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.

A Greek odyssey and 21st birthday to remember

The S. S. Charles W. Wooster preparing to go to Greece, April 1946. Photo courtesy of Perry Bontrager.

The livestock trip of the S. S. Charles W. Wooster started out like any other. On receiving their orders, seagoing cowboys gathered in Houston, Texas, to care for a load of 335 wild Mexican mares bound for Greece. They departed Easter Sunday, April 23, 1946. After an uneventful crossing of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, the ship docked in Patras, Greece, to unload some of its cargo before going on to Piraeus to unload the rest. In Patras, the ship and the cowboys, however, would go their separate ways.

Approaching the docks at Patras, Greece, May 1946. Photo courtesy of Perry Bontrager.

On arrival in Patras on May 13, cowboy Perry Bontrager was taken with the beauty of the town. “The country is very mountainous,” he notes in his diary. “Some covered with snow. But down around the town, it is really hot.” And not all was beautiful. “It is a sorryful [sic] sight the way some of the people are dressed,” he says. “Little children come with tin cans and want to have them filled with food.”

The next day, about 100 of the horses were unloaded, followed the day after that by some of the sulpher and cotton the ship also carried. “This is to be the last day at Patras,” Bontrager notes. “So about nine tenth of the ship crew went out for a drunk [sic]. Quite a few of the fellows wouldn’t of made it back to the ship if someone wouldn’t of helped them.”

With brains still fogged from their nightly binge, miscommunications caused the ship’s crew to back the vessel into a cement dock jamming the propeller into the rudder. “As a result,” says cowboy Victor Goering, “they had to unload some cargo on to barges and eventually they were able to use the winches to pull us back to where we had been originally.” There, the remainder of the cargo was unloaded.

The S. S. Charles W. Wooster rammed into the dock in Patras, Greece, May 16, 1946. Photo courtesy of Victor Goering.

Unable to proceed on its own power, the Charles W. Wooster was towed to Naples, Italy, for repair. This left the cowboys stranded until UNRRA could make arrangements to return them home, giving them an extra five days to explore and enjoy the city of Patras.

On May 22, “They loaded us into the back of a 4-wheel army truck and with our luggage on a heavy army trailer we headed for Athens,” says cowboy Wilbur Swartzendruber. “This proved to be one of the most dangerous rides I have ever been on. Our veterinarian along with a Greek driver who was intoxicated, slid the trailer around every corner we went around. He crowded a British bread truck off the road and it upset, spilling bread over the countryside. The good Lord surely did look over us on this ride.”

A lunch stop on the way to Athens, May 22, 1946. Luggage trailer in the background. Photo courtesy of Perry Bontrager.

“On the way to Athens,” says Goering, “we saw some effects of the bombing of the railroads. Almost every trestle showed some damage and there were many railcars lying on their sides and completely burned out.”

After their exhausting 150-mile journey, the cowboys settled into the Monrapos Hotel in Amarosa, about 15 miles beyond Athens. Here they would stay for eleven or twelve days until UNRRA found ships for their return trip.

The seagoing cowboys of the S. S. Charles W. Wooster in Amarosa, Greece, May 1946. Photo courtesy of Perry Bontrager.

Given a daily allowance by UNRRA, the cowboys took in the sights of Athenian antiquities, went to movies, and relaxed. An unexpected Greek vacation.

Seagoing cowboys at the Acropolis, May 1946. Photo courtesy of Victor Goering.

UNRRA’s travel arrangements split the cowboys into a group of twelve returning on June 2 on the S. S. John Jacob Astor and the remaining six departing the next day on the S. S. Paul Hamilton Hayne. Bontrager notes, “We are traveling back as first class passengers.” A luxury other cowboys stuck with cleaning out the stalls on their return trips would envy.

“Our discharge in Newport News, Virginia, on June 24 was a happy one for me,” says Swartzendruber, a John Jacob Astor passenger. “It was my 21st birthday.” A day and a trip to remember!