A WW1 homing pigeon saved 194 men by delivering a message despite losing a leg, an eye and having been shot through the chest.
Cher Ami (French for "dear friend", in the masculine) was a female homing pigeon who had been donated by the pigeon fanciers of Britain for use by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I and had been trained by American pigeoners. She is most famous for delivering a message from an encircled battalion despite serious injuries during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, October 1918.
On October 3, 1918, Major Charles White Whittlesey and more than 550 men were trapped in a small depression on the side of the hill behind enemy lines without food or ammunition. They were also beginning to receive friendly fire from allied troops who did not know their location. Surrounded by the Germans, many were killed and wounded and only 194 men were still alive and not captured or wounded by the end of the engagement. Because his runners were consistently intercepted or killed by the Germans, Whittlesey began dispatching messages by pigeon.
The pigeon carrying the first message, "Many wounded. We cannot evacuate." was shot down. A second bird was sent with the message, "Men are suffering. Can support be sent?" That pigeon also was shot down. The artillery batteries supporting Whittlesey's men attempted to provide a "barrage of protection" for Whittlesey's men on the northern slope of the Charlevaux Ravine, but believed Whittlesey was on the southern slope of the ravine, resulting in a barrage inadvertently targeting the battalion, "Cher Ami" was dispatched with a note, written on onion paper, in a canister on her left leg,
We are along the road paralell to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake stop it.
As Cher Ami tried to fly back home, the Germans saw her rising out of the brush and opened fire. After several seconds, she was shot down but managed to take flight again. She arrived back at her loft at division headquarters 25 miles (40 km) to the rear in just 25 minutes, helping to save the lives of the 194 survivors. She had been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, and had a leg hanging only by a tendon.
Cher Ami became the hero of the 77th Infantry Division. Army medics worked to save her life. They were unable to save her leg, so they carved a small wooden one for her. When she recovered enough to travel, the now one-legged bird was put on a boat to the United States, with General John J. Pershing seeing her off.