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10 ways animals have served the military

By: Laura Moss on Sept. 17, 2010, 11:20 a.m.
homing pigeon wearing a backpack

Photo: ZUMA Press

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War pigeons

Homing pigeons were widely used by both American and British forces during World War II. In fact, the U.S. Army had an entire Pigeon Breeding and Training Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where the pigeons were trained to carry small capsules containing messages, maps, photographs and cameras. Military historians claim that more than 90 percent of all pigeon-carried messages sent by the U.S. Army during the war were received.

The birds even participated in the D-Day invasion because troops operated under radio silence. The pigeons sent information about German positions on Normandy beaches and reported back on the success of the mission. In fact, homing pigeons played such an important military role that 32 were awarded the Dickin Medal, Britain’s highest award for animal valor. Recipients of the medal include the U.S. Army Pigeon Service’s bird, G.I. Joe, and the Irish pigeon known as Paddy.