Vol. 13


The Flying Messengers of World War II

c. 1942; eight countries in Europe, including England, Ireland, and France

At the age of twelve, young Richard Kasak came home from church and found a pigeon with a broken wing. His father cut a hole in the top of a chicken coop and placed a box in the coop with the pigeon inside it. In no time, other pigeons came around, because Richard offered food and shelter for the wandering birds. He fed them and cared for them for several years. Caring for the pigeons became his hobby and filled much spare time.

When he got drafted into the U.S. Army, Richard was told he would be a radio operator, but he had to test to see what he was best at. He was really good at marksmanship, but marksmen were more likely to die than other people. So Richard purposely did poorly at the marksmanship test so he wouldn’t have to be a marksman. The army decided he was best at carpentry and had him do that for a while. He drove trucks and built outhouses at all of the new places.

Richard learned somehow that the U.S. Army Air Corps1 was creating an experimental unit of 125 men who had experience with pigeons. At first he thought it was a joke, but he was intrigued, so he signed up for this project.

He had to go to training first. Then he had to learn how to teach the pigeons to remember a path and deliver messages from one site to another. There was an 18-foot by 18-foot platform with a hole in the middle that held feed and water. The men set the pigeons in the middle and let them loose. When the pigeons were hungry, they would return to eat. Every three or four days the men would move the platform — beginning with 3 feet, then 100 feet, followed by half a mile, and eventually 18 miles or more. At some point a second platform with feed and water was introduced so that pigeons would learn to fly to more than one place.

After the pigeons were trained, they were taken to the front lines. From there, they carried capsules on their legs with messages in code, saying the soldiers needed supplies or other help. Richard’s unit, called the 277thSignal Pigeon Company, would pass the messages along to people who would get soldiers the supplies or other help they needed.

My great-grandpa Richard Kasak says he didn’t do much in the war even though he helped send important messages that saved many lives and helped win battles.

Emma Miller; Missouri, USA


1. The U.S. Army Air Corps was the part of the U.S. Army that handled aviation. It became the U.S. Air Force in 1947.



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