Viewing page 48 of 66

Training Pigeons for War
By Pvt. C. W. Taylor, Section A.

The pigeon, prior to the present war, was little known to the Allies nations, except Belgium, to be of such value in the transportation of messages and forming of liaisons on the battle front, and has been universally used as the emblem of peace. German, when she made her capture of Belgium cities and towns, demanded that the pigeons be turned over, knowing that the Antwerp strain of Homer Pigeon was the best in the world. This has been proved by the remarkable showing of intelligence, speed, and endurance, displayed by this strain in the International Homing Pigeon Races.
The term carrier pigeon is used i war so as to avoid confusion in the names Homer and Carrier and thus having the bird called the Carrier pigeon, although the Carrier pigeon is a distinct breed of bird, being alrger [[larger]] and used more for show purposes, and has not the remarkable powers of speed, endurance, and intelligence shown by the Homer breed. 
Although the pigeon has been used in warfare for the carrying of messages many years, even being mentioned in the Bible, still its use was not realized fully until the present war, and as General Pershing said, "It is of inestimable value."
The Carrier pigeon demands constant attention, care, and training, and is very quick to learn. About the most essential part of the training as in many other animals lied in the feeding. The appetite is kept sharp and the birds, after trial flights, practice releases, or "call in," from exercise are always fed, but if overfed they become lazy and indifferent. 

Enemies of Pigeons.

The loft must be kept clean and sanitary and protected against the pigeon enemies, which are rats, vermin, parasites, dampness, and cold draughts. The birds are taken when young, six to eight weeks old, and are trained stationary, or mobile lofts, and night flying. The attendants must have patience in training the birds, being kind and gentle, but also firm. They must have a good knowledge and judgement of birds, and never trick them such as catching them while feeding from the hand, or allow them to return from flights without feeding then and noting their condition. 
The principal organs which aid the Carrier home are the eye, ear, and brain. They eye has three lids, the upper and lower lids, and a third known as the blinker, which is transparent, covering and protecting the eye in flight. They eye is also remarkable for its mobility in every direction. This is helped by a muscle, and its penetration of sight is assisted by the ciliary muscle, which modifies the lens. This organ is almost indispensible [[indispensable]] to the bird in flight, as it furnishes a visual photograph of the surcounding country for a distance of twenty to twenty-five miles, which aids it greatly in homing. 
The ear plays a big part in aiding the bird to find its loft in heavy fogs, snow, or bad atmospheric disturbances. Birds having been blinded by weather conditions have been known to find their loft by the use of this organ. The ear is divided into three parts, the outer, middle, and inner ear. In the middle is the cell of orientation by which the bird familiarizes itself with the sounds around its home or loft. The brain is divided into two parts, the front and rear. In the former is located the sense of instinct, desire, motive sense and continuance of effort; in the latter is found the mental picture of the earth's topography, of the routes of which it flies. 
The respiratory organism of the pigeon aids greatly in its powers of flight and endurance. It is divided into the trachial artery, the bronchial tubes and the lungs. Running from the lungs are nine cells which again divide, permeating the bones and under the skin, thus lightening the specific gravity and the wings while in flight. They act as pumps, forcing the air from these cells already warmed, into the lungs.
Carrier pigeons have been known to remain in flight twelve to fifteen hours, covering a distance of five hundred to seven hundred miles, and not coming down for food or drink. Pigeons are used in about every branch of the service, both Army and Navy. They are used in the Air Service by being taken over the enemy trenches in special constructed airplane baskets. The aviator or observer making a record of all observations on the pigeon pad, or drawing a diagram of the fortifications, he fixes the message in duplicate, releasing two birds, if not, the duplicate is sent by the next bird. The carrier is used by the balloon service ans has proved itself to be 98 per cent perfect in the Air Service, for sending messages back to headquarters, when it is not certain that the aviator or balloon observer will return through the attack of the enemy airplanes or gun fires.

Used When Wired Fail. 

With the infantry or in the trenches, the bird again has proved its value, forming a liaison which is almost perfect. When on the defensive the birds are in the front line trenches and used when all wires of communication have been severed by gun fire and bring the message from the front line trenches back to headquarters in remarkably great time through the heavies gun fire. When on the offensive the birds are taken out with each attacking brigade and before the line of communications such as the telephone, telegraph or wireless can be established the birds bring the information of all the movements of the advance brigades, thus keeping headquarters in touch with the advance columns.
The birds are protected from gas while in the trenches by a covering over the basket. Great care in handling the birds is necessary and the pigeon man must know how to feed and water his birds. He must be careful not to break an flight feathers, or allow the birds to get wet or to become stale, that is, to remain in the basket too long, as any of the above may cause the bird to fail to deliver the message. The messages are always sent in duplicate. While on the front every soldier is cautioned to pick up and deliver to headquarters or hospital any pigeon found dead or wounded on the battle field, as it may carry a message of importance in its crop. 
Every bird is banded on the leg with an aluminum band on which is stamped the government register number, on the right wing is stamped U. S. A. and initials H. P. T. O. A. which denote the posts, the initial S or M which means stationary or mobile loft, and loft means thus: U. S. A. A. S. 197 which reads U.S. A. Aviation Section loft means for 197. If the bird is found, the above is advertised and the owner recognizes immediately his loft number. On the left wing is stamped the set in which the bird belongs A, B, or C, and the government register number and the year of birds thus A. 4184-18.
              Treatment When Sick.
The pigeon is subjected to many diseases which will prove fatal unless it received prompt attention. The first thing to do is to remove the sick bird from the others, which prevents the spread of the disease and gives the attendant a better chance to watch the bird and learn the kind of sickness it has. Most all bird sickness is caused by unsanitary, or poorly ventilated lofts, or from poor food; food which has been left on the floor of the loft and becomes dirty, or food which has been wet or fermented. 
All the food must be sifted and carefully looked over, picking out the bad seed, and should always be fed dry and hard in the hopper, or cup, and never thrown on the floor. Clear water is very essential to the health of the bird. The birds suffer from parasites and lice which cling to them thus sapping their strength and making them an easy prey to disease. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therefore, all lofts should be raised at least three feet from the ground to prevent dampness and should have shutters to keep out cold draughts, snow, etc. The inside should be whitewashed with a solution of carbolic acid and all stray birds kept out of the loft. No bird should be allowed to alight on the ground, as it may pick up bad food.
The pigeon has proved itself of such value in the forming of liaisons and transportation of messages that will be in constant training both in war and peace time and although new to this government we anticipate that we may be able to develope a strain equal to if not better than that of our famous ally, Belgium, with its Antwerp birds.

              823 Naval Aviators

In his annual report Secretary of the Navy Daniels pays high tribute to the Aviation Branch of the Navy. The expansion of Naval Aviation it is stated has been gratifying proportion and effectiveness. Statistics show the total enlisted and commissioned personnel on July 1st, 1918, numbered approximately 30,000. Of this number, 823 were trained naval aviators. There were 2,052 student officers, 400 ground officers, 7,300 trained mechanics, and 5,400 mechanics in training. Declaring that Naval Aircraft had been a big factor in the war. Secretary Daniels says plans are being made for its permanency and development. The Secretary paid tribute to the Ordnance Bureau of the Davis Nonrecoil Aircraft Gun, which is declared to be "A Great Milestone in Aircraft Armament." 
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.