In Memoriam

I’ve received word of the passing of two more seagoing cowboys and share memories of another:

Julius H. Hornberger left this world February 8, 2015, just two-and-a-half months shy of his 100th birthday. Julius was on the SS Rock Springs Victory when it made its delivery of Heifer Project cattle to Ethiopia in the spring of 1947. We’ll hear more about this crew on Easter Sunday. Here is Julius exploring Djibouti, where the ship docked. Rest in peace, Julius.

 

Julius Hornberger in Djibouti, 1947

Julius Hornberger stands to the right of the camel in this photo taken in Djibouti, Africa, spring 1947. Photo by Howard Lord

Donald L. Klippenstein passed away February 18, 2015, at age 90. Don was part of the SS Clarksville Victory crew that delivered horses to Poland in December 1945. His crew had a number of reunions through the years. I was fortunate to join them at Camp Mack in 2005 and hear their stories first-hand. Being on one of the first UNRRA livestock deliveries to Poland after World War II, this crew saw some war atrocity remnants that later crews weren’t able to see. Watch for future posts about this Clarksville Victory trip. Don is the one standing on the right in the picture below. Rest in peace, Don.

Don Klippenstein at Clarksville Victory reunion, 2005

Don Klippenstein, top right, met with some of his Clarksville Victory crewmates at their 2005 reunion. Photo courtesy of J. Olin Yoder

 

This year’s frigid temperatures have reminded me that it’s been a year now since we lost seagoing cowboy Cletus Schrock on February 3, 2014, in a very cold and snowy week in northern Indiana. But I have warm memories of my interview with Cletus at his son’s house several years ago and the lovely meal my husband and I had with that part of his family. Cletus was an Amish farmer at the time of his trip to Poland aboard the SS Carroll Victory and has an interesting story that I will relate in a future post. Rest in peace, Cletus.

Cletus Schrock and some of his Carroll Victory crewmates, spring 1946

Cletus Schrock poses third from the right with some of his crewmates on the Carroll Victory, spring 1946, en route to Poland. Photo courtesy of Cletus Schrock

Peggy Reiff Miller interviews Cletus Schrock

Cletus shares his seagoing cowboy experience with Peggy Reiff Miller. Photo by Rex Miller

Two More Seagoing Cowboy Thanksgiving Stories

November 28, 1946, was a memorable Thanksgiving day for two seagoing cowboy crews.

Story #1:

In November 1946, three weeks into what would turn out to be a five-month trip, the SS Carroll Victory had unloaded its cargo of horses in Kavalla, Greece. Expecting to head home, the cowboys were surprised to be sent on to South Africa to pick up another load of horses. On its way, the ship docked in Haifa, Palestine, the day before Thanksgiving. Harold Jennings tells us in his diary,

We hired a truck for $4.00 round trip to Jerusalem – 27 fellows took the trip in spite of warnings from British soldiers of terrorists and the curfew, besides the roads being mined. Fortunately we were stopped only once by police and our coffee stop besides all rest stops. We arrived in Jerusalem about 5:00 a.m. [Thanksgiving Day].

 

Touring Palestine

SS Carroll Victory crew climb aboard their rented truck to tour Palestine. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

The crew spent the day touring Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, driving past Bedouin tent settlements and a Jewish kibbutz.

Jesus birthplace

Altar in Bethlehem built in the place where the manger in which Jesus was born was believed to have been. The star on the floor marks the spot. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

Jerusalem gate

New gate to Old Jerusalem. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Nazareth

Road into Nazareth. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Bedouins

Bedouin settlement. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

Girls at work at Kibbutz

Girls working at Yagur Kibbutz near Haifa. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Lord summed up the day in a letter to his wife that evening: “Today was a page from a fairy book.”

Story #2:

While the SS Carroll Victory was sailing contentedly across the Atlantic that early November for its first stop in Greece, another ship met a different fate. The SS Occidental Victory carried a split cargo, with 193 horses on the top deck and 6,000 tons of sugar and 2500 tons of beef below. A mere eight seagoing cowboys and one veterinarian were required for this shipment. After unloading the horses in Poland, the men enjoyed the opportunity to explore the ports of Turku and Helsinki, Finland, where the sugar and beef were unloaded.

Turku, FInland

Seagoing cowboys Norm Weber and Dick Jantzen on right with Finnish guide outside a Turku art museum. Photo courtesy Norman Weber.

At Tsar's summer home.

Vaino Aksanen and his sons take Norm Weber (right) and friends to the 1884 summer home of the Tsar of Russia near Kotka. Photo courtesy Norman Weber.

After more days in Kotka, Finland, to pick up paper pulp for ballast, the ship finally headed home. Cowboy Norman Weber recorded in his journal on Nov. 7,

This morning, good and early, we pulled out of Kotka….We’re beginning to hope to get home by the beginning of December.

About 1:30 P.M. we were sailing along smoothly, when suddenly our ship struck a rock. She jumped and hit again. It was a strange feeling, our great ship jumping like that….

Immediately the deck crew were busy opening the hatches and looking for water coming in. The great ship started listing, and there was much oil on the surface of the water.

The Occidental Victory was soon dubbed the Accidental Victory by the cowboys. She had hit a hidden rock and ripped open the bottom of the ship in two holds, puncturing the oil tanks. Weber explains,

The Victory ships have a double bottom, and in between are the oil tanks. Had this been a Liberty she would likely have sunk, but the second bottom seems to hold her afloat.

The ship slowly made its way back into Helsinki where it was inspected and deemed seaworthy enough to head on to Stockholm for repairs.

On November 28, Cowboy John Wesley Clay wrote in a daily account that he printed up and gave his fellow cowboys at the end of their voyage,

This is Thanksgiving day, and to the eight cowboys it has been the most significant Thanksgiving day we have ever spent. We limped into Stockholm [Monday], eighteen days after striking the rocks in the Gulf of Finland, and it was glorious to set foot on land again.

Our food supply had been almost completely exhausted, and we were approaching a desperate situation, but in Stockholm we found another American ship who divided supplies with us, so today we had a real American Thanksgiving, with plenty of turkey and all the fixings. We were thankful to the depths of our hearts.

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Next post: Christmas for the Occidental Victory crew