In London, I read how carrier pigeons and falcons played a big part in the defeat of the Nazis.
Despite all new inventions and V-weapons, carrier pigeons and dive bombing hawks played a tremendous part in the Allied victory over Germany. Many important German messages were taken off Nazi pigeons "shot down" by a specially trained flock of falcons attached to the R.A.F. which also maintained a large pigeon "air force" of its own throughout the war.
It was estimated that between fifty and seventy-five thousand birds were in military service in this country. England is noted for pigeon racing in peacetime. Every British night bomber carried one or two pigeons, trained to race home with an S O S in case the plane was forced down in enemy territory. They were extremely helpful in air-sea rescue work and were credited officially with saving a large number of lives, both American and British.
The falcon is a natural born killer-hawk with unusual intelligence—provided it can be trained to use its brains the right way. This the R.A.F. did to counter the large and efficient carrier pigeon flock the Nazis had at the beginning of the war. The Germans not only dispatched them from land but also launched them on secret missions from airplanes and submarines.
The total number brought down by falcons and the nature of the messages intercepted still are catalogued as secret information. Falcon bases were located at strategic places along the south coast and reports from coastal watchers on the lookout for suspicious pigeons could be acted upon in a matter of minutes.
Hundreds of pigeons borrowed from the British were used by the American air forces, army and navy. They proved of great value as a means of rapid communication where normal channels had broken down and where radio silence was imperative.
A veteran air force pigeon, named White Vision because of his color, was instrumental in saving ten lives—when a Catalina flying boat was forced down off the Shetland Islands. A hastily scribbled message was attached to White Vision's leg—and it flew sixty miles through a rain storm to bring news of where the flying boat went down. The crew was rescued the next morning.
Another R.A.F. pigeon flew one thousand miles from Gibraltar in what, next to Nansen's pigeon sent out from regions around the North Pole, is believed to be a world's record flight.