Several years ago I purchased part of an archive of David Katcher, who was the founding editor of the journal Physics Today. Before that, several years before that, in 1945, David Katcher was Lt. Katcher, serving as a correspondent/writer in the public relations office of the U.S. Army Headquarters of the Western Pacific (GHQ USAFPAC). There's a 6-inch stack of paper here with what seems to be his (and associated) mimeographed offprints of the daily grind of running the PR department of the Army in the Philippines, which, taken as a whole, is pretty interesting, showing the concerns and trials of the Army in reestablishing the government and infrastructure of the country. Some of the individual reports/publications are stand-alone, straight-up fabulously interesting things, and so far as I can determine, have not been published anywhere else. These two examples are both related to the subduing of the last remnants of the Japanese Army still fighting in the dense nether lands of northern Luzon, the Philippines, fighting after the surrender had been made (14 August 1945) and signed (formally, on the USS Missouri, 2 September) , fighting after the war had ended.
And in all of this comes this unexpected item, dated 1 October 1945, from "Headquarters. United States Army Forces Western Pacific, Public Relations Office, APO 707, General Release 56--Manila" and which--in the midst of the end of the war and the dropping of two atomic weapons--concerns a brave and battle-distinguished and heroic pigeon, "Blackie Halligan".
"Blackie carried a number of messages to this location, one of which was extremely important because it gave the location of some 300 Japanese troops. He carried out this message despite being badly wounded. Word of his accomplishment reached General Patch, Commander of the American Division, who made a special trip to the loft where he decorated Blackie. Later, Blackie saw action at other islands in the Pacific."--CECOM Historical Site, U.S. Army, source.
Sometimes, in the midst of great loss in the throes of great victory, in the balance of stories great and true and tried, the small story of sacrifice may be the perfect antidote for large needs.
There is of course a long history to the pigeon in war, and frankly I was surprised to find this story in 1945. Most of the famous pigeons of war come from the First World War:(the image below coming from The Illustrated London News for 2 October 1915):
And another--a magnificent photograph of a memorial to a carrier pigeon named Auguste, a famous flyer who evidently performed invaluable services time after time, a bird of splendid behavior whose actions no doubt saved the lives of many soldiers, and who was shot down by German troops in commission of an assignment. Auguste's comrades constructed this makeshift memorial in the trenches for the heroic animal.
And another photograph that told the story of the pigeon in very plain language:
And yet another appreciative handler of a valuable resource:
Much more reading here:: Osman, Lt. Col. A.H., Pigeons in the Great War: A Complete History of the Carrier Pigeon Service during the Great War, 1914 to 1918 (London, 1928) Read more at Suite101. [All images above are available for purchase from our blog bookstore, here.]