The Pigeoneers ™

2012 - USA - English - 111 minutes - Alessandro Croseri Productions LLC
Directed by: Alessandro Croseri
Featuring: Col. Clifford A. Poutre, Chief Pigeoneer US Army Signal Corps, 1936-1943

In this debut feature film, director Alessandro Croseri delivers a stunningly beautiful ode to combat pigeons and their pigeoneers. The documentary follows Col. Clifford Poutre at age 103 during the final year of his life and examines his innovations in the training of homing pigeons for combat missions during World War II.

Drawing on a rich array of archival footage, the film tells the story of Poutre's thirty-one years of military service as former Chief Pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, his successful rejection of "starvation" methods of training in favor of a system defined by kindness and care, his pigeons' remarkable feats both in combat and in civilian races, and his notable friendships with the likes of Nikola Tesla, himself an impassioned pigeon handler in the later years of his life.

Through a collection of intimate interviews and black and white photography set to the nostalgic tunes of Glenn Miller, The Pigeoneers serves up a one-of-a-kind tribute and heartfelt exploration of the complex, interdependent relationships between humans and the birds we so often overlook.

The Pigeoneers: Film Review
by Frank Scheck for The Hollywood Reporter
June 11, 2012

Alessandro Croseri's documentary about the use of pigeons by the military centers on the centenarian pigeon handler Col. Clifford Poutre.

There's no doubting that The Pigeoneers, Alessandro Croseri's documentary about the use of pigeons by the military, is a labor of love. That's true of both the filmmaker, a breeder of pigeons himself who clearly feels passionately about his subject matter, and Col. Clifford Poutre, the centenarian pigeon handler who is the film's chief subject.

Poutre, age 103 at the time of the filming, was the Chief Pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, responsible for supervising the training of the winged creatures who would go on to perform vital military duties.

Most of you will probably be unaware that pigeons served such a role, and that ignorance is precisely what the film hopes to redress. It basically consists of lengthy interview segments with the elderly colonel, clad in his military uniform, and copious amounts of archival footage and photographs accompanied by vintage Glenn Miller tunes.

Poutre, who clearly still very much had his wits about him, describes his methods in detail, including his rejection of starvation and punishment training techniques in favor of rewarding his birds with kindness. In an interesting digression, he talks about his friendship with famed inventor Nikola Tesla, apparently quite the pigeon fancier himself.

It seems downright unpatriotic not to celebrate the accomplishments of these birds who served valiantly and who were rewarded with such honors as the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Opened: June 8 (Alessandro Croseri Productions)

Director/screenwriter/producer/director of photography/editor: Alessandro Croseri

Producers: Avon Jong, Alessandro Croseri

No rating, 111 min.



This film is dedicated to the legendary Col. Clifford Poutre, Chief Pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, and to all the pigeoneers and the homing pigeons that served during the war years. Pigeoneers were the trainers and handlers of homing pigeons, and together they executed vital and covert spy missions on behalf of the U.S. and its allies.

The Pigeoneers, the first of a series of three documentaries, was created not only as a tribute to the pigeoneers but also to the brave war efforts of the pigeons. Few people know the military feats of these unlikely heroes. Pigeons - yes, pigeons! - have been awarded the most prestigious medals of military honors, such as the Purple Heart (United States), the Distinguished Service Medal (United States), the Dicken Medal (United Kingdom), and Croix De Guerre (France). The homing pigeons were more than mascots and pets to the soldiers, though -- they became loyal and fast friends, as we see through the words and actions of Col. Poutre.

Before the making of this film, I searched for years for Col. Poutre, whose reputation for innovation as a pigeoneer was legendary. I finally located him through the Internet and was soon in contact about making this film. I arranged to have several pigeons delivered to the Colonel in advance of filming: prior to this film, he had not handled a pigeon in over 60 years! Those pigeons -- the ones we see him handle with such love and care in this film -- helped him to recall his rich memories from many years of dedicated service. In my film, I tried to capture his deep feelings for these remarkably sensitive and intuitive birds. His memories, his kindness, and his genius with pigeons served as the inspiration for this film.


Born in 1904 in Hudson Falls, New York, Col. Clifford A. Poutre enlisted as a Private in the U.S. Army in 1929. That year he also became a Pigeoneer stationed at the 11th Signal Company in Hawaii. Later, in the fall of1936, Poutre was assigned to the Army pigeon lofts at Fort Monmouth, N.J., working under the keen tutelage of Civilian Pigeoneer, Thomas Ross, a Scotsman who was one of the foremost pigeon experts in the world. After Ross's death, Poutre took over as head of the Army Pigeon Breeding and Training Center.

Recognized throughout the world as a leader in military pigeon training, Poutre is credited with having brought pigeoneering into the modern age and for streamlining the U.S. Army homing pigeon training and services to keep pace with burgeoning developments in army aviation. Poutre taught his homing pigeons tricks unprecedented in pigeon history:
- how to return to a mobile pigeon loft even after it had been moved ten miles from where the pigeon departed;
- how to carry packages, parcels, and small cameras on their backs, chests and legs;
- how to fly at night and without stopping for up to twenty-four hours; and
- how to carry a canary piggy-back from New Jersey to a loft on the New York City rooftops.

Poutre gave flight to the last bird in 1957 just prior to the closing of the Army Pigeon Service at Fort Monmouth. Col. Poutre retired in 1960 after 31 years of loyal military service. He died in April 2008 at the age of 103.


This is quite an extraordinary film. It not only tells the story of Col. Clifford Poutre but it contains voluminous old film clips of homing pigeons in war. For these reasons alone, this is an important film.

The late Col. Poutre was obviously a charming man with a deep love of pigeons. He makes the case that this kind of affection is essential for really outstanding performance from your birds. As he tells his life story interwoven with pictures of the Army pigeon corps it makes a compelling documentary. In addition, he tells of a variety of interesting experiments that he performed. I think particularly of the idea of a mobile pigeon loft that could be moved from place to place, the training of pigeons to fly at night in both Hawaii and New York City and the problems that New York City lights caused. He describes training pigeons to fly over water for 100 to 200 miles and how his pigeons avoided flying over mountains. He describes the behavior of pigeons released from high buildings homing to a mobile loft at Rockefeller Center and how they simply folded their wings and dove for the loft.

The film also contains tributes to the many famous homing pigeons that served their country in war and saved soldiers lives. In this day of electronic communication we fail to appreciate how difficult communication was in the days before miniaturized electronics.

I especially enjoyed the old films that are now preserved in the DVD version that show the training of both pigeons and soldiers who would care for pigeons in the field. These old films would surely disappear unless they were preserved in digital format as they are here. The account of Poutre's visit to Tesla and the pigeons kept in a bedroom of the Hotel New Yorker is priceless. One can only imagine the cleaning maids reaction!

Overall, this is a wonderful film. It gives us an unusual view of the Army pigeon corps, a warm and delightful visit with Col. Poutre and a strong tribute to the Homing Pigeon.

Dr. Charles Walcott, Professor, Dept. of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, New York. Dr. Walcott is a renowned homing pigeon navigation expert.

"The Pigeoneers" is a love story between man and bird. After viewing Alessandro Croseri's sentimental documentary, there can be no doubt that Col. Clifford A. Poutre loved the many pigeons that he bred and trained for carrier service in WWII. By both word and deed, Col. Poutre treated his pigeons as though they were human family members, children, buddies. He believed in control through kindness. He saw pigeons as intelligent beings which would fly better if they trusted him. He accorded his birds real respect and even reverence. He reveled in their racing and military achievements and he mourned their loss in warfare and culling.

However anthropomorphically Col. Poutre may have spoken of his pigeons, for him to have been so successful as a pigeoneer, he had to know a great deal about the natural behavior patterns of his birds as well as how best to sculpt those behavior patterns for successful carrier missions. Col. Poutre also had to impart his love for pigeons and his success in training them to the recruits whom he supervised over many years of service to the military.

Do the notions of courage and loyalty aptly apply to pigeons? I can't say. True, Col. Poutre's birds flew hundreds of miles in dreadful weather conditions and they were the targets of intense enemy fire. But, they may have done so because of the extensive training that he gave them.

Nor can we say that Col. Poutre's pigeons truly loved him. Nevertheless, I watched Col. Poutre's tearful eyes, I listened to his tender words, and I watched him as he gently caressed and stroked his birds. If I were a pigeon, then I would surely have loved this man.

Professor Ed Wasserman, Delta Center, University of Iowa. Dr. Wasserman is one of the world's foremost expert on pigeon behavior and intelligence.

"The Pigeoneers" is a documentary film by Al Croseri that tells a great Army story about a thinking and adaptive Soldier, the type of Soldier who has always given the United States Army its edge in combat and in preparation for combat. This Army story is told through the eyes of Colonel Clifford A. Poutre, who at the time of filming was well over one hundred years old. The documentary film captures in a poignant manner the professionalism of Colonel Poutre and the passion he had for the United States Army Signal Corps Pigeon Service and his trusted pigeons.

"The Pigeoneers" reveals the commitment of a true Soldier, who as a child growing up near Saratoga, New York, slept on the floor, in his mind, to toughen his body for what he reviewed was his calling - service to our Nation in the United States Army. Like most Soldiers, he joined the Army not for glory or to obtain rank but rather to serve a higher, noble cause, the defense of our beloved country - the United States of America.

Enlisting as a private in 1929, already possessing a college degree, COL Poutre sought nothing more than an opportunity to serve as a Soldier. He tells of one of his first assignments where he was responsible for pulling every weed on the football field, a task that he did with unrelenting focus and attention to detail which would mark his entire career. Upon seeing the completed work, he was offered the assignment of his choice, and Colonel Poutre chose to work in the Signal Corps with pigeons.

At that time, long before the INTERNET, cellular telephone, and more modern communication devices, homing pigeons served an important role in the Army Signal Corps relaying messages between Army units. I recall my Grandfather telling me with wonder in his eyes about growing up in New York City and taking his pet homing pigeon to the train station and having it transported to distant places to always return home. The wonder in my Grandfather's eyes and voice as he described these incredible creatures is something I will always remember, and I note that even today, with all of the advances in science, our best scientists still do not understand the precise mechanism which allows homing pigeons to find their way home.

Colonel Poutre approached his duty training homing pigeons with innovative techniques that allowed the pigeons to perform at peak efficiency, winning races, demonstrating incredible feats, and serving our Nation in war. He discarded the "starvation" training techniques and replaced them with kindness and recognition that homing pigeons were indeed part of God's creation that should be cherished and nurtured to obtain their full God-given potential.

In 1957, the Army called upon Colonel Poutre to release the Army's last homing pigeon. This act, closing a door on a rich Army heritage, was captured on the cover of Life magazine. Mr. Croseri should be commended for telling with so much richness this great Army story. I remember the day when Mr. Croseri provided Colonel Poutre, at that time 103 years old, a pigeon to release. A cool spring day in North Carolina, Colonel Poutre, in his Army dress green uniform, held the pigeon like an old friend and talked with the pigeon for several minutes with a warmth that revealed this had been the passion of his life -- a full life that had also allowed Colonel Poutre to serve on General Douglas MacArthur's Staff in Japan during the occupation of Japan following World War II. He said "good bye" to the pigeon and then released it, knowing that the pigeon would have a difficult return trip to New York City. As he saw the pigeon fly north he saw a hawk and said "I hate hawks," the mortal enemy of homing pigeons. In the days that followed before his death, Colonel Poutre would occasionally ask about the pigeon but no one in the family wanted to find out whether the pigeon made it to New York City or not because no one wanted to break the heart of an old Soldier who had lived the Army life for three decades, with a passion for service to our Nation and a commitment to God's wonderful creatures - the homing pigeons.

Major General Gill P. Beck, Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve 81st Regional Support Command, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. MG Gill Beck was awarded a Bronze Star for actions during the Global War on Terror.

*The opinions in the article are the author's and not those of the United States Army.

I am an experimental psychologist in animal learning. While I work with many species, pigeons are my creatures of first choice.

Remarkable animals they are. They can sense magnetic north, use the sun as a compass, and even smell their lofts at a distance. But these facts are known to all pigeon fanciers. Perhaps less known but no less true are these facts: pigeons can discriminate man-made from non-man-made objects, classify items as water whether that item be the ocean, a raindrop or an ice cube, and distinguish between the works of Mozart and Bach, or Picasso and Cezanne.

My introduction to pigeoneers was in Wendell Mitchell Levi's text, The Pigeon (1957). This book began with the history of pigeon heroes from WW I which were retired in their lofts at Fort Dix, NJ. Their accomplishments and their medals are on display in these pictures from the text.

Last night I watched The Pigeoneers with my wife, an historian. She referred to the footage as "a primary historical document" because it codifies a rare and forgotten history-- that of the use of pigeons during warfare. Remarkablely, the tale is told by a 103-year-old colonel dressed to the nines in military regalia. He's the real deal because he was the "go to" guy in developing pigeons as instruments of war. The story is warm, interesting and, of course, historical. This movie is surely of interest to pigeon fanciers, military historians, or just to those who find listening to a fascinating tale a good way to pass the afternoon.

Dr. Alan Silberberg, Professor of Psychology, American University, Washington, DC.

I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your movie. This was a truly beautiful homage to combat pigeons and especially to Col. Poutre. Col. Poutre's life certainly deserves the attention you give it, and the care and respect you accord him is evident. You do an amazing job of capturing the subtle and tender feelings this man held for his birds. One can plainly see his wealth of admiration for his pigeons in his gentle and loving handling and in his expressive eyes. As your movie shows so well, the relationship between birds and humans is more complex than many of us will ever know, and our histories are surprisingly intertwined.

I'm also very impressed by your photography and skillful editing. You're not afraid to let the camera linger on pigeons in flight or at rest, and the results are often strikingly beautiful -- a cloud of swirling birds against a gray sky, the expressiveness of a pigeon's face, a quality -- a personality? -- that shines through in individual birds. If I remember correctly, the Col. mentions that he respected the individuality of each pigeon, and your photography definitely supports this. Many of the pigeons in the film show a surprising uniqueness of character. The portraits of pigeons (Long John Silver, etc.) reveal a boldness and nobleness of spirit -- the pigeons seem almost to understand the extent of their achievements and the seriousness of their undertakings. Moreover, you capture a wonderful overall aesthetic: grainy black and white photos, the beating of graceful wings, raindrops gently falling on the Col.'s shoulders, the excitement and child-like wonder still in his eyes as he releases a bird. And this, all set to the softly nostalgic tunes of Glenn Miller. Brilliant!

The film is heart-felt and deeply moving without being sentimental. How can we not be moved by Col. Poutre's passion and wisdom? His love for his birds -- his "friends"? We'd all do well to realize the intricate connections that bind humans to the non-human world, and to heed the honorable example of Col. Poutre: "Courage, Loyalty, Endurance," a sincere kindness, and a respect for these elegant creatures. You're truly lucky to have known this man, and we're all lucky that his life was documented by so dedicated and talented a filmmaker. Great work!

Todd Goddard, English 201 senior teaching assistant and PHD Candidate, Department of English, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I have just finished viewing "The Pigeoneers" by Alessandro Croseri Productions for the third time.

Col. Clifford A. Poutre, at 103 years of age, makes an interesting presentation going back to his youth when first assigned, as a private, to the Army Signal Corps Pigeon Service in 1929. They interviewed Poutre just in time as he passed away a short time thereafter. Alessandro Croseri Productions had spoken with me on several occasions, even considering coming out and interviewing me. Poutre was the far better selection. He had much more to show and discussion information than I could have offered. The better choice by 100%.

As I watched I visualized Poutre in the 1930s, the years between the wars, spending 8 to 12 hours a day with the pigeons, at Army expense. He would have been pondering new ways for the military to use the pigeons, experimenting with the two-way flying and night flying. Also thinking up public relations projects to do with the pigeons. My memory flashes back to the spring of 1942. A group of us newly drafted soldiers arrived at Ft. Monmouth, NJ, selected because of our hobby to be in the Pigeon Service.

Master Sergeant Poutre was top man by then. He had done a good job of establishing the pigeon school which we were to attend for three months. The instructors were a handful of pigeoneers who were drafted during the previous year. One of them from West New York, NJ spoke of the "Boid on the poich". Even he chuckled with the rest of us. One of them, Charlie Fullerton, later as a civilian, moved to Seattle and became a life long friend in the pigeon sport. Charlie later joined me as a member of the AU Hall of Fame.

Others will not get the same reaction as I have to this program. You will find it interesting and a worthwhile addition to your library of pigeon viewing material. One more, as I see it. Sincerely.

Elwin F. Anderson, WWII U. S. Army Pigeoneer

Col. Clifford Poutre's Mobile Loft No. 2.

Interior, Mobile Loft No. 2.



The Pigeoneers film premiere will be at Cinema Village in New York City.

Opening on Friday, June 8, 2012
Ending on Thursday, June 14, 2012.

DAILY SHOWTIMES: 1:00 3:45 6:30 9:15

Cinema Village
22 East 12th Street (between University Place and Fifth Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 924 3362


The Pigeoneers theatrical run is extended and will continue playing at Cinema Village, NYC, from Friday, June 22nd to Thursday, June 28th, 2012.



The Pigeoneers film screening at The Ryder Film Series, Bloomington, Indiana. Starting on Friday, August 10 and ending Saturday, August 25th, 2012. Playing Aug 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 24, 25.

The Ryder Film Series has presented the best in foreign-language, independent and classic American films in Bloomington for 25 years.

The Pigeoneers is sponsored in part by the Monroe County Historical Society:


The Pigeoneers UK Film Premiere will be at the Ghost Station Exhibition, Enigma Cinema, Bletchley Park in September 2012.

Ghost Station is the new exhibition from ArtHertz staged at Bletchley Park - the Home of the Codebreakers during World War II and the birthplace of modern technology.

The month long event is part of Milton Keynes Heritage Open Days - Summer of Culture 2012 and explores themes of codes, codebreaking and messages, Alan Turing, the role of pigeons and women in World War II. The exhibition also explores the ongoing ArtHertz agenda of the analogue / digital distinction. Ghost Station will also include the critically acclaimed collaborative piece, Station X, which was first shown and conceived for display at MK Gallery Project Space - an installation that documents the Bletchley buildings with sound, film, photography and surfaces. More than 20 selected contemporary artists' work will be interspersed amongst the museum's exhibits in Hut 8, the Bombe Hut and the Cafe in Hut 4.

The Enigma Cinema at Bletchley Park will also play host to screenings of short films curated by Rushes Soho Shorts Film Festival and ArtHertz presenting the UK Premiere of Al Croseri's feature length film, "The Pigeoneers" on Sunday 9th Sept 11AM (By Invitation Only) and again on Sunday 23rd Sept at 2PM.

Ghost Station is open to the public from 6th September - 30th September, 9.30 AM - 5PM. VIP Private View 6 - 9PM Friday 7th (By Invitation Only). Reception to be held in the Mansion Ballroom with an analogue electro DJ set from Reuben Wu of Ladytron.

Free Entry for MK post codes between 6th & 9th September Milton Keynes Heritage Open Days - Summer Of Culture 2012.

Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes MK3 6EB - Admission: Adults £12, Children 12 - 16 £6 Children under 12 FREE and Family Ticket: £26 (Two adults + Two children aged 12 to 16)



The Associated Press, USA Today and The Wall St Journal

November 12, 2011

Col. Clifford A. Poutre tossing the last bird in 1957 at the close-out of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Pigeon Service, Fort Monmouth. /Photo courtesy of Alessandro Croseri Productions.

The eagle may be the symbol of American freedom and military might, but no eagle ever received France's Croix de Guerre for valor, or saved the lives of 1,000 troops trapped behind enemy lines, or walked five miles to deliver vital information after being shot out of the sky.

Pigeons, of the homing variety, accomplished all of this and countless other amazing feats, during their long and storied service in the U.S. Army.

Today, few people know about the heroism of these unassuming birds, or the integral role that Fort Monmouth played as the home of the Army's pigeon breeding and training center from 1917 to 1957.

"Back in the day, these pigeons were rock stars," said independent filmmaker Alessandro Croseri, who is completing a series of three documentaries about the Army's "pigeoneers," including the late Col. Clifford A. Poutre, a legendary figure who led the Pigeon Service for many years. "And then, everyone forgot about them."

In peacetime, thousands of people used to flock to the fort every year to see the pigeons. The star attractions included G.I. Joe, who saved a British brigade that was being bombarded by friendly fire in Italy in 1943, and Kaiser, a one-time German POW who later delivered messages for the Americans in World War I and went on to live to the ripe, old age of 32, twice the life span of an average pigeon.

"He was a tough bird," marveled Croseri, 38, of New York City, who has bred and raced pigeons all his life.

In an age where many people can scarcely recall how they ever managed before instant messaging and smart phones, it beggars belief that life and death, victory and defeat, and even the future of the free world once hinged on the success or failure of these delicate, winged messengers.

But it's true. Since ancient times, humans have prized homing pigeons for their incredible ability to find their way back to their nests, even from hundreds of miles away. The Egyptian pharaohs, Julius Caesar and the Crusaders and Saracens all used homing pigeons to deliver messages in battle.

Even today, scientists have yet to figure out exactly how "homers," which look virtually the same as the pigeons that sit on park benches and roost under bridges, manage to navigate over such long distances, though it's believed that magnetic fields and the position of the sun are involved somehow. The results, however, speak for themselves.

"They were about 99 percent perfect," boasted Edwin C. Schmidt, 94, of Elgin, Ill., a World War II pigeoneer who trained at Fort Monmouth. "Sometimes they would get through when you thought it wasn't possible at all."

Even AT&T's iPhone 4, which drops more than 4 percent of its calls, can't match that record of reliability.


The U.S. Army first tried using pigeons in the 1870s during the Indian wars in the Dakotas. The experiment was a failure, on account of the large numbers of hawks that kept killing the birds, but by World War I, pigeons had become an invaluable military asset. Some birds even carried cameras that snapped photographs of enemy positions.

Even in World War II, when radios and walkie-talkies were available, pigeons were used as an emergency means of communication. Paratroopers in the invasion of Normandy carried pigeons with them when they jumped deep behind German lines, in order to maintain radio silence.

"They actually even used them in Korea," noted Lester Lane, a historian at the Army Signal Corps Regimental Museum at Fort Gordon, Ga.

The basic method worked this way: A message was written on a small piece of paper that was rolled up and placed into a capsule attached to one of the pigeon's legs. Upon its release, the pigeon would head straight for its coop, which was located at the unit's headquarters or somewhere else behind the lines.

The pigeon's nest functioned almost like an email in-box. When the bird returned, a buzzer would sound, indicating that a new message had arrived.

There were some obvious drawbacks to using pigeons. For one thing, communication was strictly a one-way affair, meaning the pigeon couldn't fly back to the sender with a reply, though Croseri says in later years pigeoneers did experiment with a complicated two-way messaging system.

Then there was the matter of the pigeon's survival. Opposing armies knew full well how crucial these messages were and did whatever they could to stop each other's pigeons from ever reaching their intended destination.

Croseri says that in World War II, the Nazis used specially trained peregrine falcons to intercept Allied pigeons. Lane, the Signal Corps historian, says he's never been able to confirm the falcon story, though it's true that both sides used marksmen to shoot down the birds.

"We shot their pigeons, and they shot ours," confirmed Schmidt.

When the Army disbanded the Pigeon Service in 1957, the last 1,000 birds at Fort Monmouth were offered for sale to the general public. The more famous birds were parceled out to zoos.

Hundreds of veterans and pigeon-racing enthusiasts descended on the fort in hopes of getting at least a few of the pigeons. A newspaper account says there was an overflow crowd of about 200 people who couldn't get in.

"I was about 15th or 18th in line," remembered Robert S. DeAdder, 96, who was an Signal Corps instructor at Fort Monmouth at the time and raced pigeons as a hobby. DeAdder, a former Shrewsbury resident who now lives in Severn, Md., wound up buying 10 pairs of birds, though, he said, "none of them did much for me."

Today, the site of the pigeon training center is an empty lot off Oceanport Avenue on the fringes of the fort, which was shuttered in September. Gone, too, is the fort's museum, where several stuffed pigeons, including G.I. Joe, were kept on exhibit for many years.

Lane, the historian, says he doesn't know what became of those pigeons. His museum houses the stuffed remains of a pigeon named Liles Boy, who flew 46 missions in Italy, the most of any pigeon in World War II.

"There's no telling where those birds went," he said.

Meanwhile, Croseri, a lifelong pigeon-racer, is hoping that his documentaries can raise greater awareness about this often-overlooked chapter of Army history. One day he'd like to see the story made into a feature film.

"I love the birds, I love the pigeoneers, and I love the whole history," he said. "I thought it would be a shame for these stories to be buried with the pigeoneers."

Former Fort Monmouth pigeoneer Ed Schmidt, 94, on the set of the documentary, "The Pigeoneers III"./Courtesy


The Army Pigeon Service reached its zenith during World War II, when it encompassed more than 3,000 troops and 54,000 pigeons. Its most famous birds included:

Cher Ami: Flew 25 miles through enemy fire in 1918 to save a trapped American battalion despite losing an eye, being shot in the breast and having half its leg blown off. Awarded France's Croix de Guerre for valor.

Kaiser: Captured from the German army by American troops in World War I; went on to fly numerous missions for the Allies and became a popular attraction at Fort Monmouth. After its death at age 32, it was stuffed and put on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

G.I. Joe: Flew 20 miles to deliver a message calling off the mistaken bombardment of a British regiment in Colvi Vecchia, Italy, in 1943. Yank: Delivered news of the fall of Gafsa in Tunisia in 1943; once carried an urgent note for Gen. George Patton 90 miles in 100 minutes.

File photo of Pigeon "Chere Amie" at the former site of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Museum on Fort Monmouth, Eatontown NJ. Chere Amie was awarded France's highest honor the Croix de Guerre after being shot down, losing a leg and still delivering the message.

Source: The War Birds of Fort Monmouth, written by Shannon Mullen, Staff Writer, The Asbury Park Press, November 11,2011.


Birds transported vital information during World Wars and before

The Gazette, Montreal, Canada
November 18, 2009

I often think of my dad repairing the skins of the Spitfires and Hurricanes that were shot to pieces by Messerschmits, Focke Wulfs and ground fire over the Dutch coast during the Second World War. He didn't talk about war much, except to say that most of the time he was scared out of his wits. But David Archibald Bird was not the only "bird" over there fighting the Nazis.

While many of us refer to them as "winged rats" or "flying bags of disease," the lowly rock pigeon has played a very significant role during a number of wars, notably in both World Wars and as recently as the Korean War.

Known as homing or carrier pigeons, these birds have a remarkable talent for finding their way back to their loft over distances of thousands of kilometres and from unfamiliar places in all kinds of weather. They have been valued as faithful carriers of messages during times of both war and peace.

War pigeons were parachuted behind enemy lines in containers for use by the resistance to carry information critical to the Allies. Other birds were released from mobile lofts, tanks and aircraft to take vital messages back to headquarters. Naturally, these actions made them targets for enemy soldiers using not only guns but trained falcons. Tens of thousands died and a number became feathered folk heroes.

One such decorated bird was G.I. Joe, a genuine hero during the Second World War. Bred by the U.S. army Signals Corps in 1943, G.I. Joe lived for 18 years. In its first year of life, the bird served in Colvi Vecchia, Italy. It flew 30 kilometres in just 20 minutes and saved the lives of 1,000 soldiers by carrying a message to cancel a bombardment of Colvi Vecchia, which the British had entered ahead of schedule. For the feat, the bird was awarded the Dicken Medal, the only U.S. war pigeon to do so.

Another famous war pigeon was Paddy, an Irish war hero. He was apparently the last pigeon to be released by the Americans in Normandy, but the first bird to arrive in England with news of the success of the D-Day invasion. According to his trainer, John McMullan, Paddy was the best of the best.

The tenacity of these birds to get back to their lofts is best illustrated by the story of Cher Ami, a black check cock. This bird was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for heroic service. On its final mission, in October 1918, the bird, having been shot through its breast or wing, delivered a message in a capsule hanging from a ligament of its shattered leg. The contents saved the lives of 200 U.S. soldiers.

The pigeons did not perform these duties without help - they had handlers. One of the most famous was Col. Clifford A. Poutre, chief pigeoneer with the U. S. army signal corps pigeon service from 1936 to 1943. Widely acknowledged as the world's foremost expert on military uses for pigeons, Poutre streamlined the U. S. army homing-pigeon training and taught the birds tricks for day or night messenger duty. He also discarded the old method of starving pigeons in favour of kindness. He essentially showed that homers will return home because they want to, and not, as during the First World War, because they were hungry.

A great army racer was Always Faithful, 1935 winner of a 1,160-kilometre race from Tennessee to his New Jersey loft in 15 hours, 39 minutes, 9 seconds, an average speed of 1.233 kilometres a minute! Colonel Poutre retired from the army in 1960 after 31 years of military service.

Alessandro (Al) Croseri, who was kind enough to bring the exploits of these special birds to my attention, has captured their story in his 8-minute DVD film The Flight, a beautiful and moving homage to the sacrifices that these homing pigeons made for us in the wars. Croseri also wrote and produced a longer film The Pigeoneers, featuring Poutre.

Next time you scowl at a pigeon in the streets, think about how these birds helped saved thousands of soldier's lives during war.

For info on these films, visit

-David Bird is a professor of wildlife biology and director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre at McGill University, Canada.

Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Source: Fine, feathered war heros. Birds transported vital information during World Wars and before by David Bird, The Gazette, Montreal, Canada.

Exhibit examines roles of the furry, the feathered.

TheBurg, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
April 2011 Issue

Practically every type of domesticated animal, from dogs to pigeons, has been used during wartime-even dolphins have been considered. But these beasts of burden often became pets to the soldiers struggling in the desperateness of battle.

"Regimental mascots gave soldiers a chance to express affection to another living being in the midst of so much death and destruction, creating a positive effect on morale," said Brett Kelley, curator of collections at the National Civil War Museum.

Animals in war is the museum's latest exhibit, which opened in March and runs until September. It examines the ways in which various types of animals were adopted by regiments and became mascots for Civil War troops, and focuses on the relationships between these animals and their owners.

"There are many references to animals in letters home, including Col. Joshua Chamberlain's personal letters in the museum archives," said Kelley, referring to the officer who led the 20th Maine Regiment in gallant victory at Gettysburg.

According to Kelley, by the 19th century, people began to change the way they viewed animals. No longer were they thought of as existing only to fulfill a specific purpose, such as horses for labor or dogs for hunting. They were considered companions.

Nonetheless, animals are still used for the cruelest of purposes. In their battle against the Nazis in World War II, the Soviets used dogs as anti-tank weapons, training the canines to carry a bomb to a tank that also killed the animal, according to Russian and British histories. More recently, in 2005, Iraqi insurgents were unsuccessful in their attempts to strap explosives to dogs.

Gen. George Custer and one of his dogs, in camp.

Horses, though, have been the most widely used animals in warfare, most recently used by U.S. forces during 2001 fighting in Afghanistan, considered the first American cavalry charge of the 21st century.

Soldiers and officers alike grow strong emotional attachments to the animals that serve with them. Consider homing pigeons, which can home from short and long distances, up to 800 miles and some even further, and were used extensively in World War I and II.

Col. Clifford Poutre, chief pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Pigeon Service from 1936 to '43, "treated his pigeons like they were family members, children, buddies," said Alessandro Croseri, a documentary filmmaker who has studied the use of pigeons in war. "They were a soldier's best friend as they saved thousands of lives in combat."

Among Soldiers: Animals in the Ranks of the Civil War runs through Sept. 7. For more information, call 717-260-1861, or visit For more on homing pigeons, visit

Source: Animals In Wartime , written by Peter Durantine, TheBurg, April 2011 issue, page 23.

You can hardly call yourself a flyer unless The Pigeoneers-In Memory of Homing Pigeons in Combat by Al Croseri is in your film library. A "BOMBARDIER'S LOUNGE WWII Big Band Jazz" Five Star! Capt. Mike (formerly Capt. Michael Hemp, U.S.A.F.)


I received the following email from Richard Baker, MA (Msgt, USAF ret.), Chief, Research Center Branch, Army Heritage and Education Center.

Good Morning Mr. Croseri,

Your message was forwarded to me by our Director, Dr. Crane. I will place a copy of the details about " Gimpy" in our reference file on "Pigeons." I've also noted and saved your excellent website for future reference and referral to those who may be seeking information on the "Soldiers Fine Feathered Friends."

The link here is to our most recent article on the website and the weekly feature series "This Week in Army History" that focused upon the subject of "combat" pigeons. I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for your efforts to maintain and present the history and story of military pigeons to the world.


November 22, 2009

A Fine, Feathered Friend: This image provides a close up for one of the stars of the show. It is captioned "These homing pigeons are doing much to save the lives of our boys in France. They act as efficient messengers and dispatch bearers not only from division and from the trenches to the rear but are also used by our aviators to report back the results of their observation."

In November, 1944, G.I. Joe, a member of the United States Army, saved the lives of at least 100 Allied soldiers. In just twenty minutes G.I. Joe traveled over 20 miles to deliver a message of grave importance. With only minutes to spare he stopped an air raid from bombing a newly occupied village filled with Allied soldiers. G.I. Joe was not a super soldier; he was a Blue Check splashed pigeon. One rarely thinks of their flying over the battle-worn trenches of World War I or through the bombarded night skies of World War II. Yet during both wars, thousands of pigeons were used.

Off They Go!: This image shows "Carrier pigeons being released from regimental P.C., Andernach, Germany, May 30, 1919."

Some 600 of which were used by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War I. They were used to transmit orders to advance troops, send reconnaissance reports, and carry other crucial military messages. Pigeons played a major role during the World Wars, because they were a dependable source of communication. In World War I, they were especially useful for their speed, long distances flights, consistency, and an impressive homing ability when compared to the existing unreliable and crude communication systems. Over 90% of messages sent by pigeons were received. Reliable forms of communication were necessary because of the constant changes on the front. Trenches often change hands between opposing sides multiple times during a one-week period.

Underway and Under Fire! : This image is captioned "Motorcycle dispatch Rider starting under heavy shell fire to deliver pigeons to our most advanced position. France."

One pigeon named, Cher Ami, a Black Check carrier pigeon, aided in rescuing elements of the U.S. 77th Infantry Division, known as the "Lost Battalion." Separated from American forces, the Battalion was surrounded by the Germans. For six days they endured constant fire from both enemy and Allied forces, and their food and water supplies were extremely low. Cher Ami had delivered many critical messages but his last mission was the most important. Battered and broken with a gunshot wound to the chest, Cher Ami valiantly carried a message from the "Lost Battalion," regarding its dangerous situation. The message stated, "Our artillery is dropping a barrage on us. For heaven's sake, stop it!" Once Cher Ami's message was received, the survivors were rescued and brought safely within American lines. The Lost Battalion originally had over 500 men; Cher Ami's gallant service allowed 194 Soldiers to survive.

Cher Ami, and forty other pigeons, received honors for their brave service in World War I. Cher Ami received the French Croix de Guerre with palm for his valiant work. Unfortunately, due to the injuries sustained on his final mission, Cher Ami died months later in 1919. Pigeons, such as G.I. Joe, would be utilized during World War II, but soon afterwards the use of pigeons in war became obsolete due to advancements in communication technology. So next time you happen to see one, or hear the cooing of a pigeon, do not think of them as a nuisance, but as heroes and a Soldier's fine, feathered friend.

"Our Flying Couriers": This image shows "Military Homing Pigeons" on display to the public in the United States during World War I. The image is captioned "Our Flying Couriers...these homing pigeons are extensively used to carry messages from the fighting front back to headquarters and may be classed as faithful soldiers of our fighting forces."

Source: "Fine, feathered friends!" USAMHI. Written by Stewart Beattie, Special Guest Contributor, Student and Intern from Shippensburg University, PA

Photo Credits: USAMHI (WWI Signal Corps Photograph Collection)

Kaiser, WWI Captured German War Pigeon

"KAISER" 1917-1949
BAND # 17-47-0-350

Famous "Old Kaiser," who now at the "ripe old" age of 23 is as peppy and scrappy as his youngest son born a few weeks ago. He is the oldest bird at Sergeant Poutre's pigeon lofts. This photo of Kaiser was taken in 1938, US Army Signal Corps Lofts, Fort Monmouth, N.J.


By Wilson P. Dizard
The New York Times
February 24, 1946

Technically, Kaiser could be called a traitor to the Imperial Crown of Germany. A soldier of fortune, he has served under two flags in two international wars. This may seem surprising when one considers that Kaiser is 29 years old and that his kind has always been regarded as a symbol of peace. But Kaiser carries no olive branch in his bill-he's a Regular Army Flier, assigned to the United States Signal Corps, and the oldest pigeon known to history.

Kaiser was hatched in Germany in February, 1917, and was trained as a military homing pigeon for the German Army. The famous bird was captured when the Yanks stormed an enemy front-line trench during the Meuse offensive in 1918. He was brought to this country and assigned to the Signal Corps Pigeon Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., until August, 1942, at which time he was transferred to Camp Crowder, Mo., the Army's pigeon-breeding center.

In terms of human ages, Kaiser is a cool 140 years old-the normal life span of a pigeon being from 5 to 8 years. Despite his advanced age, Kaiser has continued to father large groups of homing pigeons. He astounded his keepers and pigeon breeders all over the country last year by fathering seven youngsters. The breeders shook their heads and said that because of Kaiser's age his youngsters would be useless as military homing pigeons. They took it all back when one of them, Little Caesar, won a 320-mile race from Dallas to Camp Crowder in competition with some of the best birds in the Army.

There is no logical explanation for the Kaiser's hardiness except for the fact that he lives under ideal conditions at the Crowder lofts. He and the latest of his many mates, Lady Belle, live alone in a white loft away from the other loft buildings. The only difference between their loft and those of the other pigeons is that Kaiser and Lady Belle have an electric heater-a small concession to Kaiser's old age.

Although a "member" of the United States Army, Kaiser still wears a seamless aluminum identification band on his left leg, bearing the seal of the German Imperial Crown. This band was placed there by his German keepers when he was a week old, and it cannot be removed unless cut from the leg.

Gimpy, WWII US Army Pigeon

He sometimes rests. But never hitches.



Published on Monday, Feb. 24, 1941
Time Magazine

From the day he got his feathers Gimpy was a superior bird. Master Sgt. Clifford Algy Poutre, the lean, leathery boss pigeon man at the Signal Corps pigeon lofts on the Jersey flats at Fort Monmouth, liked to say that the Army would hear from Gimpy some day. His breed was right. His father, old red Kaiser, captured in a German trench in the Argonne, is still the oldest military pigeon in the business (24 last month), and his Scotland-hatched mother had good blood in her.

Since Sgt. Poutre gave Gimpy the job of instructing younger pigeons last fall, he has turned out 150 graduates, trained to fly back to the trailer lofts as straight as a crow. Taken farther and farther away each day from Monmouth, he led them back unerringly to the loft, showed them that a pigeon can fly with a message capsule on leg or back. Last week, on his twisted right leg, three-year-old Gimpy stumped among a new class of 52 youngsters, fixed them with a hard eye.

Gimpy got the game leg that named him before he was two years old. One wintry day he was released in Trenton, got lost in a snowstorm, went over Brooklyn just over the housetops, finally ran out of ceiling. He cracked up in a backyard and broke his leg. Set by a man named Somervell (who had pigeons of his own), Gimpy's leg turned out badly, but within two months he was back on the job with a name instead of a number. Last spring Gimpy worked in the maneuvers in Louisiana, lost three of his 17 ounces in the fierce heat, but always came in with the tissue-paper message that front-line men had put in his capsule. And in the fall, when the Signal Corps started breeding and training 3,600 new birds, Gimpy was promoted to an instructor's job.

Among the 1,000 Army pigeons in the Fort Monmouth lofts, Gimpy is as monogamous as the next old soldier. His mate is a three-year-old hen named Matilda. He ran her out of his nest four times before they settled down. Today, like any suburban pigeon, he sits on the eggs six hours a day while Matilda gets a rest.

Gimpy's only fault is that he likes to land on the way home, sometimes leads his recruits into a grassy plot for a rest and stroll, while he stumps around, gabbling officiously. But no one in Fort Monmouth's pigeon company will admit that these fine feathered soldiers ever hitch rides on Army trucks.*

-As Major Leonard Nason charged last fortnight in a denunciatory book, Approach to Battle. "Dependence on pigeons as a means of signal communication," said he "is leaning on a broken reed." Week the book was published, Major Nason was ordered to active service.

Source: "National Defense: Gimpy," Time Magazine.

Colonel Clifford A. Poutre tossing the last bird in 1957 before the close-out of the Army Pigeon Service at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

Long John Silver, WWI American War Pigeon Hero

"LONG JOHN SILVER" 1918-1935

Signal Corps pigeon loft and transport vehicle at Scott Field, IL, 1918. The pigeons entered the loft through the slot between the windows.


Story and photographs courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Homing pigeons were used in World War I to deliver messages when other means such as telephones, telegraph, radio or dispatch riders were unavailable. They proved their value carrying messages from front line outposts to pigeon lofts at command centers, which they returned to by instinct and training.

This homing pigeon was hatched in January 1918 in a dugout just behind the lines in France. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, he was one of the most active pigeons in the Army, and his barrage-dodging skill was apparent in many exciting flights from the front line trenches to divisional pigeon lofts.

On Oct. 21, 1918, at 2:35 p.m., this pigeon was released at Grandpre from a front line dugout in the Meuse-Argonne drive with an important message for headquarters at Rampont, 25 miles away. The enemy had laid down a furious bombardment prior to an attack. Through this fire, the pigeon circled, gained his bearings and flew toward Rampont. Men in the trenches saw a shell explode near the pigeon. The concussion tossed him upward and then plunged him downward. Struggling, he regained his altitude and continued on his course. Arriving at Rampont 25 minutes later, the bird was a terrible sight. A bullet had ripped his breast, bits of shrapnel ripped his tiny body, and his right leg was missing. The message tube, intact, was hanging by the ligaments of the torn leg. Weeks of nursing restored his health but could not give back the leg he lost on the battlefield. The pigeon became a war hero and earned the name "John Silver," after the one-legged pirate in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. He was retired from active service and in 1921 was assigned as a mascot to the 11th Signal Company, U.S. Army Signal Corps, Schofield Barracks, Honolulu, Hawaii. John Silver died Dec. 6, 1935, at the age of 17 years and 11 months.

Thereafter, on each Organization Day of the 11th Signal Company, the name John Silver was added to the roll-call. When his name was called, the senior non-commissioned officer present responded, "Died of wounds received in battle in the service of his country." The Army Signal Corps presented John Silver to the museum on Dec. 19, 1935.

Since at least the mid-1930s, many people have called this one-legged pigeon "Stumpy" John Silver. The nickname, however, has been a matter of contention. The Signal Company commander of the Hawaiian Division at Schofield Barracks (John Silver's commanding officer at the time the bird died) felt it was disrespectful and is reported to have said in 1961 that anyone who called the bird "Stumpy" would have been summarily thrown out of the area. Nonetheless, a 1937 Signal Corps Headquarters document states that "'Stumpy' John Silver was on display at the Army Aeronautical Museum, Wright Field, Ohio, which later became the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Source National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

The Pigeoneers II ™

The Pigeoneers II featuring the late Sgt. Peter Zakutansky and Lt. Col. Robert S. De Adder.

The film was shot on location at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

Sgt. Peter Zakutansky on the set of The Pigeoneers II, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Summer 2007.
Pete is standing by, ready to liberate the homing pigeons for a 100 mile toss.

Sgt. Peter Zakutansky, left, Lt. Col. Robert De Adder, center, Ralph Leggio, right, on the set of The Pigeoneers II. Pete is handling a homer, discussing the bird's condition with Bob and Ralph, before the liberation.

Peter Zakutansky, WWII Night Flyer, Dies at 88


Sgt Peter Zakutansky, WWII US Army Pigeoneer, Night Flyer, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 1942.

In loving memory of the late Sgt. Peter Zakutansky, WWII US Army Pigeoneer, Night Flying Record holder. Pete died on Monday, March 1, 2010, at the age of 88.

Pete was born on March 18, 1921, in Old Road, Elizabeth, New Jersey. His love affair with the homing pigeons began at an early age. At 10 years of age, he started his own loft. At 12 years of age, he began training pigeons to fly at night. Soon thereafter, he learned and proved that his pigeons would fly both during the night and the day. He raced his pigeons with the Greater Elizabeth Racing Pigeon Club, winning many long and short distance races.

Pete enlisted in the US Army in 1942 and served as an armed guard in the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., for the Office of Secret Mail. He was trained to fire 155 howitzers and a 30 calibre 4-man machine gunner. After describing his "night and day" flying training methods with Major Mc Clure at the Pentagon, Pete was promoted to the rank of sergeant with the 285th Signal Corps along with a special assignment to train pigeons for night flying at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After basic training at Fort Bragg, he was given his own jeep, a helper and his own location for the night loft. The night loft was located on top of a hill, a quarter of a mile away from the main pigeon section. Pete increased pigeon night flight ranges from the previous maximum of 55 miles to 163 miles. His Army Pigeons, broke the night flying record by an incredible distance of 108 miles. To this day, 68 years later, Sgt. Zakutansky still holds the Night Flying Record.

In 1943, Pete was sent to England with a six-man detachment and oversaw "pigeon communications" between three airbases in Exeter, England. Their detachment was attached to the 9th Air Force Paratroop Carriers. C-47s were used for the missions. 17 paratroopers would eject from the plane, and Pete would wrap the ripcords around his hand, lean out the door and release the pigeon. He personally flew on 15 missions, with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions on C-47s during maneuvers to release his pigeons. He was then transferred to a pigeon training area in Andover, England, where they raised young pigeons and trained them to a mobile loft, P.G. 68, a 30 bird loft on a trailer.

Pete was a very dear friend and will be greatly missed. He was kind, generous and a man of integrity. He loved to talk about his theory on pigeons, the war years, his family, and especially his beloved Mom.

Pete always used to say, "I'll see ya."

VADOS CON DIOS PETE, "I'll see ya."

Al Croseri

Pete with his Mom at their home in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This photo was taken in 1943, just before Pete was shipped out to England.

Pete's letters to his Mom.

July 31, 1943

Dear Mom,

Well here it is payday again. The only day out of the month that all the boys wait for Mom. I am sending $45 dollars. I wish I could send more but before the month is up I will be broke. Mom have you been getting your teeth pulled? I hope you have. You should have at least 4 of the real bad ones out by this time and when I get home, I would like to see all the bad ones out and then you can get some false ones made. Even if you had to get them all out at once. Mom you would have to wait for your gums to heal. So why not get some of the ones in the back out.

Mom I received a letter from John and he said he was OK but the mail system is very poor. I wrote three letters to John, the first one is the only one he has received so far and that one was written on June 8 and I wrote two on July 8 and one came back to me. I don't know why because his address hasn't changed. I am going to answer this letter I just got from him. I hope it gets there.

I am still training night pigeons Mom and I have them coming from 32 miles at night. Mom remember the fellows who said I couldn't do it, well I have proven them wrong.

Your son,


Pete with his brothers, Johnny and Andy. Johnny is on the left, Pete, center, Andy is on the right. This photograph was taken in 1942 outside their home in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Pete had just enlisted in the Army.

Christmas 1945.

Dear Mom,

Hope everything is OK at home. I miss you especially on Christmas, when we all get together on Christmas Eve. I've been in England, 2 1/2 years. Andy and I met in London. As we talked, a big bomb went over and we went inside a cellar Pub. The glasses tingled when the Buz Bomb went off about a mile away. Andy, is in the 69th Division and is somewhere in Germany. Our Johnny, is on the Island of Mawee. Mom, your son Johnny is a trouble shooter on aeroplanes and Andy, an electrician, both are Sergeants. Mom, the war is about over. I'm looking forward to having Christmas and seeing you Mom and the rest of the family.

Your son,





I am honored to announce that Sgt. Peter Zakutansky's Memorial Tribute has been published on both the Signal Corps 150th Anniversary Commemorative Site and the U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site. These are official U.S. Army Sites.

Pete's tribute is featured in the Who's Who, Notable Signaleers, 1880-Present, section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site. To visit the U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site, please click here.

The Signal 150th Anniversary Commemorative Site and U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site are a product of the Signal Center of Excellence Knowledge Management Office. The KM Team is comprised of active Signal Personnel, Subject Matter Experts (SME), Knowledge Management Specialists, Web Design and Network Specialists. All members of the team are or have served in or been affiliated with the Signal Corps.


I am pleased to announce that Sgt. Peter Zakutansky's Memorial Tribute has been published in The Behavioral Neuroscientist and Comparative Psychologist, Division 6 of the American Psychological Association, Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2010.

Pete's tribute is featured on page 10 of the newsletter. To read the newsletter, please click here.

The Behavioral Neuroscientist and Comparative Psychologist is the official newsletter of American Psychological Association (APA) Division 6 and is published 3 times a year.

About American Psychological Association

Based in Washington, DC, the American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States. With 150,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide.

The Pigeoneers III ™

The Pigeoneers III featuring Ed Schmidt and Ed Gergits. Ed Schmidt served in WWII with the 279th Fighting Pigeoneers the first overseas unit that was stationed in the Pacific Islands. The film was shot on location in Chicago, Illinois.

Ed Gergits, left, and Ed Schmidt, right, on the set of The Pigeoneers III, Fall 2007.

Ed Schmidt, U.S. Army Pigeoneer, Fort Monmouth, NJ, 1944.

Fighting 279th Pigeoneers ™

Ed Schmidt, WWII US Army Pigeoneer, Elgin, Illinois

The Courier News, Elgin, Illinois
April 19, 2009

Ed Schmidt, 91, of Elgin, has been training homing pigeons since childhood and worked with them in the Army Signal Corps during World War II. He still works as an auctioneer and appraiser of the birds.

Every day, regulars flock to Paul's Restaurant in Elgin to tell stories and catch up on one another's lives.

Among the restaurant's customers are retired schoolteachers and firefighters -- the "average" folk who form the fabric of this community.

Each tale comes with fascinating tidbits accumulated from several decades of life experience. Amid clanking dishes and the gentle hum of conversation, one table stands out. It is a table full of mostly retired men who gather faithfully each morning to share stories and jokes.

When asked who has one of the best stories, they all agree: Ed Schmidt.

Schmidt, 91, has spent all his adult life in Elgin -- except for the five years he was in the Philippines training homing pigeons to carry classified messages about enemy movements to different U.S. camps during World War II. The tactic was especially useful in the Pacific Islands, where the mountains kept radio signals from carrying very far. He still has several of the tiny 1-inch-long aluminum carriers the trainers would use to attach to the pigeons' legs.

And Schmidt is still in the bird business. He's served as a pigeon auctioneer since 1946 and kept an average of 120 birds at a time up until a few years ago when he moved to a different home. A recent Chicago auction he led raised more than $900,000 for local nonprofits.

These pigeons, it turns out, have been spreading their wings for the good of humanity for a very long time.

Wartime messengers

According to the American Racing Pigeon Union Inc., the tradition began when the ancient Greeks used homing pigeons to carry messages more than 5,000 years ago. And no wonder. These birds can fly as far as 80 to 600 miles at speeds of 40 to 60 miles per hour.

The most famous homing pigeon, "G.I. Joe," is known for saving the lives of 1,000 British troops during World War II. According to the racing pigeon union, the British 56th Brigade was scheduled to attack the city of Colvi Vecchia, Italy, at 10 a.m. on Oct. 18, 1943. The U.S. Air Support Command was scheduled to bomb the city to soften the entrance for the British brigade. The Germans retreated, enabling the British troops to occupy it ahead of schedule. The British made all attempts possible to cancel the bombing, but radio messages and all other forms of communication failed. G.I. Joe was released to carry the message to cancel the bombing, flying 20 miles back to the U.S. Air Support Command base in 20 minutes and arriving just as the planes were warming up to take off.

The pigeons were prized for their reliability in carrying messages between U.S. camps. According to Schmidt, they were 99 percent accurate. They were enough of a threat that enemy gunners would target them whenever they could.

Schmidt went from a little boy who raised pigeons on his parents' farm in Woodstock to a pigeon trainer for the Fighting 279th Pigeoneers in World War II -- the first overseas unit. He was one of 34 pigeon trainers in the unit who took care of thousands of pigeons.

Just like people, these birds have quirky personalities at times. One of Schmidt's favorite birds, Lady, would come flying down and land on Schmidt's shoulder whenever he would call. He credits an innate love of animals for his lifelong hobby.

Despite his various duties and years of service, Schmidt speaks modestly of his own time served in the war.

"As far as I am concerned, all the heroes of World War II died over there," he said.

There are less than 30 men from his division left throughout the United States.

When he returned from the war, Schmidt worked for the Milk Specialties Co. in East Dundee and as a sales manager for Pacific Molasses Co. But the former president of the American Racing Pigeon Union continues to be involved in the industry. And though he no longer has pigeons in his home, Schmidt still enjoys meeting other enthusiasts at the Elgin Homing Pigeon Club on the second Friday of each month, as well as traveling around the United States for auctions.

Schmidt will be the featured subject in the upcoming documentary, "The Pigeoneers," which currently is being filmed on location in Chicago. It is being produced by Alessandro Croseri Productions of New York City. Schmidt's feature is expected to be the third in the trilogy and will be released sometime in 2010.

Source: Bird In Hand by Charity Bonner, Courier News, Elgin, Il.
Photographs By Shauna Bittle / Staff Photographer



American Air Museum, Imperial War Museum Duxford, United Kingdom


Grace Doherty Library, Centre College, Danville, Kentucky

I am very pleased to announce that The Pigeoneers has been acquired for the collection of the Grace Doherty Library, Centre College, Danville, Kentucky. This acquisition is for academic purposes only.

The mission of the Grace Doherty Library is to support the curriculum of Centre College.


The Hollywood Reporter, Film Review by Frank Scheck, June 11, 2012

Signal Corps 150th Anniversary Commemorative Site, August 9, 2010

The Behavioral Neuroscientist and Comparative Psychologist, Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2010

The War Birds of Fort Monmouth, Asbury Park Press, N.J., November 12, 2011

Fine, Feathered War Heros, The Montreal Gazette, Canada, November 18, 2009

Animals in Wartime, TheBurg, PA, April 2011 Issue

Bird in Hand, The Courier News, Elgin, Il., April 9, 2009

The Ornithological Newsletter, Ornithological Societies of North America Publication, August 2009 Issue

The British Homing World, United Kingdom

The Racing Pigeon, United Kingdom

The Racing Pigeon Digest, United States of America

Feathered World, United Kingdom, June 2008 Issue

Aviculture Europe, The Netherlands

Australian Aviculture, Australia, April 2009 Issue

Australian Racing Pigeon Journal, Australia