Seagoing Cowboys

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Seagoing Cowboys, a term applied to the men in CPS Reserve, a unit in Civilian Public Service, also known as the UNRRA Reserve Unit. These men served as attendants with livestock shipments going to Europe. The first men assigned to this duty sailed on a cattle boat 12 February 1946. Of the 366 CPS men in the program, 167 were listed as Mennonite and Brethren in Christ. Most of the ships left from Newport News, Virginia, most of them carried horses instead of cattle, and their destination was generally Greece, Yugoslavia, or Poland. Some of the men made three or more trips each. Ben Bushong of the Brethren Service Commission, who was responsible for selecting attendants for the UNRRA livestock ships, eventually chose many Mennonite young men and farmers who had not been in CPS or who had been demobilized to serve on these boats. The total number of Mennonites accompanying the UNRRA livestock shipments was very likely over 300. These trips gave most of these men their first experience with ocean travel, their first contacts with Europe, and their first opportunities to engage directly in foreign relief service. The total effect of these experiences on the life of the churches remains to be evaluated.


Gingerich, Melvin. Service for Peace. Akron, 1949: 187-89.

Author(s) Melvin Gingerich
Date Published 1959

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Gingerich, Melvin. "Seagoing Cowboys." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 8 Jun 2023.

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Gingerich, Melvin. (1959). Seagoing Cowboys. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 8 June 2023, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 490. All rights reserved.

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