This War Pigeon Was Shot, Blinded And Lost A Leg – But She Still Saved Almost 200 Lives

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Image: Wilson44691 / United States Signal Corps
Image: Wilson44691 / United States Signal Corps

It’s early October 1918 in the Argonne Forest in north-eastern France, weeks before the end of World War One. Some 550 American soldiers are surrounded by German troops, and nobody on the Allied side knows their whereabouts. In the days that follow, they lose around 350 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Their future looks bleak to say the least… unless they can somehow get an SOS message out.

Image: Imperial War Museums
Image: IWM (Q 8986)

The men in question were from nine companies of the 77th Infantry Division, known as the “Statue of Liberty Division.” They were drafted troops, primarily New Yorkers, and in April 1918 they were the first non-volunteers to arrive in France to fight in the deadly trenches of the Western Front.

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Image: War Department. Army War College. Historical Section. World War I Branch

The group that went into battle in the Argonne Forest was a makeshift unit comprising men from a variety of battalions. But as the number of soldiers was around 550, equivalent to a single battalion, the name they came to be known by – “the Lost Battalion” – made perfect sense.

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