Victory Ships Get New Life

I have much to be thankful for during this Thanksgiving season. Next to a loving and supportive family, at the top of the list are faithful readers like you and meaningful work. And in the realm of the latter, exciting things have been happening the past several months.

The end of July, I received an email that added a new thread to my already multifaceted seagoing cowboy research. Michael Delaware, host of the podcast “Tales of Southwest Michigan’s Past,” contacted me. He told me Battle Creek’s Mayor had just received a letter that day from the US Maritime Administration saying that they would like to donate the bell from the SS Battle Creek Victory to the Battle Creek Regional History Museum. Michael, a member of the museum’s board, had found a photo of the ship on my blog and wanted whatever information I could give him about the ship.

The SS Battle Creek Victory docked in Greece, July 1946. Photo by Wayne Silvius.

As it turns out, the museum received both the bell and the wheel from the ship. These artifacts were unveiled in a ceremony at the museum on November 12.

Then in early September, I received an email from Frank Lott, the Executive Director of the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center in Clarksville, Tennessee. He was seeking information on the SS Clarksville Victory and had also found my blog in his search.

SS Clarksville Victory after delivering horses to Poland, January 1946. Photo by Paul Bucher.

His museum had recently been gifted the hull plate from the ship named after their city. This artifact was unveiled at an appreciation event for the museum’s benefactors on November 5.

On October 10, my Google alert picked up an article in the Carroll, Iowa, newspaper about the town having received the hull plate from the SS Carroll Victory, on which I recently did a series of posts.

SS Carroll Victory at anchor, Spring 1947. © Charles Lord.

I realized that something was happening here! I contacted the Maritime Administration to see what other of UNRRA’s livestock ships might have had artifacts that were sent to their namesake cities or universities. Turns out there are seven more. Plus additional ships whose artifacts have not yet been sent. Maritime Administration’s curator Dan Roberts tells me that MARAD has artifacts from 90 Victory ships. Of those, about 18 had served as UNRRA livestock ships. They also have artifacts from seven Liberty ships used by UNRRA’s livestock program.

The Maritime Administration’s distribution program opens up a new arena in which to share the little-known seagoing cowboy history. Michael Delaware invited me to join him on a podcast this month talking about the Battle Creek Victory (I’ll send out the link when it goes live), with plans for an in-person program at the museum in the coming year. And Frank Lott has invited me to speak at the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center in February or March. I’m excited about these new opportunities to share the seagoing cowboy story. Details will be posted on my http://www.seagoingcowboys.com events page when available.

Another aspect of this history I’m learning about through these contacts is the naming and launching of the Victory ships. I’ll write about that in my next post.

In case you missed it, here’s a previous post from 2015 on the ships UNRRA used for their livestock program.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend!
Peggy

Hats off to the U.S. Merchant Marine!

This Veteran’s Day is a good time to take hats off to the U.S. Merchant Marine, long seen as the stepchild to the U.S. military branches. The U.S. government engaged the Merchant Marine in the dangerous job of transporting troops and supplies through hostile seas throughout World War II.

1944 US Merchant Marine recruitment poster. Source: National Archives.

The U.S. Department of Defense reports that nearly 250,000 civilian merchant mariners served as part of the U.S. military during World War II. According to the National World War II Museum, 9,521 of those merchant mariners lost their lives between 1939 and 1945 – a higher proportional loss than in any of the military branches. And yet, these merchant mariners were denied the same benefits and recognition received by servicemen of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Air Force, or the U.S. Navy. It wasn’t until 1988 that the Merchant Marine seamen of World War II were awarded veteran status by the U.S. government and became eligible for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In 2020 then, Congress passed the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act to recognize and honor these World War II veterans. Due to Covid, it wasn’t until May 19 of this year that the award was officially made.

At the U.S. Capitol, World War II members of the U.S. Merchant Marine pose for a photograph with replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to merchant mariners for their service during the war, May 18, 2022. Photo By: Ike Hayman, House Creative Services Photographer

Last fall the American Merchant Marine Veterans held their convention in anticipation of the Gold Medal award in Baltimore on the S. S. John W. Brown, one of two remaining functioning Liberty ships from WWII. Merchant Mariner Lee Cox recalled the ill treatment the seamen got from other servicemen. “We got insulted a lot during the war by the Army guys,” he said in a Veterans History Museum report. “Navy guys would say, ‘Hey draft dodger drunks’.”

After the war, many of these same mariners, and many new ones, operated the merchant ships used by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) to deliver the supplies and livestock to help devastated Allies rebuild.

Crew members steer the S. S. Carroll Victory into port in Kavalla, Greece, November 18, 1946. © Charles Lord.

Deckhands pull up the anchor chain on the S. S. Carroll Victory, January, 1947. © Charles Lord

The seagoing cowboys who cared for the livestock had to join the Merchant Marine.

Merchant Marine ID card of seagoing cowboy Elmer Bowers obtained through the US Coast Guard, 1946. From the Peggy Reiff Miller collection.

For this, they received the pay of 1 cent per month, simply to make them legal workers on a merchant ship.

Seagoing cowboy receives his 1 cent Merchant Marine pay from the captain of the S. S. Santiago Iglesias, early 1946. Name of newspaper unknown.

The threat of war-time attack was no longer present, but danger still lurked in the European and East Asian waterways from the presence of WWII mines not yet cleared.

The underside of the S. S. Park Victory after hitting a mine April 30, 1946, off the coast of Patras, Greece. The ship was pulled to shore and the mules aboard successfully unloaded. Photo by Will Keller, ship’s radioman.

The seagoing cowboys were often asked to take turns with the seamen to stand on watch for the mines. The regular Merchant Marine seamen received extra hazard pay when in these waters; however, the seagoing cowboys, with the classification of “cattleman”, did not. They, nevertheless, are proud of their service, too.

The seagoing cowboy crew of the S. S. Saginaw Victory, September 1946. Photo by ship’s veterinarian, Harold Burton.

How a novel turned into a blog

This will be a more personal post. At my presentations, I am often asked how I got into this seagoing cowboy history. So today, I’ll share that story with you.

It all started with an envelope of my Grandpa Abe’s photos my father gave me some years after grandpa died.
Turns out, Grandpa Abe had been a seagoing cowboy, accompanying a load of horses to Poland the end of September 1946.

I grew up in the Church of the Brethren, the denomination responsible for recruiting all of the livestock tenders for UNRRA’s shipments of farm animals to Europe after World War II. From my youth magazines, I knew about these “seagoing cowboys.” But I DIDN’T know that my grandpa had been one of them. He never talked about it with us grandkids, and we never knew to ask. I knew there were a couple of Polish dolls in grandpa’s attic where we grandkids often played, but I didn’t make the connection until seeing his photos.

After receiving that envelope of photos, I got curious about what grandpa’s trip may have been like. So in January 2002, I interviewed a man from our church, Al Guyer, who I knew had been a seagoing cowboy to Poland. The end of that year, I signed up for a book writing course through the Institute of Children’s Literature to write a young adult novel. Grandpa’s photos and stories of Al Guyer’s eventful trip kept beckoning to me, and I thought, what a great topic! The trip of a 16-year-old seagoing cowboy to Poland! My instructor agreed. The topic was “something new and different under the sun,” she said. Being historical fiction, it would require a great deal of research, so I sought out more seagoing cowboys to interview.

Interviewing J. O. Yoder about his trip to Poland on the S. S. Clarksville Victory in December 1945.

One cowboy led to another, and another, and another. And their stories were so fascinating and compelling that I was hooked! It didn’t take long to realize that this was a rich history, just hiding away in people’s minds, and drawers, and attics, and my mission changed to that of documenting this little-known, not-to-be-forgotten history of how men of all stripes delivered hope to a war-torn world. I’ve been at it for twenty years now, accumulating a sizable archive of cowboy photos and stories too significant to just sit on my shelves.

In 2007, I created a DVD documentary photostory, A Tribute to the Seagoing Cowboys, which I took on a Tribute Tour around the country meeting more cowboys and gathering their stories.

Meeting and hearing from seagoing cowboys at Brethren Village retirement community in Lititz, PA, April 14, 2009.

I started my seagoing cowboys website in 2008, and what a game changer that was! I began to get requests for information of all types related to this history from as far away as Poland, Germany, Finland, and Japan. Inadvertently, I had become the recognized “expert” on the seagoing cowboys and the related history of the Heifer Project.

My novel did get drafted and revised, and revised, and revised, but never published. Instead, it sort of morphed into my children’s picture book The Seagoing Cowboy. In the summer of 2014, while that book was in the works, I decided the best way to get more of this history out into the world was to start a blog. And I’ve been at it ever since.

 

The Longest Ride – Part XI: Homeward Bound!

Good news awaited the cowboy crew of the S. S. Carroll Victory when they pulled into port at Piraeus, Greece, March 7, 1947, with their 277 South African horses and 278 mules. “The UNRRA man here says there won’t be another trip back to South Africa,” Charlie Lord wrote his wife. “I think its probably because of the poor quality of horses. Of our last load 150 have died they say. Also because the Agriculture branch of UNRRA may fold any day, was supposed to on March 1. The last order the Captain has is to come straight to the States.”

During the short stay in Piraeus to unload the horses and manure, Lord had one more wish on this third stop in Greece. He and two other cowboys went to the UNRRA office to inquire. “I asked about how we could get two boxes of BSC relief food past customs and they told me. Then I asked if I could get to an UNRRA horse anywhere near Athens and take pictures of it and the family that owned it. After considerable telephoning, they found where some horses were. The UNRRA official took the 3 of us out to a jeep, he and his driver drove us over the most pilled and bumpy roads I have ever seen out to a little town. There we found a horse in a stable. The man brought it out.” Lord took pictures to his heart’s content of the horse and family, the woman and girls running a loom and spinning wheel in their home, and another UNRRA horse coming back from plowing.

Greek farmer with his UNRRA horse. March 1947. © Charles Lord

Greek farmer’s family in their work room. March 1947. © Charles Lord

“I feel I’ve covered the field now,” Lord said. “I’m finished with Athens.”

By March 10, the ship was on its way home, but a pleasure trip it was not. While in the Mediterranean, the cowboys were tasked with the job of cleaning the livestock holds – twice, as the first day’s work didn’t pass the Chief Steward’s inspection.

Cowboys at work cleaning the stalls on the S. S. Carroll Victory, March 1947. © Charles Lord

Approaching Gibraltar, Lord wrote, “Everyone is getting a little bit excited about our approaching Atlantic passage to the wonderful States. This has been a very long trip, even for regular seamen, and merchant marines.” Uncooperative weather, however, stretched a trip across the Atlantic that took ten days on the trip over to thirteen on the way home. The ship ran into gale force winds most of the way across, slowing it down considerably.

On March 22, Lord’s shipmate Maynard Garber noted in his journal, “The wind is blowing at a mighty gale and waves 75 [feet] high appear like mountains when we go down with a 40 degree angle. The ship is pitching like a seesaw so our speed is cut down to 10 knots or else the ship would break up. We still have 1250 miles yet to go.”

“Prow of Carroll Victory up after it just smacked its nose down into a big one,” Lord notes. “White caps show wind was over 50 mph. Sometimes it was 70. We were on edge of hurricane.” © Charles Lord

Lord noted, “Like the old Model T, we travel further up and down than we do ahead. . . . Richter said he had a book on the side of his bed. It was rather weird to see the book rise from the bed, sit in mid-air, then fall on the floor.” After a particularly rough night, Lord said, “About 1:30 this morning this old tub really bounced. All the light bulbs on the fan tail [quarters] screwed out from vibration during the night and broke on the floor. . . . It took me a long time to get to sleep, what with sliding one way and then the other on my sheet.”

Course of the moon on a rough night, taken with the camera held solid to the ship with the lens open. © Charles Lord

Weather wasn’t the crew’s only problem. On leaving Gibraltar May 15, Lord had noted, “Our food supplies are getting low. We’ve been out of butter for about 4 days. They say we have 200 lbs of flour left, enough for about 6 days.” By the 19th, he wrote, “The whole ship is on bread rationing. Yesterday we got 2 slices of bread per meal. Today it was 1 slice per meal.” March 25, three days before reaching New York, Lord said, “We haven’t had any white bread for 2 days, flour is all gone. Had corn bread for lunch that had cereal or something in it, too. Only powdered eggs yesterday and today. Our food is running out. They say that yesterday the captain said, ‘Full speed ahead. We’d just as well drown as starve to death.” Neither was their fate. On March 28 the S. S. Carroll Victory safely reached New York.

Approaching New York City, March 28, 1947. © Charles Lord

Garber noted, “Today at noon we at last saw the Statue of Liberty. It was foggy so we were close before we saw it. This afternoon we dropped anchor out in bay and will be on the boat until the customs have cleared us.

The S. S. Carroll Victory outside New York City, March 1947, soon to be retired as a livestock ship and move on to further adventures. © Charles Lord

Garber concludes his journal: “Thus after 143 days on ship, we spent 89 days on the sea, 54 days ashore and 46 days at work.”

On the inside cover he quoted this Walt Whitman poem:

The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

And so the seagoing cowboys of the S. S. Carroll Victory had.

The seagoing cowboy crew and Captain of the S. S. Carroll Victory, March 1947. Photo by Paul Beard.

Peggy Reiff Miller to speak at Dayton International Peace Museum

If you live near Dayton, Ohio, I invite you to come to my presentation at the International Peace Museum, 10 N. Ludlow Street, on Saturday, October 15. I’m excited about this opportunity to share the wonderful story of how the seagoing cowboys and the Heifer Project helped to build peace from the rubble of World War II.

In Memoriam

Once again, on this 5th Friday, we remember seagoing cowboys who have departed from us.

Brightbill, Richard Ray, September 3, 2022, Weston, West Virginia. S. S. Gainesville Victory to Poland, June 4, 1946.

Julius, John J., September 11, 2022, York, Pennsylvania. S. S. William S. Halsted to Greece, January 11, 1946; S. S. Mount Whitney to Poland, November 30, 1946.

Silvius, Wayne, September 3, 2022, Ashton, Illinois. S. S. Battle Creek Victory to Greece, June 29, 1946.

Vernon, Charles L., December 12, 2016, Huntington, Indiana. S. S. F. J. Luckenbach to Poland, August 28, 1946.

Warner, Ralph Myers, August 15, 2022, Broadway, Virginia. Heifer Project shipment to Germany, December 7, 1956.

Rest in peace, dear seagoing friends.

The Longest Ride – Part X: Revisiting Durban

What was meant to be a 2½-month journey, now entered its fourth month as the S. S. Carroll Victory pulled into Durban, South Africa, a second time on Saturday, February 8, 1947. Add the time spent in Newport News waiting out a maritime strike, and Charlie Lord had been away from his wife for nearly half a year and was itching to get home, as she was to have him home. Responding to six letters he received from her on arrival in Durban, he said, “The shipping business is apparently the most uncertain business in the world. When a freighter leaves on a trip they never know how long the trip will take. . . . Yes, it was rather unfair for BSC to estimate this trip at 2½ months, because they should have known it would be longer. Of course they didn’t know we would pick up cargo at Haifa and unload it at Beira (2 weeks) and Durban (2-3 days). . . .

“I’m not the only one that’s ‘fouled up by the fickle finger of fate’ as Sesser says. Half a dozen of our cowboys were planning to start college terms in the first days of February. They have one by one seen the opening days of their colleges come and go. It means missing a term of college for them.”

Lord took advantage of the unloading and reloading time in Durban to dig further into the mix of cultures there. When he learned there was to be a Zulu dance Sunday afternoon, he grabbed his cameras to photograph it. “It was interesting but not nearly as much as the dance at Beira,” he said.

Zulu dance, Durban, South Africa, February 9, 1947. © Charles Lord

The next night, four of the cowboys went to the International Club for a demonstration on portrait photography. Lord took his camera and flash gun along, wanting “to take a shot of Europeans, natives and Indians sitting side by side at a meeting – a tiny spot of democracy in the middle of South Africa.”

The wife of the editor of an Indian newspaper in Durban, South Africa, poses for a demonstration on portrait photography at Durban’s International Club, February 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

Lord spent another day immersed in Indian culture, guided by contacts made during his first stop in Durban. He and three other of the cowboy photographers toured Sastri College, a high school and teachers college for Indians, and were taken into homes to photograph families and the Hindu temple where they worshipped.

An Indian woman cooks for her family in Durban, South Africa, February 12, 1947. © Charles Lord

An Indian farmer in Durban, South Africa, sorting egg plants, February 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

“We came home feeling that this day we had accomplished something really worthwhile,” Lord said, “had got a pretty representative picture of an Indian family on film, instead of snaps shooting monument and tourist spots.”

A desire Lord had on his first stop in Durban came to fruition this time. Through his Quaker contacts, he and two others had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at Adams College about 20 miles outside Durban, a Christian mission school for natives, as well as the Adams Mission day school.

The boys’ dormitory at Adams College, Amanzimtoti, South Africa, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

An 8th grade boy and 9th grade girl students at Adams College, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

Children marching in to Adams Mission Day School, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

They visited natives in their huts, some where students of Adams Mission Day School lived. “It was a very interesting hut on the inside. The floor was hard and smooth made by mixing cow dung and black earth from ant hills. It is hygienic and durable. The ceiling was shiny black, almost dripping from the smoke from fires in the hearth in the center.”

The grandmother of one of the Adams Mission Day School students in their hut. © Charles Lord

Quite a contrast to the Adams College buildings.

When Lord arrived back at the ship the evening of February 15, he wrote his wife, “The news is heart-breaking. They are to pull the Carroll out into the stream tomorrow and bring us in Tuesday to be loaded. 4 more days delay! No one knows why.” His frustrations grew four days later. “The dad-blamed UNRRA officials are putting only 555 horses on our ship, and the Creighton Victory which is also here now. And the one of them will have to come back.”

Everyone was on pins and needles until the Carroll Victory pulled out for Greece with their cargo of mules and horses February 21 with the welcome news that the Creighton Victory would be making the return trip to Durban. “It sure feels good to be out at sea again,” Lord told his wife, “especially since every mile is one mile closer to you.”

to be continued

Special Post: International Day of Peace

On this International Day of Peace, I honor the Seagoing Cowboys
who helped usher in peace after World War II.

A seagoing cowboy reflects on visiting the memorial being built where the first shots of World War II had been fired. Gdansk, Poland, July 1946. Photo by Charles Shenk.

Seagoing cowboy Guy Buch, fluent in German, is being interviewed by German media. Buch was part of a special crew of Church of the Brethren seminary and college students intent on having dialogue with German Christians. Bremen, West Germany, July 1946. Photo courtesy of Guy Buch.

Another special crew tested whether black and white seagoing cowboys could work together on the same ship. The cowboys pray together on their return from Poland to the United States. July 1946. Photo by Ben Kaneda.

On this International Day of Peace,
I also honor the Brethren Service Committee and the Heifer Project
whose mission it was to build peace in a war-torn world.

Seagoing cowboy Martin Strate shakes the hand of a Japanese official after a ceremony to celebrate Heifer Project’s shipment of 25 bulls to Japan, May 1947. Photo by Norman Hostetler.

A “Campaign for Peace Action” brochure of the Church of the Brethren Peace Education Department, circa late 1940s. Courtesy of Heifer International archives.

May peace prevail in these troubled times.

~ Peggy Reiff Miller

 

The Longest Ride – Part IX: Vignettes from Mozambique, 1947

Beira, Mozambique awaits, January 1947. Photo by Paul Beard.

The S. S. Carroll Victory arrived at the port city of Beira, Mozambique, on January 24, 1947. The ship remained anchored to a buoy in the harbor for a week before a berth opened up on the docks, where it spent another week for the unloading of the tons of phosphate aboard. For 50 cents round trip each, the seagoing cowboys could hire a launch to take them to shore during the first week, which many did.

Seagoing cowboys board a launch to take them to shore, January 1947. © Charles Lord

The tropical heat enticed the cowboys to move mattresses into the empty horse stalls.

Beating the heat, until rain chased them inside on occasion. © Charles Lord

It also heated up the ship’s water tanks. By the 11th day, Charlie Lord wrote home, “The water that comes out of the ‘cold’ faucet is too hot to wash your face in comfortably. I took a shower tonight and it was like a steam bath, I couldn’t stay under it for more than a few seconds at a time. I checked with a thermometer tonight, and the water from cold taps is 114º. . . . The hottest it got was 132º.”

Two days before docking, the entire cowboy crew hired a large launch to take them up the Pungwe River to view wildlife, mostly several hippopotami bobbing up and down spurting water and monkeys running along the river.

Seeing the sites on the Pungwe River, January 29, 1947. © Charles Lord

“We passed thatch villages,” said Lord, “met natives in dugout canoes, and stopped at a village where there was a sugar refinery.” They came back down river and turned up the Buzi River across the bay from Beira. In the town of Buzi, they feasted on bananas, papayas, bread fruit, melons, coconuts, and other tropical fruits.

Paul Beard took the challenge and successfully climbed a coconut tree, tossing three down. © Charles Lord

Other cowboys, including Charlie Lord, bought bunches of green bananas for 40 cents a bundle. Photo by Paul Beard.

On their second full day docked in Beira, Lord and two of his camera buddies decided to walk into the countryside to see what they could find.

A native hut by an ant hill outside Beira, Mozambique, February 2, 1947. © Charles Lord

They passed through several native villages, and then, Lord said, “We noticed a rhythmic beating sound that seemed to come from a village to our left.” They followed the sound. “The beating and pounding grew louder and louder. My heart was in my throat – hoping, hoping. We emerged from the buildings into a clearing among the trees to see hundreds of people packed around a crude stockade. In the stockade a native dance was going on.” For the equivalent of 60 cents, Lord got permission from the chief to take photos.

The rhythm section and leader of the native dance in a Mozambique village, February 2, 1947. © Charles Lord

“For a few minutes, they were self-conscious and stiff,” Lord said, “then the rhythm got into their blood and they forgot all about me. The line’s left wing was composed of people shaking boxes with sand, pebbles and other things back and forth in rhythm. Each box had its own tone. There were castanet-like instruments, and sticks, women who sang and chanted and on the right the drum section. Five or six men sat on the ground with tom toms between their knees. They were hollowed out tree trunks with skins stretched tightly over the ends. The big tom tom, about five feet long, had the most beautiful tone of any drum or tympani I have ever heard, bar none. It’s tone was uniquely bell-like. And did those people have rhythm!!! It just took you and shook you. They completely lost themselves in the ecstasy of the dance, their faces glowed with complete joy.”

As always, Lord talked with a variety of people to get a feel for the culture of the place. Mozambique at the time was a Portuguese colony in which only the Portuguese could vote, he was told. On their walk through the countryside, Lord and his buddies had come to a Chinese settlement. He reflected to his wife, “The social scale can be illustrated thusly in rough simplicity – Portuguese ride cars, Chinese bicycles, natives walk. The Portuguese do absolutely no work. The Chinese do work but almost entirely shop keeping, I think. Even they have the natives do their menial tasks. . . . The Greeks and other whites are in the Portuguese class, Indians are about on a par with the bicycle class, I think.” The natives did not think kindly of the Portuguese. Lord found the natives to be the friendliest people of all he had met on his trip.

~ to be continued

The Longest Ride – Part VIII: Havoc in Haifa

In January of 1947, a second stop in Haifa, Palestine, gave the seagoing cowboys of the S. S. Carroll Victory a chance to further explore this country of unrest under British control in which Jews were being resettled after World War II.

On arrival, the cowboys walked around and shopped in upper or “New Haifa” which Charlie Lord described as “the beautiful Jewish section on top of Mt. Carmel.” Some made a trip the second day to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee.

New Jewish office building, upper Haifa, Palestine, January 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

Arab mosque beside the Sea of Galilee, January 11, 1947. © Charles Lord

Maynard Garber and a friend chose instead to hike up Mt. Carmel that day, meeting two English-speaking young Arab men on the way. “They were much disturbed over the problems arising over the Jews,” Garber noted in his journal. “They admitted that the Jews were smart people and could help Palestine a lot, but they said the Jews wouldn’t want them once they got control. . . . Young Arabs here with an education are very brilliant, but they say we will soon be fighting the Jews for this country.”

The next night, January 12, Lord wrote a lengthy letter to his wife. “Today has been a hundred days, a book condensed into one page.” It began with a tour by several of the cowboys of the Jewish HaZore’a kibbutz, a 45-minute bus ride out of Haifa.

HaZore’a kibbutz near Nazareth, January 12, 1947. © Charles Lord

“All eat together, share everything in this commune,” Lord said, describing the tour in detail. “Doesn’t sound very exciting yet, does it,” he said. “It still didn’t when we came back on the ship and sat down to supper. I had just started on my jellitin [sic] dessert when there was a loud boom and the 7500 ton ship shook beneath us.” Two blocks away from the ship’s berth – at 5:20 p.m. according to two cowboy diaries – a truck full of bombs exploded at the Northern Palestine police compound. The New York Times the next day headlined an article, “Haifa Blast Ends Palestine Truce: Kills 4, Injures 142.”

The blast set off a scurry of activity for the seagoing cowboys. Some of them were in town near the compound when the bombs went off. Fortunately, none were seriously hurt. Lord and others on the ship grabbed their coats and cameras and headed into the city. “The guards let us thru much to our surprise,” Lord said.” The cowboys witnessed plate glass from the store fronts covering the sidewalks on lower Haifa’s main street Kingsway, shopkeepers frantically picking up contents from their stores, firemen fighting the fire in the police compound, and the wounded being carried out on stretchers. When attempting to take pictures of the broken glass, an Arabian Palestine policeman grabbed Lord by the coat and dragged him into an office in the shattered building and through a narrow alleyway of barbed wire to find a British authority to whom to turn Lord over. Fortunately for Lord, and much to the disdain of the policeman, the Britisher let him go when Lord explained who he was and what he was doing.

Fellow cowboy Robert Richter got pulled into the action in a much more poignant way. While standing near an ambulance, a British soldier said to him, “Help me bring my buddy down, will you?” Richter did. Filled with emotion, he slowly shared the gory details with his shipmates back on the ship. Richter also learned from the guards the details of the bombing, which pretty well match this account found online.

The driveway at the Haifa police compound where the truck full of bombs parked. The force of the bomb bowed out the heavy wire screens. January 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

Store owner sweeping up glass broken from the force of the blast. Haifa, Palestine, January 13, 1947. Photo by Paul Beard.

Another shopkeeper cleaning up after the bombing. Haifa, Palestine, January 13, 1947. Photo by Paul Beard.

Lord and others were able to take their photos of the aftermath the next morning before the Carroll Victory departed with 5,000 tons of phosphate, per Garber’s account, for Mozambique.

~ to be continued