As evidenced by this interesting chart below, in WWI and WWII pigeons were neatly wrapped and packed to be thrown off from airplanes. Why? Read more about their actual uses for below the chart.
Homing pigeons’ ability to deliver messages over great distances has been utilized during war for at least the past 2,000 years. During WWI and WWII, they had some more specialized uses too. According to the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA), in WWII all RAF bombers and reconnaissance aircraft carried pigeons in special watertight baskets and containers and, if the aircraft had to ditch, the plane’s co-ordinates were sent back with the pigeon to its RAF base and a search and rescue operation was effected. Thousands of servicemen’s lives were saved by these heroic birds that flew often in extreme circumstances.
In Germany, pigeons were used as messengers and reconnaissance photographers. The German aviators would outfit pigeons with tiny rapid-fire cameras strapped to their bellies and release the birds from airplanes within enemy territory. The birds would then fly back home, all the while photographing potential enemy terrain. (Source)
So indeed, pigeons are like Forrest Gump. Wherever there is history in the making, they’re there.