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 VI: Exploring Segregated Pre-Apartheid South Africa

The Brethren Service Committee accepted the job of recruiting UNRRA’s cattle tenders with the motivation of providing “an unusually broadening and educational experience” for the men who served. The S. S. Carroll Victory‘s stop in Durban, South Africa, to pick up horses for Greece in December 1946 most certainly provided that opportunity for Charlie Lord. His eight days in Durban gave him a window into the racial situation in South Africa that led to the creation of the “Apartheid” laws and system only months later in 1948.

Durban, South Africa, December 1946. Photo by Paul Beard.

On his first full day in port, Lord looked up two fellow Quakers who helped arrange some visits for the Carroll Victory seagoing cowboys. The first tour took them to the McCord Hospital for Natives, located, not without objection, in the fashionable white Berea section of Durban. “Twenty-one cattlemen took the bus,” Lord said. “We rode thru miles of a beautiful city. . . .They have 325 beds, are forced to turn away people all the time. Short of money, help and equipment. Very, very interesting!”

Children at the McCord Hospital for Natives, Durban, South Africa, December 1946. © Charles Lord

That evening, Lord went with one of his Quaker contacts to a meeting of the Joint Council of Europeans and Natives to hear Mr. Barrett, the Chief Magistrate of Durban, speak. “His talk was interesting,” Lord said, “but the discussion afterwards was much much more fascinating. Intelligent natives really put Barrett on the spot. He was obviously on the defensive all the time. After the meeting ended, several cattlemen talked with 3 or 4 of the Negroes for about half an hour, and learned an awful lot.”

The next day, Lord and some other cowboys spent time with Lord’s other Quaker contact. “Maurice told us the origin and nature of the Indian problem in S. Africa,” Lord said, “the background of the present Passive Resistance movement. We all found it fascinating.

“When we first arrived I wondered why everything is marked European or non-European, why they divided it that way. I can understand now. That is the easiest way to separate the white from all the other groups when you have four distinct castes. They are:
–White European – about 25% of the Union of SA maybe
–Indian – 20% or less of Natal [the province where Durban is located] (not the Union)
–Native – 50 to 75% in both Natal and the whole Union
–Colored – small % of mulattos
The Indian men tend to be intelligent, good businessmen, but women uneducated. Many of the men own shops, make lots of money, which is probably one of the reasons for white hatred of them – economic.”

The next afternoon, cameras in tow, Lord set out on his own to explore the Indian quarter. He fortunately was taken under the wings of a couple of honest young Indian men who took him around. “Without them I would have been sunk,” Lord said, “might even have been in real danger.” The men took him through the Indian and native barracks, separated by a wire fence and built and owned by the city of Durban for city employees. “Some of them are very bad,” Lord said, “but many are quite nice. The native barracks were significantly better constructed and planned than the Indian ones.”

Native barracks, Durban, South Africa, December 1946. © Charles Lord

Barracks in the Indian quarter, Durban, South Africa, December 1946. © Charles Lord.

Lord’s “good-will ambassadors” took him into Indian homes, to a Hindu temple, and into an off-the-beaten-path basement pool hall, all the while explaining to Lord Indian customs and grievances. When back uptown, reminiscent of his experience in Virginia, Lord noted, “We couldn’t go in a restaurant to eat together. I bought a sack of candy and shared it with them.”

Another full day followed, with a regular bus tour for the cowboys into Zululand and the Valley of a Thousand Hills, a place where they could not have gone on their own. “You have to have a pass to enter the territory,” Lord said.

Cooke’s Tour Bus in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa, December 17, 1946. Photo by Paul Beard.

“We saw lots of wonderful photographic material but breezed right past most of it. We did stop at one native village, fairly typical I guess, except for commercialization.”

Zula huts in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa, December 17, 1946. The white-walled hut is the Chief’s. © Charles Lord.

A tall Zulu lad, December 17, 1946, Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa. © Charles Lord.

Lord’s stop in Durban was rounded out by viewing movies taken by a friend of one of his Quaker contacts showing “extraordinary” footage of Indian yearly festival customs, native war dances, and native religious ceremonies, capped off with “quite a discussion on politics” with a young Afrikaner of Dutch descent who was there.

Lord’s eight days in Durban had indeed provided a truly “educational and broadening experience”.

~ to be continued

Once again, my deep appreciation to Charlie Lord for granting me permission to share his photos and accounts from his letters.

Oceans of Possibilities: Turning Swords into Plowshares

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!

~Peggy

The Seagoing Cowboys and the Bruderhof

For some reason, the photos intended for this post were omitted this morning, so I am resending it with the images included.

At this time of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for the wonderful people my husband and I met or reconnected with this month on my 12-day speaking tour out east. I also give thanks for the work of sharing the seagoing cowboy stories that has, by providence, been placed in my hands. My tour took us to the Hagerstown, MD, and Elizabethtown, PA, Churches of the Brethren; the Living Branches Mennonite retirement community in Souderton, PA; and four Bruderhof communities in New York and Pennsylvania. I was able to tell specific stories of their own related cowboys at each place – always a joy. And particularly this time at the Bruderhofs.

The Bruderhof is a 100-year-old intentional Christian community with over 25 settlements on five continents. The members practice radical discipleship in the spirit of the first church in Jerusalem. After they came to the United States in the 1950s, a number of young Church of the Brethren families joined the movement, and today there are more than 600 descendants of the Church of the Brethren throughout the Bruderhof. Having grown up and been active in the Church of the Brethren, it was great fun for me when I first visited the Maple Ridge community in New York in 2016 to discover the many connections I had with Bruderhof members.

Heifer Project started in the Church of the Brethren in 1942; and when World War II ended in Europe in May of 1945, the Brethren Service Committee became the recruiting agency for the livestock tenders, dubbed “seagoing cowboys,” which the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration would need for their shipments of animals to Europe. I learned in 2016 that some of the Brethren families who joined the Bruderhof had been active in raising animals for the Heifer Project in those early years, that some of their relatives had served as seagoing cowboys, and that some of their young adults had recently spent a year volunteering at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas.

Bruderhof member Kathy Fike Mow & her sister Elsie in the right of this photo join other children in presenting money they had raised for a heifer to farmer Paul Rhodes in Astoria, IL, in 1944. Photo courtesy of Kathy Fike Mow.

So on this year’s trip, I went with stories in hand of Bruderhof relatives’ involvements in the Heifer Project and as seagoing cowboys to share with the four communities we visited. Being able to share a piece of their ancestral history at their high school and three of their elementary schools was the highlight of my trip.

Presenting the Heifer Project and seagoing cowboy story to 9th graders at Bruderhof’s The Mount Academy. The high school is located in an amazing former monastery. Photo credit: Rex Miller.

After basking for six days in the love and hospitality offered to us in the Bruderhof settlements we visited, and being inspired by their model of radical discipleship, my husband and I came away with hearts full of gratitude and refreshed for our journey home and the responsibilities that awaited us there.

With my husband Rex on the Hudson River at The Mount Academy, November 10, 2021.

May the Spirit of Thanksgiving embrace you as well.

The three Brethren mavericks behind the Heifer Project and the Seagoing Cowboys

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

Dan West. Photo credit: Kermon Thomasson

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

M. R. Zigler in his Geneva, Switzerland, office, circa 1951. From the Guest book of Gerry and Bernice Pence.

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

Benjamin G. Bushong. Photo courtesy of Mark Bushong.

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.”

 

A seagoing cowboy’s impressions of 1947 Japan

All eyes have been on Japan this past weekend with the closing of the Olympics, bookended by the anniversaries of the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An event embracing the peaceful coming together of athletes from nations around the world took place in the backyard of the sites of the most horrific destruction ever to be waged on another country. Today’s post steps back in time for a look at a significant goodwill gesture in 1947 to this former World War II enemy—a shipment of 25 purebred Holstein bulls made by the Heifer Project to help the war-diminished Japanese dairy industry rebuild and nudge Japan and the United States forward on a path to peace.

Martin Strate, at that time a Heifer Project staff assistant, was one of three seagoing cowboys who accompanied the bulls to their new homes in April 1947. A few months after returning home, he wrote up his “Opinions and Impressions of Japan.” He said, “Prior to 1940, the Japanese were recognized as one of the better importers of U. S. Holstein cattle.” He noted that the war had reduced the number of dairy cattle there by 40% and this shipment would help with rehabilitation of their herds.

Seagoing cowboy Norman Hostetler holds one of the Heifer Project bulls for inspection on the S. S. Alfred I. duPont after arriving in Japan, May 9, 1947. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

“The animals were allocated and distributed to sixteen national and prefectural livestock breeding stations throughout Japan,” Strate says. “With the cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, we made arrangements to visit and inspect these governmental farms. The purpose of this travel was not only to inspect and advise, but also to interpret to the Japanese the desire for peace and understanding among people throughout the world and that this gift to them came as an expression of brotherly love and practical Christianity. . . . That any group within a former ‘enemy’ country should make a forthright contribution to them was beyond their comprehension.”

After a 10-day quarantine for the animals, the Japanese government held a formal ceremony for the presentation of the bulls.

Martin Strate, fourth from the right, stands between Japanese Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Kimura and Governor Uchiyama of Kanagawa Prefecture following the ceremony, May 19, 1947. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

“This memorable occasion was only the first inning of a rich game of new experiences and warm fellowship,” says Strate. “Every day in Japan brought something new and interesting. There was never a dull moment from Hokkaido to Kyushu—the Maine-to-Florida idea in Japan. We were cordially received everywhere by the government officials, many of whom were Christians.”

The three cowboys at a banquet given for them at the Shizuika Governmental Livestock Farm. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

Among the “stimulating experiences” Strate mentions was having tea with the Mayor of Hiroshima. “We talked with him more than an hour about his reconstruction plans for the city, current attitudes of Hiroshima residents, the material and spiritual damage of the Atomic Bomb, and the Annual Peace Festival which was being held for its initial time on the anniversary of the A-bomb; another courageous display of faith in the future, and their ambitious desire to help accomplish what so often seems only a dream today.”

View from the top of Hiroshima’s City Hall located about 1/2 mile from where the A-bomb was dropped. June 1947. “The city is gradually being rebuilt,” Hostetler says. “They say this was all fine homes at one time.” Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

Strate concludes, “I thank God that this privilege of visiting Japan was granted to me, that I might be an ambassador of the peace-loving forces in America toward helping to strengthen the common bonds between us. Through this gift of dairy cattle, the concerned people of our country will help build and develop harmonious and prosperous relationships by such a display of Brotherly Love.”

Brethren Service Committee brochure announcing a contest for the best ideas for “concrete, workable plans” in their post-World War II Campaign for Peace Action.

Instructions for Masters of Livestock Carriers

A year ago, this blog took a look at the “Information for Livestock Attendants” issued to seagoing cowboys by UNRRA’s recruiting agency, the Brethren Service Committee. Created by a couple of cowboys eight months after the program began, the document would give applicants an idea of what to expect on their trips delivering dairy and draft animals to Europe after World War II. It took a whole year into the program and many misunderstandings about the lines of duty between the regular ship’s crew and the cowboys before UNRRA saw the need to supply the Masters of the ships with a document outlining these duties to clear up existing confusions. Here’s a sampling of their instructions:

All Veterinarians and Attendants are directly responsible to the Master. Attendants will take orders directly from the Veterinarian in charge.

Attendants will board the vessel 24 hours previous to loading of animals. They are signed on separate articles at 1¢ a month, but are not required to sign off. [But don’t feel sorry for them—they received $150 per trip from UNRRA.]

Newspaper and date unknown. A seagoing cowboy gets his one-cent pay from his Captain.

Attendants shall place hay in all stalls previous to loading and shall feed and water animals and keep stalls clean and assist the Veterinarians in every way possible. They shall move all feed, etc. from feed compartments to the different decks where animals are carried.

Pulling up hay on the S. S. Woodstock Victory, January 1947. Photo courtesy of Roy Auernheimer.

Where winches are used to hoist feed, dump manure or dead animals, the winches are to be operated by members of the ship’s crew. The crew is to assist in every way possible, especially in the removal of dead animals.

Not all animals survived the trip. The S. S. Charles W. Wooster crew buries a horse at sea, April 1946. Photo courtesy of Perry Bontrager.

The Attendants will always move manure to the square of the hatch and place same in cargo net. The crew will then discharge it over the side.

At the present time, all ships, except those proceeding to Bremerhaven, are saving manure for disposal in Europe, as it is needed for fertilizer. It should be stowed on deck, or in any convenient place below deck, but should not be allowed to collect in stalls. For ships calling at Bremerhaven, manure should be dumped at sea. Stalls are to be cleaned at least twice a week.

Manure is offloaded from the S. S. Mount Whitney at Nowy Port, Poland, July 1946. Photo courtesy of James Brunk.

A small amount of manure and straw left in stalls is desirable, as it helps the footing of the animals.

The Chief Engineer shall make certain he always has a full supply of spare parts for the blowers. The Bureau of Animal Industry may at any time ask for a volumetric test to be made of the ventilating system, to make sure they are getting a complete change of air every five minutes.

One hour before the loading of the animals, the ventilation system should be put into operation. The Chief Mate should see that all buckets are in place, fresh water hoses led out, and that the Attendants have feed in the stalls. This is important as the animals, just after loading, are in a highly nervous condition. [The lack of ventilation systems on some early shipments led to many animal deaths.]

When horses are carried, there is usually from 40 to 50 stalls left empty for use as hospitals. Cleaning the stalls can be accomplished by moving four horses in one ten foot pen into these empty hospital stalls. When this pen has been cleaned, the horses in the adjoining pen are moved into the pen just cleaned, and so on down each row of stalls.

Hospital ward on the S. S. Attleboro Victory, December 1946. Photo courtesy of Harold Cullar.

On the return voyage, the Attendants will clean and wash down all compartments where animals were carried, so that on the vessel’s arrival at her loading port, she will be ready for disinfecting. This will mean a considerable saving in both time and expense at the loading port.

Washing down the stalls on the S. S. Lindenwood Victory, August 1946. Photo courtesy of L. Dwight Farringer.

It is suggested that at the commencement of each voyage, the Chief Mate of the vessel and the Veterinarian in charge of the Attendants, instruct their respective men as to the duties of each group, in order to avoid friction later.

How well these instructions were adhered to is anybody’s guess! Some Captain’s had a mind of their own.

First Heifer Project shipment to Czechoslovakia sailed 75 years ago this week

The Czechoslovakian Embassy in Washington, DC, expressed interest in Heifer Project’s offer to send cattle to that war-torn country in early December 1945. In the short time of one month, all red tape was cut and 171 heifers, donated by church groups from ten of the United States, departed from Baltimore January 6, 1946, on UNRRA’s S. S. Charles W. Wooster. On arrival in Bremen, Germany, the seagoing cowboys on this trip would have had similar experiences with those of UNRRA’s first shipment for Czechoslovakia. The animals, however, had little time to adjust to standing on solid ground. Czechoslovakian cattle experts transferred them into rail cars for a long arduous week’s trip to the Silesian area of northeastern Czechoslovakia, one of the regions that suffered the most during World War II.

The heifers arrived in Silesia in good condition February 4, where they were put in quarantine at the State Farm in Nerad near the border of Poland. After a meeting in Frydek to finalize distribution agreements, the officials involved drove some 25 miles to the farm to inspect the cattle.

“We crossed 29 wooden, propped up bridges, of very temporary construction, as all bridges in this region had been destroyed by the retreating Germans,” says Vlasta A. Vrazova of the American Relief for Czechoslovakia in a February 18, 1946, report to the Brethren Service Committee. “A year ago, war raged through this part of the country for many weeks. There is everywhere the same problem—empty barns. The Germans drove away all the cattle. In the Opava area 28,000 families were completely bombed out, another 20,000 families lost almost everything….Children are in grave danger. In first grade grammar school in the city of Praha 25 percent have tuberculosis and another 50 percent are on the danger line. The chief reason is malnutrition for five years….The crying need is milk!”

The home of Heifer Project recipient Frantisek Martinik of Vresina, Silesia, April 1946. Photo courtesy of the George Craig family.

An UNRRA report describes the ceremony that took place at the State Farm on the handing over of the Heifer Project animals, along with 193 UNRRA cattle sent with them. In a “picturesque mountain village of Northern Moravia,” the report says girls in regional dress presented bouquets to the UNRRA and Brethren Service Committee representatives present. “After a formal reception, the traditional ceremony of village maidens wreathing cows with garlands of flowers took place against the background of snow-clad hills and dark pine forests.” Oh, for a photo of that ceremony!

The UNRRA report notes that some of the Brethren-donated heifers were bought with pennies from school children in Ohio. Dr. J. E. Sayre, of the US Fellowship of Reconciliation, who was traveling in Europe at the time, represented the Brethren Service Committee at the reception. In his remarks at the gathering, he said,

In this gift from the children of Ohio to their needy brothers and sisters in Moravia can surely be discerned the great spirit, not of the moment but of the years ahead, that must illuminate our troubled world. The children shall speak. I have traveled a long way to witness this consummation of the spirit of good will that began with the pennies of thousands of American children. I am happy to find the cattle in such good condition. To the children back home in Ohio I shall report: “Your pennies will soon be providing milk for the babies of Czechoslovakia, and this will be not only for this year but also for next year and for many years to come.”

 

“This cow is our saviour from starvation,” the Kysuconova family tells their donor, Silesia, 1946. Photo courtesy of the George Craig family.


Next post: Recipients share their gratitude.

A Heifer Project Christmas Story

While UNRRA’s first livestock shipment to Czechoslovakia was on its way in December 1945, a second shipment was in the works. The Brethren Service Committee’s Heifer Project had been in contact with the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Washington, DC, offering a gift of heifers to this war-torn country for the neediest of recipients.

On December 5,  BSC’s Director of Material Aid John Metzler, Sr. notified the Heifer Project Committee:

Contacts with the Czechoslovak Embassy show a great deal of interest in cattle there. Cables were sent yesterday getting governmental clearance from Czechoslovakia on the matter of distribution. UNRRA has agreed to transport these cattle . . . provided we can complete proper negotiations with that government.

Wheels turned quickly, with the Committee voting approval of the shipment on December 18 if word of acceptance came from Czechoslovakia.

On December 22, UNRRA issued a press statement to be released on December 24, 1945:

One hundred and seventy-five head of cattle have been offered to UNRRA by the Church of the Brethren for the people of Czechoslovakia. The animals, now at the Roger Roop farm at Union Bridge, Maryland, are bred heifers whose average age is two years. . . . After being shipped by UNRRA from Baltimore to an allied controlled port in Germany, the livestock will be transported by rail to their new homes in Czechoslovakia.

When notified of the contribution, Dr. Vaclav Myslivec, representative of the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Agriculture in the United States, said, “The people of my country are badly in need of milk for their children. In expressing their appreciation for this gift I cannot but recall that there were cattle in the stable on the night when the baby Jesus was born. The spirit of that first Christmas lives on in the hearts of the American people who so generously gave these fine animals to rehabilitate the war-devastated dairy herds of Czechoslovakia.”

On the 12th Day of Christmas in January 1946, 170 heifers — donated by Brethren, Evangelical and Reformed congregations, Mennonites, and other churches from as far away as Idaho and Kansas — began their voyage to Czechoslovakia on the S. S. Charles W. Wooster.

Two of the Czechoslovakian children whose family benefited from the gift of a heifer, 1946. Photo sent with thank you letter, courtesy of Heifer International.

May the spirit of that first Christmas and that of 75 years ago live on.
Wishing all my readers a Blessed Holiday Season and New Year to come.
And God bless the seagoing cowboys who delivered hope to a war-torn world.
~Peggy

Second UNRRA livestock ship departed the United States 75 years ago today

This is the second of two posts I made five years ago that I’m repeating in June to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the start of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and Brethren Service Committee’s seagoing cowboy program.

Five Elizabethtown College students make 2nd UNRRA ship out,
but arrive first in Greece.

This post will set the record straight for a friendly little rivalry that has taken place through the years between the Manchester College students and the Elizabethtown College students who were on the first two UNRRA livestock ships to depart the United States the end of June 1945.

When I first talked with Gordon Bucher about his trip on the F. J. Luckenbach to Greece  that left New Orleans June 24, 1945, he wanted to know, “Wasn’t ours the first ship to leave the U. S.?” Having found the UNRRA records, I was able to tell him, “Yes.” The Elizabethtown cowboys who departed from Baltimore on the S.S. Virginian June 26, 1945, had always said they were on the first ship out. But diary accounts from the two trips and the UNRRA records show otherwise.

Turns out, it was an honest mistake on the part of the E-town cowboys, as even the media thought this to be the first shipment. The Baltimore Sun newspaper said on June 25, 1945:

GREECE CATTLE SAILS TODAY
UNRRA Shipment To Be First Consignment
Laden with 704 head of dairy cattle and horses, the first consignment of such animals to be sent to a European country by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the freighter Virginian will leave Baltimore today for Greece, where the livestock will be used in an agricultural rehabilitation program . . . .

The F. J. Luckenbach had already left New Orleans when this article went to press, and the Virginian didn’t leave port until a day after the article appeared, if the date typed under the article given to me is correct. Other media gave the same story, including the August 1945 Baltimore & Ohio Magazine:

First UNRRA Livestock Shipment for Europe Rides B&O

The article tells of the arrival to Baltimore of 335 Brown Swiss bred heifers and twelve bulls and 357 light draft mares on the B&O railway. It goes on to say:

This “first shipment” created a great deal of interest among the UNRRA people and various publicity agencies. The Coast Guard, Life, the Baltimore papers and the newsreel agencies all had photographers on the job . . . .

All of this while the Luckenbach was already on its way.

But alas, the Luckenbach was not to be the first to arrive in Greece. The Virginian, departing closer to Europe, arrived at its destination of Piraeus, Greece, the port for Athens, on Saturday, July 14.

First heifer to Greece.

A proud Greek poses with the first UNRRA heifer to put foot on European soil. Photo courtesy of Kate  Holderman.

The Luckenbach arrived in Patras, Greece, two days later on Monday, July 16. Both crews were able to visit the Acropolis, with a short $5.00 taxi ride for the Virginian crew and a hair-raising bus ride across the Peloponnese peninsula for the Luckenbach crew that almost made them miss their ship home.

Members of the S. S. Virginian crew at the Acropolis. Photo courtesy of Kate Holderman.

After unloading in Greece, both ships also stopped in Naples to pick up U. S. soldiers who had fought in Europe during the war to take them home – 140 for the Virginian and 150 for the Luckenbach. The Luckenbach, however, arrived home first. Their entire cargo was unloaded in Patras, after which they were ready to return home; whereas the Virginian unloaded only part of its cargo in Piraeus and then traveled further up around Greece to Salonika to unload the rest. Even with a stop in Béni Saf to pick up iron ore after picking up their soldiers in Naples, the Luckenbach had a considerable head start on the Virginian, arriving in New York City ten days ahead of them on August 10. They were met with a rousing welcome home for the soldiers on Staten Island complete with a WAC band playing the “Beer Barrel Polka” and a black band playing hot jazz, before finally docking in Jersey City. The Virginian delivered their soldiers to Newport News and finally docked in Brooklyn on August 20. No matter which ship they were on, the cowboys were glad to be back on U. S. soil.

Sources: Gordon Bucher’s unpublished journal and the report of the S.S. Virginian crew titled “Relief for Greece.”