The patriotically named “President Wilson” was one of the many homing pigeons that served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I. Born in France, his initial assignment was with the U.S. Army’s newly formed Tank Corps. He first saw action delivering messages for the 326th and 327th Tank Battalions commanded by Col. George S. Patton in the St. Mihiel Offensive. Assigned to the forwardmost squad in the advance, soldiers released him from the turret of a tank to fly back to the pigeon loft with a message conveying the locations of enemy machine gun nests. Artillery could then be brought to bear before the infantry advanced.
Following this action, President Wilson supported an infantry unit, most likely the 78th Division, which conducted operations in the vicinity of Grandpré during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On the morning of 5 October 1918, his unit came under attack and heavy enemy fire. The unit released President Wilson to deliver a request for artillery support. Flying back to his loft at Rampont some 40 kilometers away, he drew the attention of German soldiers, who fired on him in an attempt to shoot him down. Despite this challenge, President Wilson managed to deliver the lifesaving message within 25 minutes, an unmatched AEF speed record. When he landed, his left leg had been shot away and he had a gaping wound in his breast.
President Wilson survived his wounds and retired to the U.S. Army Signal Corps Breeding and Training Center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where he led a quiet life until his death on 8 June 1929. After his death, he was preserved and mounted and presented to the Smithsonian Institution. In 2008, the Smithsonian returned him to the U.S. Army, and he is now on exhibit at the Pentagon, just outside the office of the Chief of Staff of the Army.
Source: U.S. Army Artifacts; Center for Military History