The next tale of courageous couriers is not your typical courier, but she did manage to save the lives of nearly 200 men trapped and surrounded during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War One. Her name was Cher Ami, (Good friend). She was a homing pigeon given to the US Army Signal Corps in France by English pigeon fanciers. The Allied forces were attempting to retake the Argonne, a heavily wooded and defended region of France. Approximately 500 men of the 308 were under the command of Major Charles Whittlesey. Their objective was to capture and hold a mill, which formed a rail and road junction. This was crucial to cut German supply lines and secure a route for Allied troops. Whittlesey’s orders were to continue along a hill known as Hill 198. Initially, the plan was a success. After a day of heavy fighting with a double line of entrenched German soldiers the 308 did, in fact, secure Hill 198. However, the French troops in the 307 on Whittlesey’s left flank suffered a massive counter-attack by German forces that delayed their advance and unknown to Whittlesey exposed his left flank. The same thing happened to an American division on his right.
The result being that Whittlesey found his division completely surrounded. Once he realized he was out of contact with his allies, the commander dug in his forces and did the only thing he could; he waited for reinforcements. The next day saw brutal counter attacks by the Germans trying to retake the hill. Casualties were high on both sides. What made matters worse was the 308 was shelled by American artillery fire. Whittlesey was still completely cut off from his command. The enemy killed or captured allied couriers. Two other homing pigeons were shot out of the sky and never made it. Whittlesey places his last hope for communication with headquarters on Cher Ami. Cher Ami was almost destroyed before she even took flight. As she took off, a shell struck just below her killing five soldiers and stunning the bird. Cher Ami was able to recover and despite massive gunfire made her way to division headquarters 25 minutes away in just less than half an hour. The message read, “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.” She had delivered her message despite being shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood and one of her legs mangled so badly it was hanging only by a single tendon, but she was able to stop the barrage. The Germans considered the 308th’s position on the hill a threat to their entire line, and made destroying or capturing it a priority. The 308 had to face another 4 days of relentless German assaults. However, on October 8, the 308 was rescued and Whittlesey was immediately promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. The 308 started out with over 500 men, but only 194 made it back unwounded. Doctors worked long and hard to save the life of Cheri Ami. Despite her injuries, she recovered and returned to the US where she lived until 1919. The Meuse-Argonne campaign ended in Victory for the Allied forces and, as a result, the Germans signed the Armistice on October 11.
Fleet Couriers would like to honor the notable and heroic couriers in our past. They have set the standard of excellence that we all strive to live by. Technology has come a long way from well-trained pigeons and Fleet Couriers is at the top of its game. You can sign into your online account at any time to receive information about your order. So see how we can address your package and delivery needs feel free to contact us at (800) 734-9309