Courtesy Jeff Tinsley/Smithsonian Images
Cher Ami was a black check homing pigeon.
On Memorial Day, we honor war veterans who gave their lives for our country. Some people are aware that companion animals also served in war, and many died doing so. But many be surprised to learn that the most decorated war animal was a pigeon named Cher Ami, which was one of an estimated 600 birds by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I.
On October 3, 1918, more than 500 U.S. troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition, and surrounded by German troops. To make matters worse, they were shot at by allied troops, which were unaware of their location. One pigeon was sent to deliver a call for help message but was shot down; a second pigeon was sent but was also shot down. Finally, Cher Ami was dispatched with a message (click here to see), which was attached to a canister on his leg. He was shot through the chest by enemy fire, and the leg holding the canister was nearly shot off; the canister hung from his ligaments of what was left of his leg.
Despite his injuries, Cher Ami made it to his loft and delivered his important message, which is attributed to saving the 194 survivors of the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Infantry Division. Cher Ami was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre" with Palm. Army medics couldn’t save his leg, but they carved a wooden one for him. He died in 1919, having never fully recovered from his battle wounds.
Cher Ami was mounted by a taxidermist and is currently enshrined in the Smithsonian. Read more here.