"Stevedores of Port Battalion Carry on Prewar Jobs"
AFHQ, March 16, 1945 -- Few of the men in the 488th Port Battalion will go back to civilian life occupationally rusty.
Their work is basically the same as it was before they entered the service but now they have performed it in the Army under bombing attacks and German shellfire. The men of this battalion are stevedores in the Peninsular Base Section, MTO.
In 18 months overseas, in Italy and North Africa, these soldiers have loaded and unloaded thousands of ships with war materials. Twenty-six men have been killed in action and 60 wounded.
A detachment of 160 men was at Anzio for 42 days (or as WO William Rice puts it, “42 years”). Weeks before the men reached Anzio they had loaded ships at Naples. They moved to Anzio on the same ships and their mission was to unload them again, this time offshore and onto “duck” boats and other small craft which carried the equipment through the shallow water to the beach.
German planes blasted three cargo ships on which these men were working. Eighteen men were killed but said the medical officer at the Anzio evacuation hospital, the death toll would have been three times as high if it weren’t for the heroic rescue work of 1st Lt. Norman Phillips.
An enemy aerial torpedo struck one of the ships and the crew had to abandon it. Lt. Phillips managed to swim to a large raft and, as the bombing continued, he pulled man after man out of the water. Making for shore, Lt. Phillips, himself uninjured, gave first aid and carried the wounded to the hospital.
But that didn’t stop the unloading. During those days at Anzio the men unloaded an average of 1,160 long tons daily!
Since coming overseas the battalion has received six commendations. It has unloaded everything from cases of C rations to sectionalized air landing strips. In December 1944, the unit unloaded 37,275 long tons of war gear in the Leghorn harbor area.
The battalion was in the first convoy to reach Civitavecchia after it fall. The Nazis had barely retreated past the city limits before the outfit was at work unloading ships.
When the battalion reached the bomb-shattered port of Leghorn there
were no piers it could use as loading berths. But this was only a
temporary setback. In a matter of hours the men built a berth atop
a sunken ship and got to work.