Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Short History of the 267th Port Company in WWII

Men of the 267th Port Company driving a 13th Port truck in Antwerp, Belgium. 1946?
In the spring of 1945 Germany surrendered and their bombardment of Antwerp ended. That fall my grandfather's battalion opened an enlisted man's club in the city along with men from the 267th Port Company. When the GIs weren't overseeing/guarding military supplies they could relax in Club Chipper. My post on that club is how I got in touch with Don Mansfield. His dad served in the 267th, and he saved lots of records, which Don passed to me. Bellow a short history of the 267th Port Company based on those documents. (If you'd like the full 31-page report, then just send me an email)

April 1943
The unit was founded in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania as Company E of the 501st Port Battalion. My grandfather's 519th Port Battalion was also there, so my book and my blog have lots of info on this fort uniquely designed for supply training. The company reached a total strength of 302 men, commanded by Captain McCawley.

June 1943
The company was renamed as the 26th Port Company, and First Lieutenant Glen L. Nichols became the new company commander.

August to October 1943
At the end of August the company moved to the Kochlor building in South Boston. In early September they billeted in the Alger and Howe schools, also in South Boston. In mid-October the men were all moved again to be housed in the Cashman school in East Boston, neat the Sumner tunnel. While in Boston the company received further military and technical training and hands-on experience loading and unloading supply ships. Again, my grandfather battalion was also in Boston.

November to December 1943
In December the company was moved to Camp Myles Standish to prepare for their transport overseas. The 501st Port Battalion was dissolved and its companies became independent units. On December 27th the 267th Port Company boarded the Argentina. The men were given kitchen duty to serve the 4000 other soldiers onboard. On the 29th the ship joined a convoy bound for the UK.

January 1944
Their ship arrived in the small port of Gourock, Scotland (not far from Glasgow). The men were moved by train to Plymouth, Devonshire, England, arriving on January 13th. The troops were quartered in Seaton Barracks on the northern edge of the city. The company was attached to the 392nd Port Battalion and began working the docks. The men also received more training on dockwork, firefighting, bomb disposal, chemical warfare, and combat.

March 1944
The company carpenters built a mock ship (like the two in Indiantown Gap) so that the unit (and future recruits) could be schooled in their stevedores and longshoreman duties without getting in the way of the actual supply work in port.

April to May 1944
Combat training ended and the men were relocated to tents in Devonport Park in the center of the city. The company was attached to the 392nd Port Battalion. On May 25th the company was moved to Fowey in Cornwall (35 miles southwest of Plymouth). The rest of the month was spent preparing for D-Day.

June and July 1944
The company worked in double shifts to keep up with the massive amount of supplies moving military supplies to Normandy. The company commander was promoted to captain.

August to September 1944
The company was released from the 392nd Port Battalion and put under the command of the 13th Port. By the end of August military supplies into Fowey ended. On September 3rd the company moved to Marshaling Area Camp C-5 near Winchester, then C-13. The company oversaw the running of these camps until they were sent back to Plymouth at the end of September.

October 1944
On October 22nd the company boarded ships to head to France. The men were split onto two landing craft LST 175 and LST 316. The ships arrived in LeHavre on October 23rd. On the 25th the men boarded trains for Belgium. On the 26the train arrived in Antwerp. They were among the first Americans to enter the city, and were met by cheering Belgians. The company was housed in the Luchtbal Barracks.

November and December 1944
The entire company pulled guard duty in the port as German buzz bombs and rockets hit the city daily. In December the company began dock work discharging the first Allied ships to enter the port.
(My book goes into great detail about the port companies' service in Antwerp)

January - August 1945
On Sunday January 14th Private First Class Leonard Grajok was killed by a V-2 rocket that hit Area C in the docks. On February 19th a V-1 buzz bomb hit the mens' quarters, but no one was hurt. That same day a different V-1 hit the dock area and injured Technician 4 James Kirkpatrick, who later received the Purple Heart. Staff Sergeant Alfred P. Wiesenhoefer was awarded a Soldier's Medal for saving the life of a Belgian dock worker who had been injured in the bomb blast. Dock work continued even after Germany's surrender.

September 1945
The city of Antwerp awarded certificates of appreciation to the soldiers who had served in the port during the German V-bomb bombardment.

November 1945
The last page of the document was for November. The company was reduced in strength as me were reassigned to other units and/or sent home to the States. The company itself remained in Europe (probably into 1946).

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