How ten Manchester College students ended up on the first UNRRA cattle boat to Europe

When UNRRA contacted M. R. Zigler, the executive of the Brethren Service Committee [see Nov. 14, 2014 post], in late spring of 1945 to say they had a ship ready, M. R., with his vast network of contacts, got on the phone and put the Brethren grapevine in action. Among other things, word was sent to the Church of the Brethren colleges, which by that time had completed their academic years and were gearing up for their summer sessions. Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, was one of those schools.

MC grad Keith Horn recalls having seen a notice on a bulletin board at the college about a ship going overseas with animals. Others learned of the trip through the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference being held at Manchester that year. On its opening day, June 6, 1945, the Brethren Service Committee brought news to the Conference: “[R]elief soon may be possible from the church in America to the church in Europe,” including “heifers by freight shipment.” M. R. Zigler spoke the next day of “news of big shipments.” In just a short time from UNRRA’s first call to M. R., much had transpired – from one vessel to big shipments.

These reports created a buzz throughout the campus. People talked about it on the sidewalks, in their rooms, over dinner – and it was while waiting on tables in the old Oakwood dining hall, that Manchester student Ken Frantz learned of the need for cattle attendants.

In all, ten Manchester College students signed up for this first cattle boat trip. The Gospel Messenger reported that there were 135 students enrolled in the Manchester summer session of 1945. Take ten of those students away, and the college lost over 7% of their student body that summer! But President Schwalm was supportive, as Richard Moomaw, a student leader on campus, relates. When he went to talk with the President to get permission to un-enroll, President Schwalm told him, “So many people are going, you should go, too!”

Because it was mostly a rural denomination, UNRRA had felt the Church of the Brethren would have enough men on farm deferment to provide the cattle attendants for their ships. But there was another deferment that figured into this story, as well – the ministerial deferment. Many of the MC students who went fell into this category. To maintain this status with the draft board, they had to be in school all year round – and that’s why so many of them were in summer school. But whatever the deferment, these students had to get permission from their draft boards to leave the country. Ken Frantz, who lived in North Manchester, recalls that he had no trouble with his board in Wabash. But it was a different story for his brother Dean, who was living in Sydney, Indiana, at the time. The Kosciusko County Draft Board refused to let him go, or he would have been on the ship with Ken, too.

For many of these students, this was something positive they could do to help put a broken world back together again. Gordon Bucher recalls that his mother, in particular, wasn’t too keen on his going. He was just 19, the war was just over, and she was afraid for his safety. But Gordon stood firm. He said to her, “a lot of people have been endangered for the last four years. We hope to do something good, whether we’re in danger or not.” It was a form of service and ministry for many of the cowboys. And two of them – Floyd Bantz and Ken Frantz – even postponed their weddings from early summer to late summer to be able to go.

In a very short period of time, the ten Manchester students had made their applications, gotten their draft board permissions, and were on the train to New Orleans by June 13. They sailed on June 24, 1945, on the F. J. Luckenbach headed for Greece with 588 horses and 26 cattle attendants on board – the first of the 360 UNRRA livestock trips made between 1945 and 1947.

F. J. Luckenbach crew at the Acropolis.

The F. J. Luckenbach crew at the Acropolis in Greece, July 1945. For whatever reason, the cowboys on this ship were not allowed to take cameras on board. This is the only known photograph taken on this trip, likely by an unidentified professional Greek photographer who took pictures of tourists at the Acropolis. Photo courtesy of Ken Frantz

Watch for an extra 5th Friday post next week! Next regular post: Five Elizabethtown College students make the 2nd UNRRA ship out, but arrive first in Greece

 

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6 thoughts on “How ten Manchester College students ended up on the first UNRRA cattle boat to Europe

  1. Peggy, This is wonderful historical information. Thank you for your commitment to sharing the Cowboy stories. I am forwarding this to Heifer Elders (Heifer retirees +). Perhaps they are on your Blog. I won’t send your Blog again, but perhaps individuals can ask to receive it from you. Blessings.

    Yours for Others,

    Bill E Beck

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Bill! Glad you’re enjoying the blog. And thanks for sharing it with the Heifer elders. They can follow the blog simply by signing up in the upper right-hand corner. I should add a thanks to you for being the first one, along with Mel West, to tell the cowboy stories. For those reading this comment who aren’t familiar with your work, the book COWBOY MEMORIES is available through Heifer International.

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  3. Peggy thank you for digging into these gems of Heifer’s history and bringing them to light!!! This morning I spoke at the Second Congregational Church in Warren, ME. I shared the story of 1945-47 where 7,000 seagoing cowboys accompanied 360 shipments to help with the reconstruction after WWII! We could have patted ourselves on our backs and said, “Job well done”. But no, Heifer kept on growing, training, sending livestock, refining. Several from this morning wanted to know more, so I will send them your blog!! Peggy, besides being one of my Brethren Beloved Sisters, you are a cherished Heifer History and Story Telling Sister!

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