Saturday, June 3, 1961: G.I. Joe the pigeon

G.I. Joe, a pigeon credited with saving the lives of 1,000 British soldiers during World War II, dies at the Detroit Zoological Gardens. The following was written by Otto Meyer, U.S. Army (retired), former commander of the U.S. Army Pigeon Service:

The British 56th Brigade was scheduled to attack the city of Colvi Vecchia, Italy, at 10 a.m. October 18, 1943. The U.S. Air Support Command was scheduled to bomb the city to soften the entrance for the British Brigade. The Germans retreated, leaving only a small rear guard, and as a result the British troops entered the city with little resistance and occupied it ahead of schedule.

All attempts to cancel the bombings of the city, made by radio and other forms of communication, had failed. Little "G.I. Joe" was released with the important message to cancel the bombing. He flew 20 miles back to the U.S. Air Support Command base in 20 minutes, and arrived just as our planes were warming up to take off. If he had arrived a few minutes later it might have been a different story.

General Mark Clark, commanding the U.S. Fifth Army, estimated that "G.I. Joe" saved the lives of at least 1,000 of our British allies.

In November 1946, "G.I. Joe" was shipped from Fort Monmouth, N.J. to London, England, where he was cited and awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry by the Lord Mayor of London. "G.I. Joe" is the only bird or animal in the United States to receive this high award. "G.I. Joe," a dark checker pied white flight cock, was hatched March 24, 1943, at the Pigeon Section in Algiers, Algeria, North Africa. Later he was taken to the Tunisian front, then to Bizerte, and from there to the Italian front.

After World War II, "G.I. Joe" was housed in the Churchill Loft, the U.S. Army's "Hall of Fame" at Fort Monmouth, N.J., along with 24 other pigeon heroes. In March of 1957, the remaining pigeon heroes were placed with different zoological gardens throughout the U.S.A. "G.I. Joe" was placed with the Detroit Zoological Gardens, where he died June 3, 1961 at the age of 18. "G.I. Joe" was returned, mounted and placed in the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Museum, Fort Monmouth, N.J.

* "Pigeons of War" (from American in WWII website): @
* www.pigeonsincombat.com: @

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