Saturday, September 13, 2008


Photo and bio of "Stumpy" John Silver courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Museum

When I was 10 I visited the Air Force Museum in Ohio, and I stood and looked at John Silver here for a very, very long time. While the famous Bon Ami was a UK registered Black Checked Cock, here was American as apple pie, John Silver. A regular everyday Red Pigeon, like any urban pigeon we see on the street, who had flown just as fast and as bravely, and perhaps even more cleverly, than had his famous counterpart.
How could it be that so many people had such an aversion to these brave gentle birds with their soft cooing voices when others, not noted for their compassion, after many decades still memorialized he and his brother pigeons for their valor and interspecies help every year without fail?

This homing pigeon was hatched in January of 1918 in a dugout just behind the lines in France. He received his early training in action and was carrying military messages before he was many months old. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, he was one of the most active pigeons in the Army, and his barrage dodging skill was apparent during many exciting flights from the front lines to the divisional pigeon lofts.

On 21 October 1918, at 2:35 P.M. he was released from a front line dugout at Grandpre, during the Meuse-Argonne drive, with an important message for headquarters at Rampont, a distance of 25 miles. The enemy had laid down a furious bombardment prior to an attack. Through this fire the pigeon circled, gained his bearings, and flew on a direct course for 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 site. A machine gun bullet had pierced his breast, bits of shrapnel ripped his 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 lost on the battlefield. The pigeon became a war hero and earned the name "John Silver", after the one-legged pirate in the book Treasure Island.

He was retired from active service and in 1921 was assigned to the 11th Signal Company, U.S. Signal Corps, Schofield Barracks, Honolulu. John Silver died 6 December 1935 at the age of 17 years and 11 months.

Hereafter on each Organization Day of the 11th Signal Company, the name "John Silver" is added to the roll call. When his name is called, the senior NCO present responds: "Died of wounds received in battle in the service of his country."

Innumerable pigeons have been killed in the line of duty. "John Silver" symbolizes their long and honorable service to mankind.

And here today on my terrace, wisely and mildly ignoring the affront of the anti-pigeon coils the building management insists on, are two beauties of the same stock as John Silver, G.I. Joe, and Bon Ami. A species that is so reviled that many seek their elimination from the Earth no matter what service they have done for mankind or what joy they bring to others.

AND NOW A VERY BRAVE RABBIT, from long time blog contributor Diane D'Arcy...
Please ignore the vulgarity of the title, and perhaps the narration as I didn't listen to it. I screened the film while others slept in the room, but don't ignore the film itself. It's an amazing piece of footage of one very determined bunny.


Karen Anne said...

I don't seem to be able to see the video, just a blank page, with both firefox and IE.

Maybe there should be a children's book about one of the pigeons, if it could be done without scaring them about the injuries. Where's Marie...I'm surprised, now that I think of it, that there isn't a children's book about Pale Male and Lola, is there?

Donegal Browne said...

Karen Anne

More information on books, coming up in the next post!

Karen Anne said...

I googled the file name and found it at

Being pre-warned, I kept the volume off :-)

What the heck was that bunny thinking?