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.
On this International Day of Peace, I honor the Seagoing Cowboys
who helped usher in peace after World War II.
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.
May peace prevail in these troubled times.
~ Peggy Reiff Miller
If you missed my program for the Indian Valley Public Library last week and would like to see it, you can tune in to the 56-minute recording here. I talk about the ways in which the seagoing cowboys and the Heifer Project contributed to building peace after World War II. Enjoy!
The seagoing cowboys on the S. S. Carroll Victory had some tense moments before putting their feet on dry land in Kavalla, Greece, in November 1946. Charlie Lord wrote to his wife, “A sudden squall struck us this morning and blew like fury, with rain. Our ship went off the course and we wandered through mine fields without knowing where the cleared channel was. Then the weather cleared and we came into this beautiful harbor about 8:31 A.M.”
“An ancient castle dominates the scene with a Roman viaduct crossing the narrow valley below. The rest of the wide-flung area of mountainside is covered with white and yellow square houses with rose-colored roofs, set one above the other, step like on the mountain side.” Fellow cowboy Maynard Garber noted in his diary, “Kavalla in Paul’s time was known as Neapolis. The castle was probably frequently visited by Paul during some of his missionary journeys.”
The Carroll Victory stayed six days in port at Kavalla, giving the cowboy crew plenty of time to explore the area and absorb its history. On their second day, Lord said, “The British army took the whole cattle crew to Philippi, just over the mountain in a transport truck this afternoon. We had a marvelous time, looking at the ruins of the ancient Roman city.”
Garber noted, “To some of the fellows, the place was just a pile of stones, but to most of us the place had some meaning. It was here that Paul on one of his missionary journeys built a church. As we walked around on the wide stone foundations we knew that it was here that Paul preached. We then had the privilege of seeing the prison where Paul was imprisoned for the night.”
The Carroll Victory cowboys had the joy of seeing some Heifer Project animals that had previously been distributed in villages around Kavalla. “In one home,” Lord said, “the woman gave up her room to the heifer, and she sleeps with the children.”
Five of the cowboys got a ride with a British army truck over the mountains one day to find a village of thatched huts. “Fog was very thick,” Lord said. “We started walking up a path away from the road. We went about the distance we thought it should be to the village though none of us had been there. Then we stopped debating what to do. The fog lifted and there was the village across a ravine.”
“It was like a picture from a storybook,” Lord said. “The people in their black woolen and fur clothing were carding wool, sewing clothing, and putting up the pole framework of another hut. The people were friendly if their dogs were not, and let us take all the pictures we wanted.”
“We came back over a very high mountain, saw lots of fortifications on the top . . . then ran down the mountain strate [sic] to supper. They threw a birthday party for the Chief Steward tonight. He asked me to take pictures for him. I did, figuring they may fit in my interracial story since captain and chief mate sat next to him at the table.”
“The steward said it was best birthday party he’d ever had,” Lord told his wife. “Captain said he was glad to see cattlemen there, was sure we’d have a good trip.
“We have had a wonderful six days in Greece. We will probably spend 2 or 3 days in Haifa getting a boiler fixed, then on to Durban, S. Africa.”
~ to be continued
Once again, my thanks to Charles Lord for so graciously sharing his letters and photos with me.
After UNRRA disbanded in early 1947, the Heifer Project continued, shipping on a more limited scale. Many of the cowboys used these Heifer Project trips as their transportation to Europe for volunteer or work assignments. Merle Crouse was one of those young men, sailing to Germany in November 1952 to his Brethren Volunteer Service project.
He recounted his trip with two fellow cowboys to his parents in a letter from Germany:
“We finally left New York harbor on the night of the 22nd on the American Traveler with our 63 cows including Green Hill and Easton’s, a bunch of shelled corn, and scads of Rockingham County (Va.) frozen broilers. Between the cows and the Rockingham fried (potential) chicken, I felt at home with the cargo at least. In the morning of that day we had run around in big shoddy New York to the German consulate on 42nd Avenue (in overalls) where we got German visas stamped into our passports. Getting our passport and visas were our only red tape since cowboys no longer need seaman’s papers as they are now considered as passengers rather than crew.
“. . . Our setup was such that we all divided the cows into 3 sections with each of us in charge of our own bunch. I named all mine—Mitsy (the only one milking, left her calf in U.S.), Salty, Malty, Sleet, Fog, Polly, Molly (a beautiful purebred Jersey which produced our only calf the day before we got in port), Fransosisch (Deutsch for French—she had a sneaky French personality), Maw (La Pierre), Gertie, Edy (pantry girl at La Pierre), Tonto (lone Ranger’s Indian), Parvin (Parvin Biddle from grammar school), Ada (the Ayrshire), Trigonometry, Futility, Temptation, Baldy (had a white topknot) and Mamie (Ike’s wife). The other fellows only named a couple of theirs.”
All three of the cowboys were experienced farmhands. The Heifer Project shipments generally did not have a veterinarian on board like the UNRRA shipments had, so the cowboys were left to their own devices. Crouse describes the difficulties they had with a cow in labor:
“She didn’t appear to be near freshening so we let her go until the following morning we went down and found her bearing a calf which was huge and dead. We tried to help her for an hour but got only the head out so we went up to see the officers as instructed if emergencies arise. The purser (a surgeon-general in the Navy) was afraid to apply his medical knowledge to cows but was ready to do any thing we said, the first mate was our contact man with the captain who said that we could use anything on the boat, but try to save the cow. None of them could offer any knowledge aid, so the 1st mate got the boatswain and 3 crewmen to come with block and fall and we pulled so hard that the cow was dragged out of her stall and nearly choked because we had her head tied on the other end. Dudley and I searched intensely to see if we could relieve the point of friction which was at the pelvic bones of the cow. Here the calf’s front legs were folded wrong and was too much to get thru the space naturally provided. Pulling was no answer so, after a conference we decided to try to keep her living in that condition until we hit port at Bremerhaven, Germany and a veterinarian. . . . We had 36 hours to wait before we hit port and the cow died 32 hours later at 4 A.M. tho she seemed well at 11 P.M. We hated to lose her but could do nothing else for her.”
The cow wasn’t all they lost, however. “We made a mistake by leaving our boots as usual in the hold with the cows when they took her out at Bremerhaven, since a thief (probably German longshoreman) stole my good old 5-buckle artics and left me bootless. . . . I now trust no one with anything.”
In 1945, the Brethren Service Committee of the Church of the Brethren (BSC) and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) came together to create the seagoing cowboy program. Three Brethren mavericks made it happen.
Dan West (1893-1971) – The Visionary
Drafted into the Army as a conscientious objector in May of 1918, Dan West came out of World War I with the lifelong goal of doing as much for peace as a soldier does for war. Two decades later, in his position as Peace Representative for the Church of the Brethren, he was sent to Spain at the invitation of the Quakers to provide relief to those suffering from the Spanish Civil War. Observing children dying from a shortage of powdered milk, he thought of his own little girl at home. “This idea struck me hard,” he said. “Suppose we were unable to provide plenty of food for her right now. I was suddenly determined to do something for these children.” That “something” was his idea of sending cows to Spain so the people would be able to feed themselves.
West promoted this idea relentlessly after coming home in early 1938. Finally, in 1942, the Church of the Brethren District Men’s Work of Northern Indiana took hold of the vision and set up a committee to make it happen. Shortly after that the Brethren Service Committee adopted it as a national program which they chartered in January 1943 as “The Heifer Project.” West served as secretary of HPC for many years, continuing to provide his vision for the evolving organization.
M. R. Zigler (1891-1985) – The Promoter
A contemporary of Dan West, M. R. Zigler shared West’s passion for peace. Brethren historian Donald Durnbaugh referred to Zigler as “the soul of the Brethren Service story.” Zigler started his service to the denomination in 1919 and in 1934 was named to head up the Board of Christian Education which was in charge of the church’s responsibilities for peace concerns. Both West and Zigler worked tirelessly together on peace issues as rumblings of war grew stronger and stronger in the 1930s. They pushed for the creation of a Brethren Service Committee to be ready for postwar relief. Started in 1939, BSC became a chartered board of the denomination in 1941 with Zigler as its Executive Secretary. His bold and loving personality inspired and influenced people to give of themselves and their resources, and he became a great promoter of the Heifer Project. As such, he convinced UNRRA, which had not been planning to include livestock in their relief shipments, to ship the Heifer Project cattle. A trial shipment of purebred bulls to Greece was set up, introducing Maverick #3 to the picture.
Benjamin G. Bushong (1898-1965) – The Tireless Administrator
A longtime friend of West, Pennsylvania dairy farmer and Guernsey breeder Benjamin Bushong was called upon to find the bulls. With the success of that shipment, UNRRA decided to include live animals in their agricultural rehabilitation shipments. They called on Zigler for help in finding the men to tend their animals on board for a few shipments. Zigler, in turn, put out the word for livestock attendants and drafted Bushong at the June 3, 1945, HPC meeting to go to Washington to oversee the process. Before long, BSC had signed an agreement with UNRRA to provide the estimated 8,000 livestock attendants UNRRA would need for their planned shipments of 200,000 animals. The “seagoing cowboy” program was born, with Bushong, the tireless red-tape cutter and organizer, at the helm. After serving on a volunteer basis for a number of months, he became Heifer Project’s first full-time salaried Executive Secretary in January 1946.
In his biography of M. R. Zigler, Pragmatic Prophet, Don Durnbaugh states,
“No doubt it took the qualities of all three leaders to make the Heifer Project what it became—the visionary Dan West, the promoter M. R. Zigler, and the tireless administrator Ben Bushong. Added to their talents, of course, were the contributions of countless thousands of donors, seagoing attendants, fund raisers, and the rest.”
This past Tuesday was the International Day of Peace, so it’s fitting to conclude Milford Lady’s vignettes with his reflections on entering the Mediterranean Sea in both wartime and peacetime.
9:00 [P.M.] – Dec. 17 
Tomorrow we will enter the Mediterranean Sea. This gives me a strange feeling. It takes me back to the year 1943 to the first time I entered the Mediterranean on June 6th. (My mother’s birthday). We left Bizerta, North Africa, with a liberty ship loaded with 200 Army men, with their equipment, guns, ammunition, trucks, etc. – bound for Malta. This was before Italy stopped fighting, and these men were to protect our invasion forces while they invaded Sicily. At 5:00 P.M. we were attacked by both German and Italian planes. We were bombed continually for 8 hours. I was on watch from 8-12 in the engine room during this time. We suffered a near miss which landed right off our starboard side, flooding our ship, shifting all our cargo to the port side and knocked out all our lights. I will never forget my feeling as I stood there about 20 feet underneath the surface of the ocean in total darkness, sure that we were seriously hit, awaiting my orders to abandon ship, not sure that I would ever see light again. At that time, I was helping transport death and destruction to Sicily and Italy.
Tonight I have a feeling of happiness. Tomorrow when we enter the Mediterranean I will be helping to transport life and hope to the people of Italy. I feel that in a small way, I am now helping in the greatest job in the world, that of building world peace. The terrible mistake of the second World War cannot be compensated for. However, I feel that it is organizations like the H.P. C. [Heifer Project Committee] that will in time prove to the world that the only way to lasting peace is through Christianity– abiding by the Golden Rule following the example of Christ.
I find it hard to believe that it was people exactly like this Italian crew (in fact it is possible that even a member of this crew) were the same ones who were trying to take my life and all others aboard our ship in 1943. I am sure that they look at us and wonder how fellows like us dropped bombs on their country and almost completely destroyed it. We are working together now for a common cause, which makes us great friends. Surely this is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps one of the main reasons I love the sea is because out here we are governed by the international law. If a ship is disabled at sea the nearest ship will come to its aid whether it be Russian, German, or Italian, or any other nationality. The nearest ship will come to help at top speed. Why can’t we work together the same way as nations.
Today’s story continues seagoing cowboy Milford lady’s account of his stormy trip to Italy in December 1947. Unfortunately, I have no pictures from this trip.
10:00 [P.M.] – Dec. 13
This is the 10th day at sea, and there hasn’t been one day that we haven’t been taking seas over the sides. It seems the heifers are always wet. Last night she was shipping so much water that several of our stalls were filled with water. The cattle were standing ankle-deep in water, and very dirty, so today we took forks and shovels and cleaned out the wet stalls, and rebedded them. . . .
We are getting excellent cooperation from the Italian crew, much better I am sure than if we were sailing on an American Union ship. They helped us build the new stalls. Today while cleaning the stalls, we tossed the manure into the alley-ways, and they tossed it over the side. The morning following the storm they were all on deck helping us free the cattle. They are continually shifting the canvas trying to keep our feed dry. . . .
Today in order to make room for [the] latest fresh heifer, we decided to move a large Holstein bull from aft to forward with the other bull who is tied between the winches under a canvas. After the crash the other night we decided to untie all the animals. Consequently, the bull was untied. Joe and I got into the stall to get a rope around his neck, but he didn’t like the idea, and proceeded to jump over the boards dividing the stalls, landing on two heifers. The heifers moved away letting him drop head first down in the stall with his hind parts in his original stall, draped over the dividing boards. We put the rope around his neck while he was helpless, then took a couple of turns around a post to hold him. Then [we] went around and heaved his hind parts over. He got up charging this way and that, until I thought he would pull the stalls over. After he had settled a little, by popular vote of looks, I was elected to lead him forward. There was always plenty of slack in the rope, and we really moved, so it is a matter of opinion whether I led him or he chased me. Anyway, he is now tied forward. I am going to keep my distance when I feed him tomorrow.
9:00 [P.M.] Dec. 17
Today the 6 cowboys, the skipper, and the passengers all went forward, took 5 heifers, one bull and 6 calves out of their stalls, and took a number of pictures. I took charge of the bull. We kissed and made up after our little difficulty the other day, and are now good friends.
Next post: Reflections on war and peace
Seagoing cowboy Milford Lady wrote a detailed day-by-day report for the Heifer Project office of his December 1947 trip on the Italian ship S. S. Humanitas. His account illustrates one of the dangers cowboys faced on the high seas, adding to a previous post about the storm the Humanitas encountered on its third day out:
5:00 A.M. – Dec. 6
Our hopes for a trip with no loss are now shattered. . . . [B]etween 3:00 and 3:30 A.M., a sea came over the starboard side forward with such force, that the stalls went crashing to the deck, trapping the cattle underneath. We all dressed and ran up on the bridge. We talked to the Captain, then he slowed the speed of the ship, changed her course, so the seas would not break so high and turned on the cargo lights, so we could work on deck. We tryed [sic] to cut some of the cattle loose. We released only three heifers when the wind got so strong that when Tassel raised up from working with one of the heifers, the wind hit him and knocked him back about 10 ft. We were all wet through and through and trying desperately to hang on to something, and keep clear of the long seas. Then the captain ordered us back inside. I was the last one. . .with Tassel just ahead of me. We took it slow, staying in the shelter of the stalls, but we had a short distance to go to the ladder with no protection from the wind. Tassel walked around the corner of the stalls, and the wind hit him with such force that it blew him back against me so hard that both of us were blown back against the bulkhead. I was hanging on to a cable for all I was worth trying to hold a light on the ladder. It was all we could do to get up the ladder with me pushing him and he pulling up. . . . [Lady later learned the storm they were in had winds of 75-80 miles per hour.]
At present time I am in bed writing this letter with a heavy heart. The cattle are on deck with a pile of lumber on them. . . . We can do nothing until it gets light enough to protect ourselves. The heifers we cut loose are out on deck sliding back and forth trying to stay on their feet. They are not seriously injured. Perhaps we can save a number of them. . .
My thoughts were the thoughts of 5 other cowboys when we looked at the cattle trapped and bleeding under a mass of wreckage this morning. We thought that at least half of them would be dead, but by some miracle, there is only one dead now. . . . Many of the cattle have deep cuts and bruises. They will require a lot of attention to keep them alive.
Sunday – Dec. 7
Last night it was too dangerous to make our rounds on deck. Yesterday a big sea broke over the side and swept the first officer over against the hatch, and injured his leg. He is still in bed. His leg is not broken. The second officer also has a badly sprained ankle as a result of the rough sea.
Today . . . we are trying to shift the heifers around so as to give them the best available shelter. . . . Sometime when you are bored and want some excitement, try leading a milk Holstein heifer from bow to stern of a liberty ship with the seas breaking over both sides, ducking around cables, chocks, cleats, and numerous other things found on ships’ decks, the deck very slippery and ship rolling about 30%, with the heifer falling down about every 20 ft. pulling you down with her. It’s a toss-up to see who gets up first, you or the heifer.
Next post: Beware the bull!