The Heifer Project’s First Goats for Okinawa

From: Comfort All Who Mourn: The Life Story of Herbert and Madeline Nicholson, by Herbert V. Nicholson and Margaret Wilke (Bookmates International, 1982), pp. 127-129:

An organization called Heifers for Relief, sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, decided to accept my offer to raise money and take goats to war-torn Japan.

Milk was in desperately short supply overseas and the Japanese children were being severely affected by the shortage. Ordinarily the Heifer project sent only bred heifers to ravaged areas. In this case, goats answered the need more readily, so goats were sent for the first time in its history. Later they sent all sorts of farm animals to many countries and aided poor farmers in the United States as well.*

When I received approval of the goat project I went to work. I raised a good part of the money and bought most of the goats myself. Then I gathered a little group of men to accompany me on the first trip. Sim Togasaki, a Nisei from San Francisco, wanted to come because he needed to make contacts in Japan for his importing business. Although he knew nothing about goats, he was a hard worker and a great help because he spoke fluent Japanese. Ted Roberts, a dairyman who had always been interested in the Japanese, and Paul McCracken, a goat expert, also came with us. Paul was a Quaker, too, so I was glad to have him along. My son Samuel also came. He took color slides everywhere which later were a great help in raising money for more goats.

In October, 1947, we arrived in San Francisco ready to load up for a trip when we found, to our great disappointment, that the Army had decided to send us to Okinawa rather than Japan! The following load would be scheduled for Japan. That disappointment was to become God’s surprise for us. What lay ahead was a wonderful adventure.

The Army had built pens for our two hundred goats on the rear deck of the Simon Benson, a small liberty ship which was not in good shape. We had a rough trip across the Pacific and were very relieved when we reached Okinawa safely. Later we learned that on its next trip the ship had split open! It was easy to believe.

Our arrival in Okinawa was an unforgettable experience. The harbor at Naha was full of sunken ships. The city had been completely destroyed. We could only stare in shock and pity.

We received a warm welcome and were greeted by the governor and other dignitaries. It was a delight to discover that Mr. Shikiya, the governor, was a Christian. After the ceremonies, in which we presented a goat to the community, we milked the remainder of our goats and took the milk to an orphanage.

We discovered that we were to be housed at the Military Government Headquarters across the island from Naha. Our escort there was a former missionary to Japan, Everett Thompson, who was in charge of LARA (Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia). The occupation forces did not want to work with a lot of separate relief organizations, so they formed this agency to coordinate all relief efforts. The Heifer project joined LARA, as did the Church World Service, the Friends’ Service Committee, and many others.

At the Military Government Headquarters we were taken to the officers’ quarters. What a surprise to discover that we goatherds were classed as colonels.

* Nicholson seems to have been unaware that the Heifer project had already been sending horses and chickens as well as cattle to war-torn Europe in 1946.


1 Comment

Filed under Japan, military, NGOs, religion, U.S., war

One response to “The Heifer Project’s First Goats for Okinawa

  1. Bill Cooper

    This goat story reminds me of when I was on Okinawa back during the fighting in 1945. It was mid April and I was on Skyline Ridge on the East coast. The Japanese were shelling our position and I was in my fox hole scared to death. Just outside my hole were two goats, propagating, with no concern for their personal safety. It sure helped me to be more relaxed.

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