Pigeon Mail Service

November 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Features

Before the invention of telegrams, phones and email, homing pigeons were the swiftest way for humans to send messages.

A good homing pigeon quickly finds its way home, even when released hundreds (or thousands) of miles away. Owners attach small canisters to the birds’ legs, with paper messages inside. Once released, these domestic birds make a beeline for the coop they were raised in. They can cover hundreds of miles a day, flying up to 90mph.

Humans have used pigeon-messaging for at least 5000 years. Athletes in Greece’s first Olympic Games sent their families news of the scores via pigeon. More recently, 19th century news reporters used pigeons as a way to quickly relay news to the presses.

Homing pigeons also serve an essential function for armies. Pigeons can be carried to the front lines. Once released, they can fly over enemy troops and relay vital calls for help or supplies. Several national armies still use them today. Pigeon-messages can succeed when radio communications are unsafe or jammed.

Several pigeons played pivotal roles in battles. One famous bird is Word War II’s G.I. Joe, a homing pigeon that saved 1,000 British lives.

In 1943, British troops sent G.I. Joe home to the Allied Forces with news of their location in Italy. This location was about to be bombed, but the Allies cancelled the bombing run when the pigeon delivered its vital message. It received the Dickin Medal for its effort…the highest medal ever received by an animal in the armed forces.

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