Seagoing Cowboy Floyd Schmoe remembered in Japanese documentary

I’m always interested to see what seagoing cowboys went on to do in their lives after their livestock delivery journeys. For many of the younger cowboys, the experience was a formative one. Especially during the UNRRA years of 1945-1947. After UNRRA disbanded, however, and the Heifer Project was on its own, the cowboys, now volunteers without pay, often used these trips as passage to Europe or elsewhere for further service work of some sort. One such cowboy was 52-year-old Floyd Schmoe.

Floyd Schmoe caring for goats aboard the S. S. Contest on his way to Japan in July 1948. Photo courtesy of Judy Rudolph, granddaughter of Floyd Schmoe.

Raised in a Quaker home on the Kansas prairies, Schmoe became a lifelong peace activist. As a young man, he studied forestry, but his studies were interrupted by World War I during which he built prefab homes for war refugees in France through the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). After returning home, he married Ruth Pickering and resumed his forestry studies. He spent the next two decades focused on natural history education in Washington State, serving as the first park naturalist for Mount Rainier National Park and then the first director of the Puget Sound Academy of Science.

With the outbreak of World War II, Floyd’s passion for peace and justice led him in new directions. Concerned for the welfare of Japanese Americans who were being forcibly interned, he tirelessly worked full time on their behalf through AFSC and his own efforts. After the war, appalled by the atomic bombings in Japan, Floyd set out to start a project of building homes in Hiroshima for bomb survivors. In the meantime, the Heifer Project had begun shipments of bulls, and then goats, to Japan. So Floyd took the opportunity to travel to Japan on the S. S. Contest with 227 goats and three other seagoing cowboys in July 1948.

Floyd Schmoe milking a goat on board the S. S. Contest, July 1948. Photo courtesy of Judy Rudolph.

Floyd stayed on in Japan to make contacts for setting up a volunteer home-building work camp the next year. Over the next four years, Floyd’s project “Houses for Hiroshima” built dwellings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that provided homes for nearly 100 families.

Japan Public Television’s NHK World has created a documentary about Floyd Schmoe and his work in Japan. The English version will air today August 10 at 18:10 (PST) and tomorrow August 11 at 00:10, 06:10 and 12:10 (PST).

You can read an essay about Floyd Schmoe’s life here.

Floyd Schmoe lived to be 105, leaving a long legacy of service for a just and peaceful world.

With thanks and appreciation for this story to my contact at NHK World, Jun Yotsumoto.

6 thoughts on “Seagoing Cowboy Floyd Schmoe remembered in Japanese documentary

  1. Of course, Fred Schmoe is extra special to me because my father was one of the other 3 cowboys with him that took goats to Japan. Thanks, Peggy, for linking my dad’s write up of the experience in your article. If anyone reads it, you need to remember that Fred was 52, but my father, Bob Leach, was only 19 at the time, yet he was the only one of the three who had had experience with goats! The older cowboys may have learned from Dad, but he also learned so much about life from them. My father spent the rest of his life talking about Fred and what an impact he had on his life! Such an inspirational man! ***Is there a way to view the Japanese documentary online, Peggy?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peggy, I really enjoyed watching this documentary about Floyd. It’s too bad it will not be available very long. I am so amazed at where your work has taken you. What a wonderful trip to Finland. Are the divers still working on the shipwreck, or was that an old picture? Bless you for all of your hard work on behalf of Heifer and the Seagoing Cowboys. Barb

    On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 6:25 AM, The Seagoing Cowboys wrote:

    > Peggy Reiff Miller posted: “I’m always interested to see what seagoing > cowboys went on to do in their lives after their livestock delivery > journeys. For many of the younger cowboys, the experience was a formative > one. Especially during the UNRRA years of 1945-1947. After UNRRA disba” >


    • Hi, Barb! It’s great to hear from you. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Yes, divers are still exploring the shipwreck. It has deteriorated considerably in the past few years, though, so it looks quite different now than for those who went earlier.
      I haven’t forgotten that I was to give you some edits on your seagoing cowboy and Heifer Project info. I just haven’t managed to pull that to the top of my pile yet. One of these days, perhaps…


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