Homing Pigeons in the Tunisian Campaign

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.

2. On 17 March 1943, a pigeon brought in the very first news of the American advance on and occupation of Gafsa, Tunisia.

3. During the height of the battle of El Guettar, Tunisia 45 Urgent, Secret and important messages were delivered; many more could have been delivered during this period except for the fact that there were too few lofts available for the front.

4. On the Mateur-Bizerte front 72 Urgent, Secret and other messages were carried during the 16 days that pigeons were available far communication.

5. On or about 5 April 1943, during the battle of El Guettar, Tunisia, the message center placed four messages on a single bird. Two of these messages were from General Patton, then II Corps Commanding General and were addressed to the C-in-C of the 18th Army Group! and two messages were from other high staff officers, and were addressed to the same place; these messages were marked Secret and Urgent.

6. On or about 1 April 1943 an Urgent-Secret telegram was carried by one of our pigeons from the II Corps Message Center at Gafsa, Tunisia to Tebessa, Algeria, a distance of 90 miles in the short time of 100 minutes. The telegram was from Lieutenant General Patton and it was sent through by pigeon when other means of communication were temporarily out of service due to intense enemy activity and extremely bad weather conditions.

7. Special value was derived from Homing Pigeons by using them to bring in orders for Urgently and critically needed items of ammunition from the front line ammunition dumps to the rear supply depots.

a. As a result of this work the G-4 of II Corps stated that the use of pigeons in the difficult country had resulted in the receipt of front line routine daily requirements and reports in excellent time and had appreciably expedited the preparation of consolidated requirements. (These long reports were thus delivered promptly and regularly from widely scattered units, by other than electrical means.)

8. On 6 May 1943 a pigeon brought in the first news to II Corps of the Allied break-through at Tebourba, Tunisia, which led to the capture of Tunis on the following day.

9. On 9 May 1943 a pigeon brought through the very first news of the surrender of the German 10th and 15th Panzer Divisions by almost two hours; a very careful check of this fact has been made and it has been confirmed. The pigeon flew 65 miles in 82 minutes with the message from Major General Harmon addressed to the Commanding General, II Corps; as the First Armored Division had advanced beyond its other lines of communication above Bizerte.

10. During the Tunisian Campaign all units using the pigeons, placed great confidence in them, and very important messages from G-1-2-3 & G-4 were entrusted to them.

[Source: TNA WO 204/2930, transcribed by www.arcre.com]