Monday, September 15, 2008

Things feeling bleak? Perhaps It Is Time For A Book!

Blog contributor, Karen Kolling, sent me an email saying, "Maybe there should be a children's book about one of the pigeons, if it could be done without scaring them about the injuries."

And indeed there is. Pigeon Hero, winner of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, based on the WWII Carrier pigeon G.I. Joe.

I've gotten this book for nearly every child I know when they reach the appropriate reading level and Joe has created many a youngster who suitably appreciates the wonders of pigeons and therefore all birds.

Perhaps you might want to consider doing the same for a child? Pigeon Hero is a paperback usually priced around $4, and well worth it in so many ways.

And just what did G.I. Joe do, you ask?

During the month of October 1943, the British Fifty-sixth Brigade was trying to advance on the German held Italian town of Colvi Veccia. In an effort to weaken the German position, the infantry ordered an aerial bombardment of the town by the Allies.

On October 18th, 1943 the German resistance fell and 1,000 British soldiers took up positions inside the town, where they found Italian civilians, who at that point had no interest whatsoever in fighting anyone.

Unfortunately the bombing run was due to take place within the half hour, the radio was broken, the telegraph lines were down, and the Germans were likely just over the next hill. The soldiers hunkered down, prepared to take whatever came, while a panicked message was tied to the leg of G.I. Joe and sent to headquarters.

In Pigeon Hero, the men tell Joe to fly as fast as he can and off he goes. First he's shot at with a machine gun by the Germans, so he flies higher and higher. Then he runs into a hawk who wants to eat him and he flies lower and lower to evade capture. (As flying beneath a hawk would not be an evasive action taken by a pigeon in his right mind who didn't want to be lunch, this is artistic license. Otherwise we'd never ever have heard a word about Joe.) Joe then battles his way through a rain storm and finally brings his message home just as the planes are about to take off. G.I. Joe saves the day.

In reality, Joe was shot at, he evaded the hostile fire, flew 25 miles in 20 minutes, that's better than a mile a minute, (Think about that, he went faster than a mile per MINUTE.), and yes, in actuality arrived just as the bombers were taxiing for take off. The message was read and he saved well over a thousand people from being blasted to smithereens by five minutes.

In November of 1946, G. I. Joe was given the Dicken Medal for gallantry by the Lord Mayor of London.

Which brings us to a second question. What exactly is the Dicken Medal?

According to Wikipedia---

The Dickin Medal was instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin to honour the work of animals in war. It is a large bronze medallion, bearing the words "For Gallantry" and "We Also Serve" within a laurel wreath, carried on ribbon of striped green, dark brown and pale blue. Traditionally, the medal is presented by the Lord Mayor of the City of London. It has become recognised as "the animals' Victoria Cross". As of February 2008, it has been awarded 62 times.

Which brings us, of course, to--Who is Maria Dickin?

Also from Wikipedia--

Maria Dickin was the founder of the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals), a United Kingdom veterinary charity. She set up the medal as an award for any animal displaying conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst serving with British Commonwealth armed forces or civil emergency services. The medal was awarded 54 times between 1943 and 1949, to 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, 3 horses and 1 cat, to acknowledge actions during the Second World War, after which the medal was officially replaced with the PDSA's non-military Silver Medal.

The animated film Valiant, released in 2005, is a tribute to the role of homing pigeons during World War II, and the fact that they won the most number of Dickin Medals during the war.

A special "one-off" posthumous Dickin Medal award was made in 2000 to a Canadian dog for actions in 1941 which would have been honoured at the time, had the PDSA been informed.

The medal was subsequently revived in 2002 to honour three dogs in relation to the September 11 attacks, and was awarded to two dogs serving with Commonwealth forces in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq respectively.

A comparable award, the PDSA Gold Medal, is an animal bravery award that acknowledges the civilian bravery and devotion to duty of animals. Created by the PDSA in 2002, it is now recognised as the animal's equivalent of the George Cross.

What's a George Cross? Not this time, you can't expect me to do all the work. You'll just have to look that one up for yourself. But wait, before you do, scroll down past yesterday's post about John Silver, and down to the next until you see a Blue Bar pigeon.

Now what might that be around his neck?

Donegal Browne

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