American history. While watching a program on the History Channel one night, I learned about the Army Signal Corps using pigeons during the war. I wanted to learn more. About that same time, youngsters all over the United States were involved in class projects to raise funds to help pay for the World War II Memorial. Celebrities, such as actor Tom Hanks and Senator Bob Dole, were actively supporting the project as well. I guessed that teachers, school librarians, parents and grandparents would be looking for WWII stories appropriate for young elementary-age children. My book Pigeon Hero! (Simon & Schuster) fits the bill.

The short nonfiction book tells the true story of one of the American Army Signal Corps messenger pigeons named G.I. Joe. This bird is credited with saving the lives of over one thousand of our British allies in Italy. Following the war, he was presented with a Dickin Medal by the Lord Mayor of London before being retired to the cushy “pigeon hall of fame” at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

While doing research for the book, I was rather amazed to learn what an important role messenger pigeons played during the Second World War. They flew across stormy seas carrying messages from battleships and submarines. They flew over enemy lines with small cameras tied around their necks, secretly capturing photographs of enemy instillations. Jilly Cooper’s book, Animals in War, was a great resource as was the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Museum at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

Now, whenever I see an ordinary flock of pigeons in the park, I recall the amazing feats of their cousin, the messenger pigeon, and marvel.

12 comments:

  1. Wow, I never knew that. Quite amazing.

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  2. I have always been fascinated by carrier pigeons. Off to check out Pigeon Hero!

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  3. My brother raised homing pigeons for a little while, but unfortunately, when we had them, hawks were prevalent in the area and we didn't want to chance them getting not making it "home". :(

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    1. Yes, that's a problem. Between the hawks and the Nazi submachine gun fire, GI Joe and other messenger pigeons had a difficult task during WWII.

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  4. Fascinating, Shirley! I'm amazed what birds can be trained to accomplish.

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    1. It is amazing. Even though those little cameras around their necks take photos automatically, how do the birds know where to fly and what to take photos of?

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  5. Thanks for this great post. I always enjoy learning a part of our history!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I love historical tidbits too--especially amazing things like "spy pigeons."

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