World War 2 Pigeons – The use of pigeons in combat during the Second World War is often overlooked, yet these avian soldiers played a significant role in aiding Allied forces with communication and intelligence gathering. Pigeons had been used in military fields since the early 19th century. During WWII they were put to use as a reliable, low-tech form of communication when all other forms failed. The pigeons even earned awards of bravery and some are honored on memorial statues today.
Pigeons were particularly useful in certain battlefront situations where conventional communication methods would have been too slow or unreliable. They were particularly successful when radio communication was interrupted, airlifted messages became impossible, and wires were cut—all of which happened frequently during World War II.
How Pigeons Were Used in World War II
Pigeons were often fitted with tiny cameras and dispatched by soldiers. The cameras were simple enough to be attachable to the pigeon as well as removable when the mission was complete. When the pigeon was released, it would deliver the message and film to whomever was operating the base station.
Other methods were also developed to use pigeons for combat during WWII, such as a release method that would allow the pigeon to fly and arrive at the destination in gradual stages. This particular technique was typically done over the course of five days with short breaks of rest in between. The first day the pigeon would fly one leg of the journey, then rest before flying the second leg for another two days and so on. This method was intended to give the pigeon a slight breather in order to save energy.
In addition to aiding in communication, some of the pigeons were trained to locate and locate tank units and other units of military importance on the battlefield. A technique known as “homing instinct” was used to track tank units. This involved using an aircraft to fly over a battlefield while releasing the pigeon with a small container attached to its feet that contained the coordinates of the desired target. Then, the pigeon would return to the point of its release with the coordinates inside the capsule.
Special Tribute In The Memory of WWII
The successes of the bird soldiers of WWII did not go unrecognized. The distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to 32 pigeons for their wartime bravery. Seven Pigeons were honored for receiving the Dickin Medal for their steadfast service.
In 1993 The National WW II Memorial in Washington DC included two bronze pigeons in remembrance of the pigeons of World War II. This honor elevated pigeons from a small, often overlooked group of soldiers to a place of respect and appreciation. The pigeons in war remain a reminder of the dedication, ingenuity, and loyalty of the tiny soldiers.
Most Famous Pigeon of The World War 2
One of the most famous pigeons of World War II is known as William of Orange. He was a carrier pigeon belonging to the Dutch resistance who took part in the liberation of the Netherlands. On May 15, 1940, William flew just under 100 miles in three hours to deliver a critical message. The message includes the German invasion to the British Royal Air Force. This message saved more than 2000 soldiers at the time of the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944.
His flight was instrumental in giving the Dutch the time they needed to organize a defense against the German forces. For his indispensable service, the Royal Netherlands Army presented William with the bronze Dutch Cross of Merit in 1947. After his death, William was given a state funeral. He was buried in a national monument to all war pigeons in the Netherlands. William of Orange is remembered as one of the most successful pigeons of World War II.
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