In January of 1947, a second stop in Haifa, Palestine, gave the seagoing cowboys of the S. S. Carroll Victory a chance to further explore this country of unrest under British control in which Jews were being resettled after World War II.
On arrival, the cowboys walked around and shopped in upper or “New Haifa” which Charlie Lord described as “the beautiful Jewish section on top of Mt. Carmel.” Some made a trip the second day to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee.
Maynard Garber and a friend chose instead to hike up Mt. Carmel that day, meeting two English-speaking young Arab men on the way. “They were much disturbed over the problems arising over the Jews,” Garber noted in his journal. “They admitted that the Jews were smart people and could help Palestine a lot, but they said the Jews wouldn’t want them once they got control. . . . Young Arabs here with an education are very brilliant, but they say we will soon be fighting the Jews for this country.”
The next night, January 12, Lord wrote a lengthy letter to his wife. “Today has been a hundred days, a book condensed into one page.” It began with a tour by several of the cowboys of the Jewish HaZore’a kibbutz, a 45-minute bus ride out of Haifa.
“All eat together, share everything in this commune,” Lord said, describing the tour in detail. “Doesn’t sound very exciting yet, does it,” he said. “It still didn’t when we came back on the ship and sat down to supper. I had just started on my jellitin [sic] dessert when there was a loud boom and the 7500 ton ship shook beneath us.” Two blocks away from the ship’s berth – at 5:20 p.m. according to two cowboy diaries – a truck full of bombs exploded at the Northern Palestine police compound. The New York Times the next day headlined an article, “Haifa Blast Ends Palestine Truce: Kills 4, Injures 142.”
The blast set off a scurry of activity for the seagoing cowboys. Some of them were in town near the compound when the bombs went off. Fortunately, none were seriously hurt. Lord and others on the ship grabbed their coats and cameras and headed into the city. “The guards let us thru much to our surprise,” Lord said.” The cowboys witnessed plate glass from the store fronts covering the sidewalks on lower Haifa’s main street Kingsway, shopkeepers frantically picking up contents from their stores, firemen fighting the fire in the police compound, and the wounded being carried out on stretchers. When attempting to take pictures of the broken glass, an Arabian Palestine policeman grabbed Lord by the coat and dragged him into an office in the shattered building and through a narrow alleyway of barbed wire to find a British authority to whom to turn Lord over. Fortunately for Lord, and much to the disdain of the policeman, the Britisher let him go when Lord explained who he was and what he was doing.
Fellow cowboy Robert Richter got pulled into the action in a much more poignant way. While standing near an ambulance, a British soldier said to him, “Help me bring my buddy down, will you?” Richter did. Filled with emotion, he slowly shared the gory details with his shipmates back on the ship. Richter also learned from the guards the details of the bombing, which pretty well match this account found online.
Lord and others were able to take their photos of the aftermath the next morning before the Carroll Victory departed with 5,000 tons of phosphate, per Garber’s account, for Mozambique.
~ to be continued