2012 - USA - English - 111 minutes - Alessandro Croseri Productions
Directed by: Alessandro Croseri
Featuring: Col. Clifford A. Poutre, Chief Pigeoneer US Army Signal Corps, 1936-1943
In this debut feature film, director Alessandro Croseri delivers a stunningly beautiful ode to combat pigeons and their pigeoneers.
The documentary follows Col. Clifford Poutre at age 103 during the final year of his life and examines his innovations in
the training of homing pigeons for combat missions during World War II.
Drawing on a rich array of archival footage, the film tells the story of Poutre’s thirty-one years of military service as former
Chief Pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, his successful rejection of “starvation” methods of training in favor of a system
defined by “kindness” and care, his pigeons’ remarkable feats both in combat and in civilian races, and his notable friendships
with the likes of Nikola Tesla, himself an impassioned pigeon handler in the later years of his life.
Through a collection of intimate interviews and black and white photography set to the nostalgic tunes of Glenn Miller,
The Pigeoneers serves up a one-of-a-kind tribute and heartfelt exploration of the complex, interdependent relationships between
humans and the birds we so often overlook.
The Pigeoneers: Film Review
by Frank Scheck for The Hollywood Reporter
June 11, 2012
Alessandro Croseri's documentary about the use of pigeons by the military centers on the centenarian pigeon handler Col. Clifford Poutre.
There’s no doubting that The Pigeoneers, Alessandro Croseri’s documentary about the use of pigeons by the military, is a labor of love.
That’s true of both the filmmaker, a breeder of pigeons himself who clearly feels passionately about his subject matter, and Col. Clifford Poutre,
the centenarian pigeon handler who is the film’s chief subject.
Poutre, age 103 at the time of the filming, was the Chief Pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, responsible for
supervising the training of the winged creatures who would go on to perform vital military duties.
Most of you will probably be unaware that pigeons served such a role, and that ignorance is precisely what the film hopes to redress.
It basically consists of lengthy interview segments with the elderly colonel, clad in his military uniform, and copious amounts of
archival footage and photographs accompanied by vintage Glenn Miller tunes.
Poutre, who clearly still very much had his wits about him, describes his methods in detail, including his rejection of starvation
and punishment training techniques in favor of rewarding his birds with kindness. In an interesting digression, he talks about his friendship
with famed inventor Nikola Tesla, apparently quite the pigeon fancier himself.
It seems downright unpatriotic not to celebrate the accomplishments of these birds who served valiantly and who were rewarded
with such honors as the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Medal.
Opened: June 8 (Alessandro Croseri Productions)
Director/screenwriter/producer/director of photography/editor: Alessandro Croseri
Producers: Avon Jong, Alessandro Croseri
No rating, 111 min.
"This is quite an extraordinary film. It not only tells the story of Col. Clifford Poutre but it contains voluminous
old film clips of homing pigeons in war. For these reasons alone, this is an important film.....The late Col. Poutre
was obviously a charming man with a deep love of pigeons. He makes the case that this kind of affection is essential for really
outstanding performance from your birds. As he tells his life story interwoven with pictures of the Army pigeon corps it
makes a compelling documentary. In addition, he tells of a variety of interesting experiments that he performed. I think
particularly of the idea of a mobile pigeon loft that could be moved from place to place, the training of pigeons to fly at night
in both Hawaii and New York City and the problems that New York City lights caused. He describes training pigeons to fly over water
for 100 to 200 miles and how his pigeons avoided flying over mountains. He describes the behavior of pigeons released from high
buildings homing to a mobile loft at Rockefeller Center and how they simply folded their wings and dove for the loft..........
The account of Poutre's visit to Tesla and the pigeons kept in a bedroom of the Hotel New Yorker is priceless. One can only
imagine the cleaning maids reaction!" Dr. Charles Walcott, Cornell University, New York. Dr. Walcott is a renowned
homing pigeon navigation expert.
"The Pigeoneers is a love story between man and bird. After viewing Alessandro Croseri's sentimental documentary,
there can be no doubt that Col. Clifford A. Poutre loved the many pigeons that he bred and trained for carrier service in WWII.
By both word and deed, Col. Poutre treated his pigeons as though they were human family members, children, buddies. He believed
in control through kindness. He saw pigeons as intelligent beings which would fly better if they trusted him. He accorded his
birds real respect and even reverence. He reveled in their racing and military achievements and he mourned their loss in
warfare and culling.......I watched Col. Poutre's tearful eyes, I listened to his tender words, and I watched him as he gently
caressed and stroked his birds. If I were a pigeon, then I would surely have loved this man." Dr. Ed Wasserman,
Delta Center, University of Iowa. Dr. Wasserman is one of the world's foremost expert on pigeon behavior and intelligence.
"The Pigeoneers is a documentary film by Al Croseri that tells a great Army story about a thinking and adaptive Soldier,
the type of Soldier who has always given the United States Army its edge in combat and in preparation for combat. This Army story
is told through the eyes of Colonel Clifford A. Poutre, who at the time of filming was well over one hundred years old. The
documentary film captures in a poignant manner the professionalism of Colonel Poutre and the passion he had for
the United States Army Signal Corps Pigeon Service and his trusted pigeons." Major General Gill P. Beck, U.S. Army Reserve
"Last night I watched The Pigeoneers with my wife, an historian. She referred to the footage as "a primary historical document"
because it codifies a rare and forgotten history-- that of the use of pigeons during warfare. Remarkablely, the tale is told by a
103-year-old colonel dressed to the nines in military regalia. He's the real deal because he was the "go to" guy in developing
pigeons as instruments of war. The story is warm, interesting and, of course, historical." Dr. Alan Silberberg,
Professor of Psychology, American University, Washington, DC.
THE WAR BIRDS OF FORT MONMOUTH
The Associated Press, USA Today and The Wall St Journal
November 12, 2011
The eagle may be the symbol of American freedom and military might, but no eagle ever received France's Croix de Guerre
for valor,or saved the lives of 1,000 troops trapped behind enemy lines, or walked five miles to deliver vital information
after being shot out of the sky.
Pigeons, of the homing variety, accomplished all of this and countless other amazing feats, during their long and storied
service in the U.S. Army.
Today, few people know about the heroism of these unassuming birds, or the integral role that Fort Monmouth played as the
home of the Army's pigeon breeding and training center from 1917 to 1957.
"Back in the day, these pigeons were rock stars," said independent filmmaker Alessandro Croseri, who is completing a series of
three documentaries about the Army's "pigeoneers," including the late Col. Clifford A. Poutre, a legendary figure
who led the Pigeon Service for many years. "And then, everyone forgot about them."
In peacetime, thousands of people used to flock to the fort every year to see the pigeons. The star attractions included
G.I. Joe, who saved a British brigade that was being bombarded by friendly fire in Italy in 1943, and Kaiser, a one-time
German POW who later delivered messages for the Americans in World War I and went on to live to the ripe, old age of 32,
twice the life span of an average pigeon.
To read the entire "The War Birds Of Fort Monmouth" news article, please visit The Pigeoneers section of the website and scroll down.
Col. Clifford A. Poutre tossing the last bird in 1957 at the close-out of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Pigeon Service,
Fort Monmouth. /Photo courtesy of Alessandro Croseri Productions.
PIGEONS: UNSUNG HEROES OF WAR
By Linda Lombardi, May 21, 2013
Trained to Perform Remarkable Feats
Although pigeons are born with the instinct to return to their home loft, making them effective messengers in wartime
took special training. Most of the men who did this training have passed on, but filmmaker Alessandro Croseri captured
the memories of some of them for a series of documentaries called The Pigeoneers.
For his first film, Croseri interviewed Col. Clifford A. Poutre, chief pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps,
before his death at the age of 103. Croseri says that Poutre "changed the whole attitude about how they were training
the birds." During World War I, trainers thought the pigeons needed to be starved to make sure they'd return.
In contrast, said Croseri, Poutre believed "it's all about kindness and love."
With this positive approach, the pigeons were trained to perform remarkable feats, sometimes at odds with their natural
tendencies. One was flying at night. "The German snipers were looking for the birds - they would shoot them down,"
says Croseri. Night flying made it harder for snipers, but for a daytime bird like the pigeon, it's quite unnatural. The
pigeoneers made it possible by training the birds to a route during the day and then patiently retraining the same route at night.
Pigeons were also trained to fly over open water - a natural skill for a gull or an albatross, but something a pigeon
would never do on its own. This skill allowed pigeons to be carried on planes and used to communicate the location
of a downed crew when other means of communication were destroyed.
Perhaps most amazing is that some pigeons were trained to return to new places so they could be used in different
locations. Normally, the loft a pigeon is trained to when it's young is where it will return for the rest of its life.
"The terminology in pigeon lingo is we say you 'make him stick,' which means you're training him to a new location
and they're not going back to the old location," says Croseri, "which is usually a very difficult thing to do because
their homing instinct is to go back to the place they were trained originally." But at least some birds learned to do this,
including the famous G.I. Joe, who delivered messages for the troops in several places including Tunisia and Italy.
Some pigeons were also trained to mobile lofts that could be moved along with the changing location of the front lines.
"They would move the loft...in a straight line every day for a mile, up to 25 miles," says Croseri. "They told me the birds
were extraordinary. They were sticking to the lofts immediately."
To read the entire article, please click here.
FINE, FEATHERED WAR HEROS
Birds transported vital information during World Wars and before
The Gazette, Montreal, Canada
November 18, 2009
"Alessandro (Al) Croseri, who was kind enough to bring the exploits of these special birds to my attention, has captured
their story in his 8-minute DVD film The Flight, a beautiful and moving homage to the sacrifices that these homing pigeons
made for us in the wars. Croseri also wrote and produced a longer film The Pigeoneers, featuring Poutre.
Next time you scowl at a pigeon in the streets, think about how these birds helped saved thousands of soldier's lives during war."
Dr. David Bird, avian science expert, McGill University, Canada.
ANIMALS IN WARTIME
April 2011 Issue
"Practically every type of domesticated animal, from dogs to pigeons, has been used during wartime-even dolphins have been considered.
But these beasts of burden often became pets to the soldiers struggling in the desperateness of battle.....
Soldiers and officers alike grow strong emotional attachments to the animals that serve with them. Consider homing pigeons, which can home
from short and long distances, up to 800 miles and some even further, and were used extensively in World War I and II.
Col. Clifford Poutre, chief pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps PigeonService from 1936 to '43, "treated his pigeons like they were
family members, children, buddies," said Alessandro Croseri, a documentary filmmaker who has studied the use of pigeons in war.
"They were a soldier's best friend as they saved thousands of lives in combat." Peter Durantine.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF COLONEL CLIFFORD A. POUTRE
US ARMY SIGNAL CORPS PIGEON SERVICE
Colonel Clifford A. Poutre, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, 1936.
Col. Clifford Poutre's Mobile Loft No. 2, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, 1938.
Interior, Mobile Loft No. 2.
The Pigeoneers II featuring the late Sgt. Peter Zakutansky and Lt. Col. Robert S. De Adder.
The film was shot on location at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
SIGNAL CORPS 150TH COMMEMORATIVE SITE
1860 - 2010
GETTING THE MESSAGE THROUGH
U.S. ARMY SIGNAL CORPS REGIMENTAL HISTORY SITE
PRO PATRIA VIGILIANS 1860
FROM LITTLE ROUND TOP TO THE MOON AND BACK
I am honored to announce that Sgt. Peter Zakutansky's Memorial Tribute has been published on both the
Signal Corps 150th Anniversary Commemorative Site and the U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site.
These are official U.S. Army Sites.
Pete's tribute is featured in the Who's Who, Notable Signaleers, 1880-Present, section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site.
To visit the U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site, please click here.
The Signal 150th Anniversary Commemorative Site and U.S. Army Signal Corps Regimental History Site are a product of the Signal Center of Excellence
Knowledge Management Office. The KM Team is comprised of active Signal Personnel, Subject Matter Experts (SME), Knowledge Management Specialists,
Web Design and Network Specialists. All members of the team are or have served in or been affiliated with the Signal Corps.
I am pleased to announce that Sgt. Peter Zakutansky's Memorial Tribute has been published in The Behavioral Neuroscientist
and Comparative Psychologist, Division 6 of the American Psychological Association, Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2010.
Pete's tribute is featured on page 10 of the newsletter. To read the newsletter, please click here.
The Behavioral Neuroscientist and Comparative Psychologist is the official newsletter of American Psychological Association
(APA) Division 6 and is published 3 times a year.
About American Psychological Association
Based in Washington, DC, the American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization that
represents psychology in the United States. With 150,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide.
The Pigeoneers III featuring Ed Schmidt and Ed Gergits. Ed Schmidt served in WWII with the 279th Fighting Pigeoneers
the first overseas unit that was stationed in the Pacific Islands. The film was shot on location in Chicago, Illinois.
a documentary short film by Alessandro Croseri
8 minutes duration
"The Flight--a lovely tribute to the often-overlooked winged heroes of conflicts past." Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYC.
"The Flight reminds us that homing pigeons,by carrying messages and even taking photographs with cameras strapped to their
iridescent-feathered necks, saved lives and won battles in the First and Second World Wars......Al Croseri is to be congratulated
on an effective and moving piece of film-making, and anyone interested in birds and their place in human history is encouraged
to watch this film. It will change the way you think about pigeons." Dr. Rick Wright, Managing Director of Wings, Former Editor
of Winging It, an American Birding Association publication.
"This is demonstrably a moving and informative compilation, with a fascinating mixture of historic still photographs and movie clips mixed in with
your modern New York footage. I am pleased to confirm that The Flight will now be held in the American Air Museum information support collection,
and made available to interested researchers upon request." Peter Murton, Research and Interpretation Officer, Imperial War Museum Duxford, UK.
"Alessandro Croseri's film The Flight is a beautiful and moving homage to the sacrifices that homing pigeons made
as "winged messengers" at times of war and surely will be greatly enjoyed by pigeon-fanciers, war-historians, and laymen alike."
Dr. Cordula Mora, researcher studying navigation and homing in animals, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
THE FLIGHT FILM REVIEWS, PRESS AND MUSEUM COLLECTIONS Click Here
TO PURCHASE THE FLIGHT FILM. Click Here
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