488th Port Battalion"
|The 488th Port
Battalion was activated December 12, 1942 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville,
Pennsylvania. It consisted of Headquarters Company and four companies
– A, B, C, and D. These were later changed to the 188th, 189th, 190th
and 191st Port Companies. The original Battalion Commander was Major
Wesley White who was replaced by Major William Clemente. Officer
personnel came from various training facilities, and enlisted personnel
were sought who had any experience in crane operating, stevedoring, longshoring,
operating tugs and barges, and any civilian occupation related to port
After three months of intensive training at the “Gap,” mostly on a mock up ship affectionately called the “SS Neversail,” the 488th moved by train to Camp Miles Standish in Taunton, MA. Following a short stay at Camp Miles Standish, the 488th moved to the Cahill Building in southern Boston where it experienced it’s first real test of loading cargo onto ships at the Boston Army Base, Commonwealth Pier, and at Castle Island. From here, the 488th was moved to Fort Devens in Ayer, MA for further assignment. The 488th was nearly assigned to Churchill, Canada, which was being considered as a shipping alternative to New York City due to the many ship sinkings by German U-boats, but this assignment never materialized. While waiting for assignment overseas, the 488th was used to replace the striking longshoremen in Boston. The 488th was billeted at Harvard Stadium where they slept on cots under the stadium walkways.
After the strike was settled, the 488th returned to Fort Devens to wait for assignment overseas.
During July and early August, the men of the 488th were given leave prior to shipping out for the war.
At 1900 hours on August 19th of 1943, the 488th Port Battalion was headed to New York aboard a troop train for the trip overseas. At 0730 on August 20th the 488th Port Battalion was loaded on board a cruise ship, the “USS Santa Rosa,” converted to a troop carrier. The “USS Santa Rosa” carried 5500 troops and the first contingent of 500 Women Army Corps (WAC’s) sailed out of New York harbor, without escort, avoiding waiting German submarines. The “USS Santa Rosa” soon joined huge convoy. The convoy followed the US coastline south and then across the Atlantic Ocean to Oran, Africa.
When the “USS Santa Rosa” docked and pulled up her torpedo nets, one torpedo was caught in the net. No one knows when or where the torpedo was caught. The 488th moved on shore to the town of Mers El Kabir.
At Mers El Kabir, the 488th lived in a tent city. The food was bad and the water was contaminated. Many of the men got amoebic dysentery and were too sick to work.
On September 28, 1943, they boarded the “Orontes” (an English ship) at Alturk, Africa at 1300 hours. (The “Orontes” was a filthy ship.) They arrived at Bizerte, Africa on October 2nd at 0700 hours. Staying aboard the “Orontes,” they headed for Naples, Italy. They arrived in Naples (picture of what it looks like today) at 1130 hours on October 6th to find that the Germans had sunken a number of ships at the harbor entrance and at the docks.
In Naples, the 488th was housed in the Institute of Electronics and was assigned to the main pier. The 448th carried 19 officers, 2 warrant officers, and 892 enlisted men.
On entering Naples, the Battalion suffered it’s first casualty when he was shot by a German sniper. Nightly bombings interrupted operations but the 488th was still able to set cargo discharging records. Food, ammunition, gas, tanks, and even locomotives were unloaded.
Records set in unloading in three months at Naples qualified the 488th for the assignment for the Anzio landing. Three heavily loaded cargo ships made the initial landing at Anzio – the “SS John Banvard,” the “SS Brete Harte,” and the “SS Hilary Herbert.”
On January 20, 1944 at 1300 hours, each company boarded a ship that was loaded in preparation for the invasion of Anzio, Italy. All ships departed Naples the following day and arrived north of the Tiber River at Anzio at 0900 hours on January 22.
The 188th, 189th, 190th, and the 191st stayed on their ships while Headquarter Company set up operations on shore. During the first ten days of unloading under constant German air attacks, the “SS Banvard” received a near miss that damaged the ship’s plates. On January 26 at 2300 hours the “SS Hilary Herbert” was struck by a German plane that had been shot down, causing severe damage to the ship and it had to be abandoned. On February 13 at 1800 hours the “Ely Yale” took a direct hit in the number 4 hatch, which had contained bombs and assorted ammunition, but luckily it had been unloaded approximately one hour prior to the attack so it was empty when it was hit by the bomb. In the blast, however, 10 men were killed and 97 more were wounded.
Moving from ship to ship, the 488th, when not on shore unloading landing crafts (LCI’s and LST’s) moved to newly arriving ships with cargo to be unloaded onto amphibious trucks (DUK’s) and barges. Enemy aircraft returned hour after hour, day after day, and night after night attempting to disrupt the unloading operations of the 488th. (Picture) It was like this for 42 straight days. The 488th was also under fire from a 280mm German railroad gun called “Anzio Annie.”
On February 25, 1944, the 488th was relieved for a well earned and very much deserving rest at Torre Annunziata, Italy (south of Naples). After two weeks there, the 488th returned to Naples for the loading of ships and trips to Anzio. The losses suffered while at Anzio greatly reduced the effectiveness of the Battalion.
The Battalion Commander (William Clemente) was relieved of his command and replaced by Cassell Kingdom. They men of the 488th really liked Kingdom for his “I’m just one of the guys” attitude. He also had the barracks cleaned and painted and showers installed (with hot water). He would even eat with the enlisted men.
Replacements for the dead and wounded came slowly from combat units, but these men were not experienced and physically capable of handling the duties that the men of the 488th have been doing.
On June 13, 1944, the Battalion arrived by truck and ship north to the port of Civitavecchia (near Rome). Here the 488th unloaded 55 gallon drums of high test gasoline. On June 29, the Battalion moved by truck to the port of Piombino to provide convoys with gas and food.
On September 16, the 190th Port Company left Piombino on the Liberty Ship “Benning” and arrived in Naples on September 18th. The next day the 190th boarded the Italian cruiser “Pompeo Magno” and departed Naples and on September 20 arrived at the port of Caglairi, Sardinia. The 188th, 189th, and 191st Port Companies along with Headquarters Company moved north to the port of Livorno, Italy (Leghorn) and remained there until there deactivation.
On November 16, 1944, the 190th boarded the Liberty Ship “Vernon Pike” and departed from Caglairi the following day and arrived in the port of Naples on the November 18. On December 7, the 190th left Naples by train and arrived at Bari, Italy on December 8, 1944.
On November 17th they left Caglairi aboard the “Vernon Pike” to take the 1-day trip to Naples. On December 7, the 190th left Naples by train headed to Bari, Italy where they arrived the next day. The 190th remained in Bari for almost 1 year.
The war ended in Europe on May 7, 1945, when Germans signed surrender terms at Reims. Several months after the cease fire and surrender by the Germans, the 190th Port Company was given the task of receiving ammunition, which was to be loaded on ships and sent back to the United States. The first ship to be loaded with bombs and ammunition was underway and more than half loaded when it suddenly exploded and destroyed most of the port of Bari. Debris and ship parts were found several miles away from the port. Fortunately, the ship exploded at noon time when most of the people were on lunch break. The 190th lost 2 men, Sgt. Dubbs and Sgt. Jackovina. However, many Italian civilians who were working on the ship and on the docks were killed. After an investigation, it was never determined whether the explosion was sabotage or an accident.
In November of 1945, with the war winding down, the 190th left Bari by truck convoy headed for Naples. They boarded the aircraft carrier “USS Randolph.” where they celebrated Thanksgiving on there voyage home.
Returning home after the war, many former members of the 488th Port Battalion continued to distinguish themselves with federal service; most notably five remained in the military service rising to the rank of field grade officers; another completed his medical education and operated his own hospital in Texas; another became a distinguished sports reporter; while another headed the public school system of one of the mid-west states; another followed the profession of the longshoreman to be in charge of one of the largest piers in New York City; and another became a labor leader in the longshoreman industry.
On June 3, 1994 ten members of the former 488th Port Battalion made a 50th anniversary trip to the US Cemetery at Anzio-Nettuno to visit the burial site of former buddies and to pay a final tribute to the major contribution they made. (Pictures)
Among the 488th Port Battalion’s Assignments
Decorations and Recognition
FINALLY!!! Thanks to a document Don Iddings (191st) sent me and
Mrs. Barbara Bowers (Director at the Fort Eustis Transportation Museum)
for getting the 488th recognized for their accomplishments during WWII!
It may have been long over due, but that takes nothing from what these
great men did for the U.S.A. Pictures Coming Soon!!!