Wednesday, 04 January 2012 09:12

War Birds: Military Pigeons on D-Day

    It’s common knowledge that pigeons are city-dwelling birds that are sometimes used by drug dealers to alert others to police activity. Did you know that pigeons were also used in the military during World War II? As far as we know, pigeons have been useful aviary allies for about 1,000 years. Military leaders would use them to bring back messages of success or defeat. Historians say that there was a 90 percent success rate for a trained pigeon to reach its destination. Pigeons are strong, hardy, and can fly for hundreds of miles without stopping.

    During WWII, bomber pilots would carry pigeons with them in case they were shot down. The pigeons would fly back to their headquarters to alert personnel and give the pilot a chance to be saved. The German military knew about the use of pigeons and came up with their own plans to counteract them – they trained falcons to attack the aviaries carrying messages. Many of these pigeons were posthumously awarded medals for their combat bravery.

    Recently, some declassified WWII files were released to the public. In 1943, British spies had planned to release pigeons carrying false messages about D-Day right before it occurred. The plan was to train the pigeons to fly around France, which was occupied by Germans at the time. Germans were keeping a watchful eye on all pigeons and intercepting whichever birds they could catch. The pigeons were going to carry messages with hints that D-Day would occur on the western coast of France. Whether this plan actually occurred or not is unclear as of 2011.

    We know that thousands of trained birds went along with troops to Omaha Beach on D-Day due to the lack of radio contact. Soldiers carefully hid the pigeons underneath their clothes. The birds were trained to fly back to Allied Headquarters with messages strapped to their legs. Soldiers’ notes described German gunner positions and other useful information for the Allies. As many as 32 pigeons successfully reached headquarters with their messages, and they were given the prestigious animal valor award – the “Dickin Medal.”

    Supposedly, the military doesn’t use pigeons to relay messages anymore. The practice stopped around 1957 due to the development of better communication methods. It’s a fact that these amazing birds have saved thousands of lives over the years, so feed a pigeon the next time you see one.

    Source

    Related World War History Online Posts

    • British archaeologist destroys Holocaust deniers' argument with mass grave find at Treblinka
      British archaeologist destroys Holocaust deniers' argument with mass grave find at Treblinka A British forensic archaeologist has unearthed fresh evidence to prove the existence of mass graves at the Nazi death camp Treblinka - scuppering the claims of Holocaust deniers who say it was merely a transit camp. Some 800,000 Jews were killed at the site, in north east Poland, during the Second World War but a lack of physical evidence in…
    • Read this B17 Log Book!
      Read this B17 Log Book!   Download here  
    • WW2: the role of women in the Second World War
      WW2: the role of women in the Second World War Seventy years after the start of the Second World War, six women who lived through the conflict tell Sally Williams how it changed their lives for ever The War Widow Phyllis Clemens's first husband, Norman Smith, served on HMS Egret, which in 1943 was the first ship to be sunk by a guided missile launched from a Luftwaffe bomber. Their…
    • Russia's WWII: still too many taboos?
      Russia's WWII: still too many taboos? 22 June 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union. This date is to this day a painful memory for the people of Russia, though for a long time the official Soviet calendar ignored it. Everyone knew that 22 June was the start of the war, but it was not until 1996 that Boris Yeltsin declared…