Legacy Lecture

Feathered Messengers: Homing Pigeons of the American Expeditionary Forces

June 8, 20235:30 pm - 7:30 pm

GCMF Building and online
340 VMI Parade
Lexington, VA 24450

Join us for a lecture by Dr. Frank Blazich at the GCMF building in Lexington, Virginia, on Thursday, June 8, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. A reception will follow the lecture.

The event is free to the public, but reservations are required. To reserve a seat, or for more information about the event, contact [email protected] or call 540.463.7103, ext. 138.

The presentation will also be livestreamed on the Marshall Foundation YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/2Or0E8D) simultaneously. Viewers of the stream are encouraged to write questions using the live video chat (to the lower right of the video) or via email at [email protected]. Chat will be monitored for abusive comments.

When the vanguard of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) landed in France in June 1917, General John J. Pershing and his officers gathered information on every aspect of war on the Western Front. In the field of communications, the Allies emphasized the importance of homing pigeons for communication. With wireless technology in its infancy and wired field phones vulnerable to artillery and enemy eavesdropping, homing pigeons often proved the only liaison with forces in the rear. Subsequently, the U.S. Army Signal Corps established a Pigeon Service which began to arrive in France in November 1917.  Numbering less than 400 officers and men and several thousand pigeons, the AEF Pigeon Service entered the frontlines in late January 1918 and quickly demonstrated its feathered prowess. America’s “war birds” proved reliable in transmitting messages from the field, air, or even from tanks. Within a year, the Pigeon Service provided hundreds of birds for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and the culminating battle of the AEF. Drawing from surviving documentation, film, and photographs, this talk will share the story of America’s smallest doughboys and the men who ensured the message would get through in the War to End All Wars.

A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Frank Blazich, Jr. specializes in the American military experience in the twentieth century. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he holds a doctorate in modern American history from The Ohio State University (2013).

Following his doctoral studies, Blazich served as the historian at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California before moving to Washington, D.C. to serve as a historian in the History and Archives Division of Naval History and Heritage Command. From June to December 2016, Blazich served as the historian on Task Force Netted Navy working for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

In January 2017, he assumed his current position as curator of modern military history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. His first edited book, Bataan Survivor: A POW’s Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II, was published by the University of Missouri Press in February 2017. His second book, “An Honorable Place in American Air Power”: Civil Air Patrol Coastal Patrol Operations, 1943-1943, was published by Air University Press in December 2020. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Nicole, and son William.