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Library program explores unsung heroes with 'War Pigeons'

Feb 12, 2021

Camden — On Thursday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m., the Camden Public Library presents an online program sure to appeal to history-lovers and bird enthusiasts alike: author Elizabeth Macalaster of Brunswick will provide an illustrated slideshow discussing her fascinating new book "War Pigeons: Winged Couriers in the U.S. Military, 1878-1957." Email jpierce@librarycamden.org to request a Zoom link to attend.

For more than seven decades homing pigeons provided the U.S military with its fastest most reliable means of communication. Trained by pigeoneers to fly up to 60 mph for hundreds of miles, homing pigeons served our country in four wars on four continents. Weighing barely a pound, these extraordinary birds carried messages in and out of gas, smoke, exploding bombs, and gunfire. They flew unwavering through jungles and over desert and icy mountains, not faltering even when faced with an expanse of ocean to cross. Time and again, when all other means of communication failed, pigeons were trusted to carry home vital messages. Sometimes they arrived nearly dead from wounds or exhaustion, but only death itself stopped them.

"War Pigeon" is the first complete accounting of the remarkable service of homing pigeons with American armed forces, from its fledgling beginnings after the Civil War, to the birds’ invaluable role in communications through both world wars and beyond. "War Pigeons" chronicles a poignant and enduring legacy.

Macalaster started her career as a marine biologist, studying a deep-water, North Atlantic octopus. She then turned to science journalism and worked for the Department of the Interior and the EPA on water quality issues. Macalaster writes science and history articles for magazines and newspapers on topics ranging from bridges to homing pigeons.

For more information on this and other upcoming programs from the Camden Public Library, visit librarycamden.org.

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