2009-09-16 / Front Page

Seagoing Cowboys Gather To Remember Service

by David Pugh Buckeye Staff Writer

The Seagoing Cowboys reminisce at a reunion at the Sauder Heritage Inn, Monday, Sept. 14. Seated, from left: Lloyd Zimmerman, Liberty, Mo.; Earl Rosenberger, Harrisonburg, Va.; Roger Dornink, Freeport, Ill.; Walter Hochstedler, Goshen, Ind.; Hugh Ehrman, Decatur, Ind., and Ray Keim, Berne, Ind. Standing, from left: Loyal Nofziger and Glen Nafziger, Archbold. Just about 64 years ago, the men helped deliver farm animals to Europe to replace animals lost during World War II.–photo by David Pugh    The Seagoing Cowboys reminisce at a reunion at the Sauder Heritage Inn, Monday, Sept. 14. Seated, from left: Lloyd Zimmerman, Liberty, Mo.; Earl Rosenberger, Harrisonburg, Va.; Roger Dornink, Freeport, Ill.; Walter Hochstedler, Goshen, Ind.; Hugh Ehrman, Decatur, Ind., and Ray Keim, Berne, Ind. Standing, from left: Loyal Nofziger and Glen Nafziger, Archbold. Just about 64 years ago, the men helped deliver farm animals to Europe to replace animals lost during World War II.–photo by David Pugh In the winter of 1945, World War II was finally over. After six years of war in Europe, much of the continent lay in ruins.

Among the millions of casualties were farm animals. Europe needed horses and mules for work on farms and cattle to rebuild livestock herds.

There were animals available in the United States, but how to get them across the ocean?

Ships could carry the livestock, but someone had to help load and unload, and care for the animals while at sea.

The answer was a group that has come to be called “The Seagoing Cowboys.”

Glen Nafziger and Loyal Nofziger, Archbold, were among the thousands of men who volunteered to accompany the animals to Danzig, Poland, where they would be unloaded.

“I had just turned 18,” Nafziger said. “There was one man in this group who had been 16. His dad went with him.

“One man was excused from his senior year of high school. He came back, took the tests to make up what he had missed, and the school superintendent let him go.”

Nafziger said the project was a joint venture between United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and Brethren Service Committee of Church of the Brethren.

“UNRRA was a separate entity from the modern United Nations,” Nafziger said.

The Brethren Service Committee’s work would become the Heifer Project, and later, Heifer International.

“I could say I was involved in the beginnings of Heifer International,” Nafziger said.

“Heifer needed the ships, and UNRRA needed the men,” he said.

Two Months

Nafziger’s first trip took two months. There were problems loading their ship, the USS Morgantown Victory.

“They weren’t equipped to load horses. It took three days to load them. I took another trip later, and it took half a day,” he said.

They arrived in Poland on Christmas Eve, 1945.

“We saw all the evidence of war,” Nafziger, said, noting the Polish port city “was just flat.”

Unloading took time as well. They were still in Danzig for New Years Eve.

“We finally left Poland, and ran into fog. The captain ran the ship aground. We hit Sweden,” he said.

That created a further delay of three to four days.

Nafziger’s second trip to Europe as a seagoing cowboy was better organized– it took about a month.

Adventure

Nafziger said he can’t deny a lot of his motivation for becoming a seagoing cowboy was the adventure.

“The other thing– anything you could do to help people who were so far down and out– entered into it,” he said.

“At the time, at 18, it was very likely the excitement and adventure. But as you get a little older, you realize there was more to it than adventure. It was a service,” Nafziger said.

On Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 14-15, a group of the seagoing cowboys, including Nafziger and Nofziger, met at the Sauder Heritage Inn for a reunion, almost 64 years after the first trip across the Atlantic.

Out of a group of 33, there are about 15 left; eight were gathered around a dining table at the Inn.

They talked about many things, but their memories of their time as Seagoing Cowboys, the adventure they shared, and the service they performed as much younger men are still with them.

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A people who are prosperous and happy, optimistic and progressive, will produce much slang; it is a casse of play; they amuse themselves with the language.– William Graham Sumner

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