Cher Ami


Physical Description

Taxidermied military homing pigeon.

Specific History

Cher Ami was a black check cock homing pigeon, one of 600 English-bred birds donated to the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ Pigeon Service of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) by the British Home Forces Pigeon Service on May 20, 1918. Cher Ami likely hatched in late March to early April 1918. His aluminum identification band on his left leg is stamped “NURP 18 EAD 615” which translates as “National Union Racing Pigeon,” born 1918, bred at the registered loft of “EAD,” bird number 615. “EAD” may stand for the loft of E.A. Davidson at St. James’s House, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England.

Cher Ami and the other English pigeons arrived at the headquarters of the AEF Pigeon Service on May 23. On July 1, the Army assigned Cher Ami and 59 other pigeons to Mobile Loft No. 11 managed by Corporal (later Sergeant) Ernest P. Kockler of Chicago. The birds of Mobile Loft No. 11 supplied pigeons to soldiers of the AEF during fighting in the Aisne-Marne Sector of the Western Front in mid-July to August. On September 21, the loft relocated to Rampont, France in preparation for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Birds from the loft supported infantry of the 77th Infantry Division fighting into and through the Argonne Forest.

While the surviving evidence is inconclusive, it is possible that Private Omer Richards of New York, a member of the division’s 308th Infantry Regiment, carried Cher Ami and three other pigeons into the forest. On the afternoon of October 4, 1918, legend has Cher Ami as the eighth and last pigeon available to the men known as the “Lost Battalion” under the command Major Charles W. Whittlesey. Surrounded by German forces, the men of the Lost Battalion were fighting off repeated attacks when they found themselves enduring a barrage of friendly artillery due to mistaken position coordinates. To attempt to stop the shelling, Whittlesey dashed off a message carried by Cher Ami which read “We are along the road parallel 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake stop it.”

About an hour after Richards released the pigeon, Cher Ami returned to Mobile Loft No. 11. Kockler found him with message tube hanging from the remains of the bird’s right leg and a deep wound across the chest cutting through the breastbone, both injuries from either a bullet or shell fragment. The shelling had ceased by the time Cher Ami arrived at his loft, but critically the message provided the exact coordinates of Whittlesey and the Lost Battalion which aided in their eventual relief on the night of October 7.

As a result of the wound, the Army had to amputate Cher Ami’s right leg, ending his military messaging services. On account of his bravery, the French government awarded Cher Ami the Croix de Guerre with palm. The Signal Corps selected him for return to the United States and he arrived in the country on April 16, 1919 to great adulation. Due to his chest wound, Cher Ami grew increasingly weaker and died on June 13. The U.S. Army Signal Corps donated Cher Ami’s remains to the Smithsonian Institution where taxidermist Nelson R. Wood mounted the bird for display.

Posthumously, Cher Ami was inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1931 and received a gold medal from the Organized Bodies of American Pigeon Fanciers in recognition of his extraordinary service during World War I. In 2019, Cher Ami received the Animals in War and Peace Medal of Bravery for his actions in World War I. After a century of uncertainly about the pigeon’s sex, in 2021 the Smithsonian conducted DNA testing which confirmed that Cher Ami is definitively a male pigeon.

Associated Date: 1917 - 1918

Occurred: France

Subject: BirdsRelated Event: World War IThe Emergence of Modern America


See more items in: Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military, Military, ThinkFinity

Exhibition: Price of Freedom

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: War Department. U.S. Signal Corps

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: AF.30714Accession Number: 65695Catalog Number: 30714

Object Name: pigeon, stuffedpigeon

Physical Description: feathers (overall material)glass (overall material)plaster (overall material)wood (overall material)Measurements: overall: 9 1/2 in x 11 in x 5 1/2 in; 24.13 cm x 27.94 cm x 13.97 cm


Record Id: nmah_425415

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