In the why-didn't-I-think-of-that department, a new medal has been created in the U.S. modeled after the U.K.'s Dickin medal for gallantry in animals. The Washington
Post reported on the inaugural award ceremony this week on Capitol Hill. -Editor
Capitol Hill is divided these days. Impeachment hearings are leaving public servants cast as spies and saviors, connivers and guardians.
Perhaps that is why applause for a stuffed pigeon in a plexiglass case in a House building seemed particularly vigorous on Thursday evening. The bird has been dead for 58
years, but during World War II, he saved more than 100 Allied soldiers by flying 20 miles in 20 minutes to deliver a message that aborted an imminent bombing by friendly forces.
His name was GI Joe, and he was one of the eight recipients of a new charity-sponsored medal of bravery for American war animals.
Organizers, members of Congress and animal handlers present said the awards were long overdue. Some called it a historic day. A few wept. One of GI Joe's postwar caretakers —
who said the pigeon's speed on that fateful day probably was assisted by a tail wind — teared up as he patted the bird's case. Now, as then, GI Joe did not waver.
Against the backdrop of impeachment, that theme stood out: No matter that the honored animals — five dogs, two pigeons and one horse — almost certainly did not know their
nation's mission or enemies. They knew their jobs and did them with nary a peep, bark or neigh. Some speakers mused about why the animals acted bravely, citing loyalty to pack,
adoration for handlers, and programming by training. Everyone said they were heroes.
"Let the record show: Sergeant Reckless was a lot more courageous than I," former senator John W. Warner (R-Va.), a Korean War veteran, said of a horse who served in that
Reckless knew to run for cover during incoming fire, shared tents with fellow Marines, enjoyed beer and bacon, and most important, carried 9,000 pounds of ammunition in 51
round trips over steep, frozen hills during the 1953 Battle for Outpost Vegas. The mare was later named a staff sergeant by the Marine Corps commandant.
Animals have served in battles for as long as war has been waged. Dogs are most common now, but Hannibal used elephants, Genghis Khan rode horses, and the U.S. military has
recruited bats, dolphins and chickens. Since 1943, an animal welfare charity in the United Kingdom has awarded the Dickin Medal, roughly equivalent to the Victoria Cross, to war
animals. But while Reckless received two Purple Hearts, there's not much pomp these days for nonhuman veterans on this side of the Atlantic.
Hutton said she got the idea for the awards — officially called the "Animals in War & Peace Medal of Bravery" — after accepting a Dickin Medal on Reckless's behalf in 2016
and wondering why such an honor didn't exist in the United States. Her goal is to open an international war animals museum in the Washington region and give medals annually. The
event was sponsored by her charity, Angels Without Wings, and the National Marine Corps League.
In addition to Reckless and GI Joe, other animals posthumously given medals were Chips, a pet husky mix whose family volunteered him for service in World War II; Stormy, a
German shepherd who helped capture enemy soldiers during the Vietnam War; Lucca, who lost her left front leg to one of the many roadside bombs she detected in Afghanistan.
Also honored was Cher Ami, a World War I pigeon shot down by Germans while carrying a crucial message ...
Bucca, a former stray who overcame a rough past to become a star arson-detecting K-9 for the New York Fire Department, glanced around the room as her handler placed the shiny
golden medal around her neck.
Great idea - it's high time for U.S. animal heroes to receive their due. -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
U.S. animals now have a medal for wartime bravery
The article and web site (linked below) don't have any numismatic details on the medal itself. The right is a cropped image from the Washington Post article. The box
indicates it is from insignia makers Cleave of London. I'll reach out and try to learn more. -Editor
For more information, see:
HONORING ANIMALS THAT HAVE SERVED OUR COUNTRY IN WAR & PEACE (https://waranimals.com/medal-of-bravery)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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