As the sub-headline suggests, 1916 was an era where a bird could be counted on as more reliable and speedier than “aeroplanes” or “the wireless.” Today, of course, with supersonic jets and instant communication worldwide via the Internet and other digital devices, that is no longer true. The U.S. military stopped using messenger pigeons in 1957. Yet the NYT article estimates that 18,000 such pigeons were being used in France alone during 1916.
The author even suggests that readers mobilize to help out in the war effort, not by rationing food or donating war bonds as were the most typical methods, but by training carrier pigeons yourself:
And you, the reader, may take part in such a nation-wide scheme of preparedness by raising and training your own homing pigeons and holding them ready for the service of the military authorities in time of war or your community in time of peace. On every motor trip you can take a few pigeons and fly them back home from various distances, or any friend in a distant town will delight in flying them to you and telegraphing the moment of release. Express companies on all railroads carry crates at low cost, and I have uniformly found their agents courteous and willing to release the birds on arrival and to ship back the empty crates.
I wouldn’t count on agents being as “courteous and willing to release the birds on arrival” in this day and age.
Carrier Pigeons an Aid to Preparedness: Europe’s War Has Shown That Homing Birds Often Beat Aeroplanes and the Wireless in Carrying Military Dispatches
From July 16, 1916