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Can You Crack The Code?

November 27th, 2012

You know the spy movies today with all the cool gear, crazy disguises, and amazing technology?

Hard to imagine, but in World War II — just a generation ago — one of the most effective secret weapons was … pigeons.

Yes, pigeons.

WWII pigeon. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

A quarter of a million of them were used during the war, many of them to carry messages. They rarely got lost, they could fly 80 miles per hour, and could cover 700 miles in their travels!

For the past few weeks experts have been trying to decipher a top secret code that was found in a little red cannister attached to the skeleton remains of a dutiful World War II pigeon. It was found when a homeowner in the UK, David Martin, was cleaning out his chimney.

Mr. Martin actually found the bird with the secret code 30 years ago, in 1982, but some people made a push earlier this month to have modern day code crackers find out what was so secret. And, so far, Britain’s best code breakers say they aren’t having any luck .

The code inside the cannister. Photo credit:

Some historians think the secret message might reveal something really important because pigeons’ messages weren’t often coded. And this code isn’t the same as other known codes, making it seem even more secret.

Experts continue to work on the code, but any help or information from the public is now welcome.

One historian joked with the BBC News that the most helpful tip came from the public already. The person suggested that, “since the message was found in the chimney, the first two words are most likely to be “Dear Santa.” Ha!

To watch a BBC News video of carrier pigeons during World War II, click here .

What do you think it says?

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