Heifers and Havoc on the S. S. Humanitas, Part III

This series of posts brings to light the incongruity of Heifer Project animals being donated and shipped to Italy in the spirit of Christian goodwill to help destitute Italians recover from World War II on the one hand and cigarettes for the black market being smuggled into Italy on the same ship on the other. This post picks up the story on the fourth Heifer Project trip of the S. S. Humanitas that departed Baltimore on June 9, 1948.

Loading the S. S. Humanitas in Baltimore. June 1948. Photo courtesy of David Harner.

Like Charles Cutting and Byron Frantz on previous shipments, David Harner felt the ship reducing its speed as it approached the Naples harbor. “No one gave any explanation,” he says. “When I asked Señor Cortali [the radio man], he just shrugged and walked away–standard behavior when he didn’t want to answer a question. By nightfall, the ship was proceeding at a crawl, and finally, when it was completely dark, the ship came to a full stop. Crew members went around the ship making sure that no light escaped from the portholes or companionways. Still no explanation from the officers or crew. Suddenly, out of the dark roared several large, very fast speed boats.”

Harner’s crewmate Jim Moffet picks up the story. “A Jacob’s ladder was thrown over the side of our ship and a man came aboard. The crew of our ship began carrying boxes out of the hold and lowering them over the side into the boat. When it was loaded, another boat came out of the darkness and tied onto the side of us.”

Harner says, “After an hour or so, all of the speed boats had been loaded and they sped away into the darkness. Señor Cortali appeared. ‘You see? Cigarettes. You no tell anybody!’ We had witnessed a major cigarette smuggling operation. Cattle and cigarettes–strange cargo!”

After docking in Naples, Harner traveled up to Carrara, Italy, where the Brethren Service Committee had a project which was often visited by the cowboys on the Italian trips. Harner spent the rest of his summer there helping with the project’s children’s camps.

The cowboys on the next trip of the Humanitas once again experienced the smuggling operation. The outcome of their trip, however, was different from all the rest. Having heard the story from some of the cowboys who visited the project at Carrara, Harner writes it as his own:

“Soon after docking,” he says, “four or five men in suits, accompanied by several carabinieri with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders boarded the ship. They all looked grim. What they wanted was even grimmer. We were all under arrest: cowboys, crew, officers, and civilians…. We were escorted down through a gate and into the city. It wasn’t far before we came to a building with ‘Questura,’ carved into the stonework above the door. This was the Italian [police headquarters]. In a short time, the passengers were all released. In a few minutes more, thanks to the efforts of Señor Cortali, the cowboys were released. The officers and crew were all detained. As it turned out, all the officers and crew, except for Señor Cortali, were imprisoned for smuggling.”

A little embellishment here? Perhaps. But Jim Moffet’s brother Bob was on that shipment that had left Baltimore July 30, 1948. He wrote home on September 2, “The police really did give this ship a going over on the 22nd. They even went through some of our stuff. The captain, 1st mate, 3rd mate, chief engineer, and crew boss are all in jail. From what I hear I guess the police really did beat up the 1st mate. There is a fine of $35,000 that has to be paid by someone….”

A few days later, the Humanitas set sail once again for the US. The Heifer Project made one last shipment to Italy on October 12, 1948. The ship now had a different captain, and the cowboys on that crew reported no nefarious happenings.

The new captain of the the S. S. Humanitas, October 1948. Photo courtesy of Chester Bowman.

Heifers on their way to Italy, October 1948. Photo courtesy of Chester Bowman.

The S. S. Humanitas appears to finally have lived fully up to its name, a Latin word indicating kindness and benevolence.

Heifers and Havoc on the S. S. Humanitas, Part I

The Heifer Project, today’s Heifer International, made six shipments of dairy cattle to Italy between December 1947 and October 1948 on the S. S. Humanitas. The vessel was a renamed Liberty ship sold to Italy after World War II and put into service transporting coal to Italy in its lower holds and dairy cattle quartered on the top deck. The livestock trips of the Humanitas had two major havoc-causing events in common. Today, we’ll look at the havoc caused by the weather on three of the trips.

Photo courtesy of Willard Rush.

On the Humanitas’ first trip, 17-year-old seagoing cowboy Charles Cutting set out from California for an adventurous time in Europe. He writes a delightful account of his experience in his book 1947 Europe from a Duffel Bag, available for purchase online for anyone interested in reading his full story.

The Humanitas departed from Baltimore December 3, 1947, with six seagoing cowboys, 160 head of cattle, and 10,000 tons of coal, causing the vessel to ride low in the water. “Our hope for fair weather was soon just a memory,” Cutting says. Under a heavy cloud cover, the wind whipped up waves that swamped the deck on the third day out and flooded the cowboys’ sleeping quarters through the air supply vents.

“Three a.m.!”, Cutting says. “There was a terrible shudder and crash….A pyramid wave had crashed down on the ship.” The cowboys were sent out to help rescue the cattle from the havoc and debris surrounding them until the ship’s officers ordered them back inside. They were entering a hurricane. The ship emitted frightening sounds as it slapped down into the waves’ troughs and back out again. Then came the calm of the hurricane’s eye, only to be bashed again on the other side of it. When deemed safe, the captain sent the cowboys back out to free the cattle. Only two had been injured, with broken legs. They were shot and became a bonus for the cooks.

The next trip left Baltimore January 30, 1948, with 18-year-old Byron Frantz on board. The Humanitas had to cut through six inches of ice in the Chesapeake Bay to get into open waters. Once it hit the warmer Gulf Stream, the ship again ran into a storm. With the weight of the coal, Frantz says, “mid-ship was only 10 feet above water. The storm caused a wave of water to come over the mid-ship and collapse a part of the ‘heifers’ home.” These cowboys, too, had a rescue job on their hands once it was safe to do so.

The Humanitas’ fourth trip left Baltimore June 9 and didn’t hit foul weather until it reached the Mediterranean Sea. “Once we were through the Straits of Gibralter, the weather drastically changed,” says cowboy David Harner. “The seas began to get rougher, and suddenly we were in a full blown storm. I was a little concerned because as a child my parents took me on a trip that included a visit to Puget Sound near Seattle. Lying at anchor in the Sound was a Liberty ship, actually half a Liberty ship, the forward half missing. When we asked a local sailor, he explained that these ships were so hurriedly made for the war effort that they often broke in two.”

“The blur on the right was seawater blowing up on the bridge’s windshield,” says Harner. Photo courtesy of David Harner.

“At the height of the storm, the deck plates between the No. 2 hold and the superstructure began to buckle, making a horrible screeching sound, then a dull BOOM as the bow dropped back into a wave trough. Señor Cortali, the radio officer, explained how and why this was happening. When I asked him if we were in danger of breaking up, he just shrugged his shoulders and walked away. The next morning the sea was calm. A check of all the cattle revealed that they were all OK, unfazed by the storm. We put dry bedding over the soggy mess and completed our chores.”

Charles Cutting’s voyage also hit foul weather again in the Mediterranean Sea until nearing its destination of Naples, Italy. The ship unexpectedly reduced its speed “to a gentle crawl.” Cutting says, “We inquired, but the captain was evasive and would not tell us why. We sensed something unusual was involved.”

(to be continued)

In Memorium

It’s time for my regular Fifth Friday post to honor the seagoing cowboys who have passed away. These are the ones I’ve learned of, some from previous years of whom I’m just becoming aware:

Anders, Paul Henry, July 16, 2017, Alemeda, CA. S. S. Morgantown Victory to Poland, December 10, 1945.

Armstrong, Byron Harold, July 17, 2017, Bridgewater, VA. Heifer Project trips to Austria, Turkey, Egypt, Sardinia, Mexico, beginning in 1954.

Brenneman, John Henry, October 16, 2017, Newport News, VA. S. S. Bucknell Victory to Poland, February 15, 1946.

Brown, H. Merle, October 12, 2017, Elgin, IL. S. S. Queens Victory to Czechoslovakia, June 9, 1946; S. S. Cedar Rapids Victory to Yugoslavia, July 10, 1946.

Burkholder, Lewis A., December 13, 2013, Powhatan, VA. S. S. Pass Christian Victory to Israel, November 1949 (Levinson Brothers shipment).

Damon, Richard Alva, January 24, 2008, Walnut Creek, CA. S. S. Alcee Fortier to Yugoslavia, April 18, 1946.

Day, Kelly M., April 6, 2013, Lafayette, IN. Heifer Project shipment to Greece, December 10  1956.

Detrra, Jr., Norman E., April 27, 2011, West Reading, PA. S. S. Stephen R. Mallory to Poland, June 20, 1946.

Dickey, John, October 25, 2017, New Castle, IN. S. S. Virginia City Victory to Poland, May 26, 1946; S. S. Yugoslavia Victory to Poland, July 19, 1946.

Eller, Harlan H., January 20, 2017, Crimora, VA. S. S. Earlham Victory to Yugoslavia, January 6, 1947.

Groff, Eugene A., January 5, 2017, Lititz, PA. S. S. Beloit Victory to Poland, November 27, 1946.

Harner, David, July 25, 2015, Chino Valley, AZ.  S. S. Humanitas (Heifer Project) to Italy, March 23, 1948.

Harsh, Norman Luther, November 29, 2017, Salem, VA. S. S. Mexican to Yugoslavia, June 28, 1945.

Hess, Paul C., November 19, 2016, Mount Joy, PA. S. S. Mount Whitney to Poland, November 30, 1946.

Hilty, Calvin Albert, March 29, 2014, Strathmore, CA. S. S. Morgantown Victory to Poland, December 4, 1945.

Hochstetler, Carl, September 13, 2013, Killbuck, OH. S. S. Mexican to Yugoslavia, June 28, 1945.

Kanagy, Paul C., December 20, 2011, Chesterville, OH. S. S. Blue Island Victory to Poland, August 10, 1946.

Kaufman, Paul J., September 18, 2017, Plain City, OH. S. S. Santiago Iglesias to Poland, November 10, 1945; S. S. Gainesville Victory to Poland, April 17, 1946.

Keeney, Paul, November 3, 2017, York, PA. S. S. Pierre Victory to Poland, March 29, 1946.

Kuhns, Levi M., March 6, 2011, N. Lawrence, OH. S. S. Park Victory to Poland, December 23, 1945.

Lehman, Adin Leroy, April 20, 2017, Chambersburg, PA. S. S. Queens Victory to Greece, December 15, 1946.

Long, James DeChant, October 26, 2017, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. S. S. Villanova Victory to Greece, July 22, 1946.

Martin, Aldine D., November 17, 2017, Greencastle, PA. S. S. Bucknell Victory to Poland, February 16, 1946.

McFadden, William Robert (Bob), December 8, 2017, Bridgewater, VA. Heifer Project shipment to Germany, May 19, 1953.

Mullet, Henry A., June 3, 2017, Kalona, IA. S. S. Samuel H. Walker to Greece, December 15, 1945.

Nafziger, Robert W., February 8, 2011, Archbold, OH. S. S. Park Victory to Poland, December 23, 1945; S. S. Plymouth Victory  to Greece, February 13, 1947.

Newsom, Robert “Bo”, March 28, 2017, Columbus, IN. S. S. Rockland Victory to Poland, June 15, 1946.

Nolt, Richard B. “Dick”, February 28, 2014, Lititz, PA. S. S. Cyrus W. Fields to Italy, June 14, 1946.

Prouty, Estel, May 21, 2017, Ogden, IA. S. S. Lindenwood Victory to China, December 19, 1946.

Renalds, Robert Stanley, March 1, 2013, Nashville, TN. S. S. John J. Crittenden to Czechoslovakia, August 15, 1946.

Shenk, Joseph Donald “Don”, September 14, 2015, Newport News, VA. S. S. Pass Christian Victory to Israel, December 1949 (Levinson Brothers shipment).

Siemens, Melvin Roy, October 13, 2017, Leoti, KS. S. S. Charles W. Wooster to Greece, April 21, 1946.

Summy, Robert G., May 1, 2017, Manheim, PA. S. S. Virginian to Yugoslavia, June 26, 1945.

Torkelson, Norman, December 9, 2012, Tilley, Alberta, Canada. S. S. Mount Whitney to Poland, July 29, 1946.

Unruh, Earl R., June 6, 2017, Kansas City, MO. S. S. Morgantown Victory to Yugoslavia, December 2, 1946.

Voran, Willis R., January 16, 2017, New Holland, PA. S. S. John J. Crittenden to Yugoslavia, November 23, 1946.

Weber, Norman, October 2, 2016, Elmira, Ontario, Canada. S. S. Occidental Victory to Poland, September 29, 1946.

White, David H., September 27, 2017, Lititz, PA. S. S. John L. McCarley to Poland, July 2, 1946.

Willms, Alfred J., October 22, 2016, Leamington, Ontario, Canada. S. S. Frederic C. Howe to Yugoslavia, November 15, 1946; S. S. Woodstock Victory to Greece, January 18, 1947.

Rest in peace, dear seagoing friends.