Stories from the S.S. Mount Whitney – August 1946: Gdansk on the brighter side

Despite frightening times in Gdansk, Poland, in August 1946, the seagoing cowboys of the S.S. Mount Whitney also had many pleasant experiences. They had the satisfaction of seeing the horses they had tended unloaded and ready to serve the Polish farmers – as well as the unloading of the manure the animals had generated on the ship that would provide rich fertilizer to help rebuild the soils abused by war.

UNRRA horses unloaded from the S.S. Mount Whitney in Nowy Port, Poland, wait to be driven to a collection center, August 1946. Photo by James Brunk.

Horse manure being unloaded from the S.S. Mount Whitney for the fertilizing of Polish fields, August 1946. Photo by James Brunk.

As UNRRA did for most of the cowboy crews, they and the Polish Department of Agriculture took the Mount Whitney men on a tour. They visited one of the collection sites where Polish farmers came to get their new horses.

One of the collection centers near Gdansk, Poland, for the distribution of UNRRA horses. Photo by James Brunk.

Polish farmers receive their new horses from UNRRA, August 1946. Photo by James Brunk.

They toured an agricultural school outside of Gdansk, complete with a stork’s nest, which many cowboys photographed.

An agricultural school near Gdansk, Poland, August 1946. Photo by James Brunk.

Children gather to see the seagoing cowboys at the agricultural school outside Gdansk. Photo by James Brunk.

The stork’s nest at the agricultural school attracted many a seagoing cowboy. Photo by James Brunk.

They experienced the magnificent pipe organ constructed in the late 1700s in the Oliwa Cathedral which had been founded in the 13th century by Cistercian monks. The largest pipe organ in Europe with over 5,000 pipes when built, its architecture incorporated sculpted wooden angels holding bells, trumpets, stars and suns. “The keyboard was about two stories up,” cowboy Alvin Zook said. “A man got up in it and played ‘Rock of Ages’ for us. When he did, the figurines and horn would move to the beat of the music.”

Seagoing cowboys visit the famed cathedral in Oliwa, Poland, July 1946. Photo by Ben Kaneda.

As all UNRRA tours in Poland did, this one ended at a restaurant in the resort city of Sopot where the Polish Department of Agriculture treated the cowboys with a banquet to thank them for their service to Poland.

Restaurant in Sopot, Poland, where UNRRA and the Polish Department of Agriculture treated the seagoing cowboys, August 1946. Photo by James Brunk.

Largest and fastest of the livestock ships, the S.S. Mount Whitney completed her maiden livestock voyage in Norfolk, Virginia, August 23 – less than four weeks after departing from Newport News – another record broken. Nine days later, she would be on her way to Poland with another load of horses.

 

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