- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2005

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — In the years immediately after World War II, American farmers sent thousands of dairy cows, goats, pigs and other livestock to Europe to help supply the continent with milk and a foundation for agricultural recovery.

Today, about 45 of the “seagoing cowboys” who accompanied the livestock will be honored by the Church of the Brethren, which helped establish the relief program and supplied the volunteers.

“It was a great experience for a young person,” said Joseph Long, 75, of Harrisburg, Pa., who sailed to Gdynia, Poland, in the spring of 1946 with a crew responsible for 778 horses and 4,166 day-old chicks. “It changed my life in some ways.”

Mr. Long, then 17, said the mission enabled him to help war victims without defying his church’s pacifist teachings.

He is among the former seagoing cowboys from around the country expected to attend today’s conference and dedication ceremony at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor.

The project’s 6,500 volunteers, many of whom had never been to sea, shipped out from cities including Baltimore; Houston; New York; New Orleans; Mobile, Ala.; and Newport News, Va., according to a history in the May issue of a church magazine, the Messenger.

From 1945 to 1947, they accompanied more than 200,000 animals to ports in Poland, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Germany, France and China under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

Mr. Long, a retired probation and parole worker, said he was busy during his 12-day trip keeping the irritable, pregnant mares fed and upright while avoiding their nipping teeth.

He said he assisted in the deliveries of two foals and helped hoist overboard some of the 25 horses that died on board.

“On the way back, we cleaned up the ship with fire hoses,” he said.

During the recognition event in New Windsor, the cowboys will exhibit diaries, photographs and memorabilia. Oral histories will be collected for the church archives.

“It’s important to get as much documentation as possible while they’re still alive,” Jo Israelson, one of the organizers, told the Frederick News-Post.

Other activities planned during the three-day conference include visits to a farm that contributed dairy cows to the relief effort and to a train station in nearby Union Bridge, the departure point for those animals.

The church’s relief effort evolved into Heifer Project International, now a secular charity based in Little Rock, Ark., that provides livestock and training to people in 115 countries.

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