A World War II hero with feathers

His name was GI Joe, and his story began on Oct. 18, 1943. The British 56th Brigade had entered the town of Colvi Vecchia, Italy. They found little resistance and occupied the town days ahead of schedule.

There was a problem, though. American warplanes were scheduled to bomb the town. The raid had been prearranged, before the British knew what they would find in the town. Now the British urgently needed to call off the attack. They tried to contact the bomber base by radio and telegraph, without success.

So a message was strapped to GI Joe's leg, and he was released for the 20-mile flight to the United States Air Support Command headquarters. He reached it 20 minutes before the bombers were due to depart. In fact, the planes were on the runway, warming up their engines. Without doubt, GI Joe's arrival saved the lives of many of the 1,000 British troops in the town.

After the war, GI Joe received the Dickens Medal from the mayor of London - the only animal ever to receive the honor. He then retired to the Churchill Loft, a sort of "pigeon hall of fame" in Fort Monmouth, N.J., with 23 other homing-pigeon war veterans.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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