Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

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Carrier Pigeons

In the last year of World War I, naval aviation recognized carrier pigeons for service and were used to send messages when radio use was impossible.   These birds were carried with aviators and dispatched when a pilot splashed (crashed).    From November 1917 to October 1918, the pigeons flew 10,995 flights and there were 2,500 birds in U.S. Navy flock in the states and 900 in Europe.    An example of "pigeons coming to the rescue" occurred on November 22, 1917.  Ensign Kenneth R. Smith and his crew departed U.S. Naval Station, Le Croisic, France, in foggy weather and subsequently crashed.    Releasing the pigeons on board, the birds flew back to base, causing a search crew to be dispatched to rescue Smith and his crew.  

Image:   NH 121295:   Carrier Pigeon set free over Anacostia, Washington, D.C.   U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.