The Carrier Pigeon – A World War II Saga

During World War II, Indian Hill resident Dorothy Rowe sought to keep her soldier son and his friends informed of local news, and started a newsletter, the Carrier Pigeon. Many Indian Hill young men were in service and away from home, and it documented their accomplishments and contained news from the home front.


When her son enlisted, Mrs. Stanley Rowe informed her husband, “You know what I think I’ll do? I’ll gather up the news of what’s going on at home, and send it out to our son and his friends so they won’t be so homesick, and when they write back, I’ll send out their own news to each other. I’ll be sort of a carrier pigeon.” Frank Moore, the rector of Indian Hill Chapel admired her idea. Mr. Moore was so enthusiastic that the church agreed to pay the printing costs, and the mailing list was made up of members of Indian Hill Chapel in the service, any friend of these young men who were in service, and the wives of the boys overseas. The congregation could get copies of the newsletter at church, but they were not on the mailing list.


Mrs. Rowe saved clippings from newspapers that noted events of interest, and saved them in a box. When renowned artist Charles Dana Gibson was visiting his daughter (Irene Emery) and heard about the plan, he drew a masthead of a wise little carrier pigeon whispering all the news into the ear of a grinning serviceman. After gathering stories from the G. I.’s acquaintances, they were printed in four departments in each issue: Chapel Notes, Friends of the Family, Town Chatter, and Specials.


On October 10, 1942, Issue No. 1 was ready, with the words “This is the first of a number of papers specially published for you – the boys and men in the services who have gone from our families… You are always in our thoughts and prayers and we want you to know it…” The boys were asked to send in notes about their doings, many of which were spotlighted in the Specials department. Over the next three years, approximately seven weeks apart, the Carrier Pigeon was delivered until the final issue on August 1, 1945. From Chunking, China to the jungles of Burma, the swamps of Okinawa, the deserts of Africa, and the front lines in Italy, France, and Germany, word went forth to 141 servicemen.


Women of the Chapel helped Mrs. Rowe address and mail the publication, and the Rangers, in those days of gasoline shortages, delivered issues between editor Rowe and her staff. The team cut the printed pages, stuffed and addressed envelopes, and maintained a card catalogue of addresses of the boys (some of whom had 7 address changes).


The newsletter linked servicemen with the community at home. Eager for news of mutual friends and the home front, many wrote appreciative letters to Mrs. Rowe, including vignettes about their wartime experiences, which were printed in subsequent editions of the Carrier Pigeon. Replete with war stories and full of emotion and humor, it boosted the morale of all involved. News items included one serviceman who received a promotion and cabled his bride, ” I don’t have to salute your father any longer;” reports that one of the 141 was in a POW Camp in Germany; and the death of the youngest boy on the mailing list, killed in action. Hometown events – new babies, engagements, parties, and news from school were regular features.


Once the war ended, returned servicemen sought to honor Mrs. Rowe, who had kept them bonded through her efforts. They presented her with a large silver punch bowl, signed by all 141 subscribers, the names of the four deceased, and her initials. The punch bowl was borrowed by Mrs. Rowe’s “boys” for festive family events over the years before being donated to the Cincinnati Historical Society. The Carrier Pigeon, an amateur newspaper, was a unique facet of Indian Hill during World War II.