WWI Aviator Pigeons, 1918

JF Ptak Science Books   Quick Post

I found this interesting image in Illustrirte Zeitung, 18 July 1918, though I very nearly passed it by. I saw its neighbor photo of a machine gunner and his ammo and a quick pass over this photo made it look very similar, my mind filling in cartridges before my brain recognized that the ammunition was actually a pigeon.  

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WWI pigeon231

 This is an image of German aviator pigeons, I know, but I included this U.S.-based explanation of the general practice of using pigeons in aircraft as a means of communicating with the ground in pre-airborne radio communication days:

“U.S. Navy aviators maintained 12 pigeon stations in France with a total inventory of 1,508 pigeons when the war ended. Pigeons were carried in airplanes to rapidly return messages to these stations; and 829 birds flew in 10,995 wartime aircraft patrols. Airmen of the 230 patrols with messages entrusted to pigeons threw the message-carrying pigeon either up or down, depending on the type of aircraft, to keep the pigeon out of the propeller and away from airflow toward the aircraft wings and struts. Eleven of the thrown pigeons went missing in action, but the remaining 219 messages were delivered successfully.”–Wiki quoting Adrian Van Wyen,  Naval Aviation in World War I.  1969. Washington, D.C.: Chief of Naval Operations. p. 30.

Here’s the contiguous photograph, the gunner looking as though he was reading for some abusive weather: 

WWI pigeon233


By: Ptak Science Books
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
Source: http://j.mp/1MJjp2D

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