6681ST SIGNAL PIGEON COMPANY (PROV)
16 November 1943
SUBJECT: Outstanding Performance of Carrier Pigeon
TO: Commanding General, NATOUSA, APO 534, U.S. Army (Through Channels)
1. Request that the below listed story, along with picture, be sent to Washington, D.C. for release by the War Department, to newspapers for publication.
A part transcription of World War 2 British Defence Regulations regarding the discovery of carrier pigeons and what to do with any messages they may be carrying. A pigeon carrying a red capsule indicated it to be an Army message, Blue an RAF message, Black a police message and yellow for commercial civilian messages. Special Operations / Secret Service message capsules were either green, grey, or red but with coloured disks.
HOMING PIGEONS IN TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN
1. During the 46 days that pigeons were available for communication, a total of 657 birds were sent to units at and near the front.
a. During this 46 days 215 Urgent, Secret and other vital messages were carried with a 100% delivery of all messages.
MESSAGES RECEIVED THROUGH MI14'S CARRIER PIGEON SERVICE FROM OCCUPIED EUROPE
MI14 (later MI4) was the branch of British military intelligence responsible for dropping carrier pigeons over occupied Europe. The carrier pigeons were dropped with a questionnaire asking patriots for information regarding the disposition of German troops and military installations. The Pigeon Service began operating in mid-1941 and initially requested information regarding German preparations for the invasion of Britain. The questionnaire also enquired about what troops were in the area and the type of insignia they wore; addresses used by German headquarters and officials; what coastal defences and patrols were in operation; how was the morale of German soldiers; and also whether BBC radio broadcasts were clearly audible or not.
The following notes, contained in a Special Operations Executive file, give details on the use, advantages and disadvantages of carrier pigeons for agent communications.
EXTRACT FROM MILITARY REPORTS ON THE UNITED NATIONS
NUMBER 15 SIGNAL 15 FEBRUARY 1944
14. The use of Pigeons by the RAF
During the present war, the Royal Air Force has made extensive use of pigeons as an emergency means of communication. Pigeons are frequently carried in RAF aircraft on operational missions, and in several instances where planes have been forced down at sea and other communications have failed, pigeons released from their containers have homed successfully with a message from the crew, thus enabling a rescue to be effected. Several instances of the successful use of pigeons in this role are described below.