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Cher Ami was not a girl

cher ami

Cher Ami was a male pigeon. And the Lost Battalion knew exactly where they were.

In a second-Saturday talk at the Vintage Aero Flying Museum, Andy Parks told the story of Cher Ami. According to Wikipedia Cher Ami means "dear friend" in the masculine. Maybe so, but good thing male pigeons don't get teased by schoolmates about having a pretty girl's name....

We plan to have a transcript of the talk soon. Meanwhile, the short version of the story is, there were many ways to communicate in WWI, and your enemy knew them too. So if you saw wires your enemy might be using for communication, you cut them. If you saw a pigeon, you shot it. Pigeons don't come marked with Iron Crosses or cockades to show whether it's a friendly pigeon - so you shoot all of them. In fact, until aircraft markings got figured out, gunners tended to shoot all airplanes under the same theory.

The situation was that the 308th Infantry, later known as the Lost Battalion, got ahead of their line and got cut off by the Germans. The "lost" part happened when their communications also got cut off. So though they knew exactly where they were, nobody else did, and they were getting shot at. Cher Ami was one of their last two communication pigeons, and they attached to the pigeon's leg their location and a note about the friendly fire hitting them: "FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT."

Cher Ami made it through to Allied lines with the message (which ironically is now communicated from the National Archives to you with the click of a mouse) despite being wounded in one eye and one leg and shot through the chest. For that sacrifice Cher Ami received many honors before his 1919 death from his war wounds. The French government awarded the Croix de Guerre and General Pershing directed that the pigeon travel in officer's quarters. After his death Cher Ami was stuffed and displayed in the Smithsonian, where Charles Parks one day pointed it out to his grandson Andy.

There were many more interesting details in Andy's telling, including what the 50th Aero Squadron's part in all this was, and the stories of those who received Medals of Honor from the action. Stay tuned for the transcript.

We had a bunch of children at the VAFM to hear story of Cher Ami and the Lost Battalion. Another way for children to get interested in WWI history is the cartoons of Charles Schulz, who really did his research.

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