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HISTORY FACTS * The strangest recipients of WWII medals *

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HISTORY FACTS * The strangest recipients of WWII medals * Empty HISTORY FACTS * The strangest recipients of WWII medals *

Post by Paul Sun 05 May 2024, 5:24 am

Three pigeons were awarded a military medal in 1943.




HISTORY FACTS * The strangest recipients of WWII medals * Scree292











Pigeons have always gotten a bad rap, especially when you consider the disparity between their reputation and that of the dove — which is actually just a pigeon with a better PR team. In addition to being much more intelligent than you may have realized, some members of the Columbidae bird family are even war heroes. This includes the three pigeons who were awarded a military medal in 1943, all of whom served in the U.K.’s Royal Air Force. White Vision, Winkie, and Tyke were the inaugural recipients of the Dickin Medal, which was created by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) to honor animals who aided Britain’s efforts in World War II; the carrier pigeons delivered lifesaving messages that led to the rescue of ditched aircrews.



All three decorated pigeons traveled great distances to complete their duty, with Winkie flying some 120 miles in order to alert the RAF Leuchars air base of his handlers’ predicament. The flight crews were located within 15 minutes, and all of them were saved. The birds’ medals, meanwhile, included this citation: “for delivering a message under exceptionally difficult conditions and so contributing to the rescue of an Air Crew while serving with the RAF.” In the 80 years since the Dickin Medal was created, a total of 32 messenger pigeons have received the medal alongside as many as 38 dogs, four horses, and one cat. The bronze medallion is inscribed with the words “for gallantry” and “we also serve.”




By the Numbers



  • Amount that Tyke’s medal was sold for in the year 2000

    $7,313





  • Fastest recorded speed (in miles per hour) of a pigeon

    92.5





  • Distance (in miles) from which a pigeon can return back to its nest

    1,300





  • Amount that racing pigeon New Kim was sold for at a 2020 auction

    $1.89 million






DID YOU KNOW?

Pigeons can be trained to detect cancer.

More and more studies have shown the range of avian intelligence in recent years, though few are as surprising as the one in which 16 pigeons were trained to detect cancer. The birds have similar vision to humans, and were able to distinguish between malignant and benign growths in magnified images of biopsied tissue — an early step in screening for the disease. They were rewarded with treats for pecking a touchscreen with two answer buttons on it, and, after going through training, attained individual success rates of about 85%. When “flock sourcing” all 16 of their responses in aggregate, however, that rate rose to 99% — almost perfect accuracy. Despite that, study co-author Dr. Richard M. Levenson said that he doesn’t “anticipate that pigeons, no matter how good they become at pathology or radiology, will be playing a role in actual patient care — certainly for the foreseeable future.” It’s still enough to make you reconsider using the term “bird-brained” as an insult anytime soon.
Paul
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