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Homing Pigeon

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The pigeon in the picture is an example of one of my handmade carvings.

How A Homing Pigeon Saved Lives

Recently the New Jersey Museum of Boating in Pt. Pleasant, NJ asked me to carve a replica of a very special Homing Pigeon for them.

In the museum, they have a display-wall on which they tell many stories of the way Homing Pigeons were employed by local boatmen back in the 1930s. One of those good news stories follows:

There was a teen-ager who raised pigeons near the commercial fishing boat marina. He offered the homing services of his pigeons to the captains of fishing boats. For fifty cents a day the fishing boat captains could rent one of the pigeons and take it with them on their offshore fishing trips. When one of the boats, maybe fifty miles out, found a place where they were catching fish, the captain wrote a note, put it on the pigeon then released it to fly back home. When the homing pigeon (a Homing Pigeon flies at about fifty miles per hour) arrived at the marina where it lived, the teenager gave the note to the local fishing boat captains. In that way the fishermen knew exactly where to go to find a profitable fishing site on any given day.

One time a fishing boat that was about fifty miles out in the ocean, with one of the Homing Pigeons aboard, developed a serious leak and the crew knew in spite of all they could do, the boat would sink in a few hours.

An S.O.S. note was hastily attached to their Homing Pigeon and it was released. A few hours later, a rescue boat arrived and, just as the troubled boat was about to be completely submerged and sink to the bottom, all of the men aboard the fishing boat were saved, thanks to the flight of that one magnificent Homing Pigeon.

There is another story about the use of homing pigeons from this same place in Pt. Pleasant, NJ in WWII. During the war there were more than 42 ships sunk by German U-Boats in the ocean off the coastal water of New Jersey.

The U.S. Naval Air Station, in Lakehurst, NJ used to send their blimps out on patrol over the Jersey shoreline to search for U-Boats. Even when submerged the U-Boats could be easily see from the air. When the men in a blimp sighted a U-Boat, they would radio the coordinates of its location to the Naval Air Station and bombers would fly out and attempt to destroy the U-Boats.

But, they soon realized their radio messages from the blimps were easily intersepted and heard by the capatins of the U-Boats and they would immediately move to a different location and wait for another ship to sink. When this problem was discovered, the Navy stopped using the radio and instead they put five homing pigeons on each patrolling blimp.

Then, when a submarine was spotted, the blimp crew attached a message to the homing pigeon's legs and released them to return "home." In this way -- without alerting captains of the U-Boats - the pigeons flew the information back to the Naval Air Station. Then Navy bombers would fly out, easily find the U-Boats and sink them.

The result of the use of Homing Pigeons was that no more ships were sunk, and the Homing Pigeons became much valued heros who saved many ships and lives and helped us win the war.

P.S. My hand carved replica of The life saving pigeon (see picture) is now on display at the museum.

By: Terry Weber, (U.S.N. WWII Veteran)