Cher Ami was a Blue Check carrier pigeon, one of the 600 birds owned and flown by the US Army Signal Corps in France during World War I. She delivered twelve important messages from the Verdum front to her loft at Rampont. On average, Cher Ami flew a distance of thirty kilometers in around twenty-four minutes.
Her last mission, on October 4, 1918, she was shot through the breast and leg by enemy fire but still managed to return to her loft with a message capsule dangling from the wounded leg. The message Cher Ami carried was from the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Infantry Division.
The 77th Infantry Division was led by Major Charles White Whittlesey. On October 2, 1918, the division advanced into the Argonne Forest. The plan was to be supported by French forces on their left flank while two other American unites supported the right flank. Unknown to the 77th Infantry Division at the time, the French forces were stalled. The division moved quickly and soon found itself cut off from the rest of the American forces and surrounded by German troops. For days they suffered heavy losses.
Whittlesey attempted to dispatch messages via pigeons. The pigeon carrying the first message, “Many wounded. We cannot evacuate.” was shot down. The second bird was also shot down with the message, “Men are suffering. Can support be sent?” He then turned to the last homing pigeon he had left – Cher Ami. She was dispatched with a note in a canister on her left leg that read, “We are along the road paralell (sic) to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake stop it.”
When she arrived at the loft, she was badly wounded. Not only was she shot at by German soldiers, she was hit. Cher Ami lost an eye, was shot through the breast, and lost a leg – the canister with the note was barely hanging on. Army doctors worked hard and saved her life. They even carved her a wooden leg. In the end, Cher Ami did what she had done before – she delivered the message. On October 8, relief forces finally broke through to the Lost Battalion’s position. Of the division’s over 500 soldiers who entered the Argonne Forest, only 194 walked out unscathed.
Cher Ami returned to the United States with other distinguished pigeons on the transport “Ohioan” on April 16, 1919. She lived only a short time after her historic flight and injuries she sustained. On June 13, 1919, she died at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Her body was mounted and placed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre Medal with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster for her heroic service in delivering 12 important messages in Verdun.