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Leaping Lena – Distinguished Pigeon

Leaping Lena, a Distinguished Pigeon

Leaping Lena was a German pigeon that in 1954 carried an anti-communist message through the Iron Curtain. The source of information for this blog is a series of New York Times news articles and news photographs that were collected by the Signal Corps historical office.

Leaping Lena

Leaping Lena

As one of the articles states, Lena owed her fame to a “blunder.” In a flight from Nuremburg to her home loft in West Germany in the summer of 1954 she got off course and ended up in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. The article goes on “exhausted, she was picked up by a Czech who recognized her German leg band. The finder then addressed a message to Radio Free Europe headquarters in Munich. Lena was carrying a message intended for Radio Free Europe. She arrived home two days later and was turned over by her owner to Radio Free Europe.

Message destined for Radio Free Europe

Message destined for Radio Free Europe

After her recovery, Lena was sent to the United States (August 1954) where she would be ultimately be housed at Fort Monmouth with hero pigeons of WWII.

To make the journey to the US, Lena was flown by plane to New York, where 1,000 pigeons were released by local fanciers to welcome her. Also, there were four WWII hero pigeons there to welcome her. Other members of the reception at the airport included the American Racing Pigeon Union and International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers.

Leaping Lena arrives at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey

Leaping Lena arrives at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey

As part of the ceremony of her arrival, a copy of the message she carried was also sent to President Eisenhower who was a sponsor of the Crusade for Freedom and to Henry Ford 2nd who was the Chairman of the Crusades Board. Upon her arrival in the States, Lena was to take a job as a model and was to pose for an insignia to be used in the 1955 Crusade for Freedom, the United States fund campaign that supported Radio Free Europe. She was also to be an aide of Radio Free Europe.

A thorough search of Pigeon Program documents maintained by the CECOM Historical Office did not yield any information on what happened to Lena after her return to Fort Monmouth. There has been speculation that she was sent to a zoo. If any of our readers have information about Lena or any other pigeons, we’d love to hear from you!

Note: This blog composed by Floyd and edited/posted by Chrissie.

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