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17th Major Port
Theater Service Forces, European Theater

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.


17th Major Port

Bremerhaven POE

487th Port Bn

Staging Area

Bremerhaven Port

Bremen Port

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Former 17th Major Port & later BPE Headquarters building (Robert Bauer)()
17th Major Port
 

A Victory ship unloads supplies at the port of Bremerhaven, July 1945
 
1945
What is a "Major Port"?
 
(Source: The Transportation Corps: Operations Overseas, United States Army in World War II series)
A new Table of Organization and Equipment for a major port headquarters (oversea), approved in November 1943, was a result of experiences gained in the early years of the war and the need to meet local requirements. It called for a reduction in the normal strength from 579 to 519 officers and men. The resultant reorganization was effected at the several ports in the United Kingdom early in 1944 (including the 17th Major Port).

Headed by a port commander, who might have the rank of brigadier general, the new port headquarters was designed to function with two port directors: one for services (including administration and the several supply services); and the other for operations (including a transportation division and a water division). Port battalions, Quartermaster truck companies, harbor craft units, ship maintenance and repair companies, and other service and operating units were to be attached as required by local conditions and the amount of traffic to be handled.
 
In reviewing the historical manuscript "Transportation" from the OCCUPATION FORCES series, I believe that the 17th Major Port in the Fall of of 1945 included the 487th Port Bn, three Port companies and the 330th Harbor Craft Co.

 
Direction signs to various units in Bremerhaven, 1945 (Robert Bauer)
 
(Source: Volume I, The First Year, OCCUPATION FORCES series)
On May 24 1945, the Bremen Enclave, including the ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven, was occupied by US forces.

 

US Navy takes over Ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven, July 1945
 
Caption on Signal Corps photo: American sailors now control the sub pens and docks of Bremen and Bremerhaven, two major German ports on the Weser River. The Stars and Stripes replace the Nazi Swastica over a German destroyer, captured when the US Navy moved into Bremerhaven. Hoisting the colors are D.R. Farce, Coxswain (left) of Orange, Texas, and J.J. Cotter, Soundman, of 42 Goldsmith St., Jamaica Plain, Mass. Both men are attached to the US Navy's advance base set up in Bremerhaven to supply American occupational forces.

 

A Liberty general cargo ship berthed at the cargo terminal, port of Bremerhaven, 1945
 
(Source: Volume III, The First Year, OCCUPATION FORCES series)
The shift toward use of the ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven for receipt of supplies and handling of supplies through a depot system completely within Germany began the end of September.

Bremen had been so badly damaged that the complete opening of the port area was delayed until September 11. The conditions at Bremerhaven were not so bad, and that port was able to open on June 22.

When the United States forces started using the port of Bremerhaven in June 1945, 22,000 tons of cargo were discharged at the port. By July 162,000 tons, or approximately 20 percent of the military cargo unloaded at Continental ports, came through this port. The peak was reached in April 1946 with 181,000 tons. Thereafter the decrease in Theater strength was reflected in reduced shipping. The total declined in June 1946 to 58,000 tons. By the end of June 1946, all personnel and cargo to and from, occupied territory was being handled through Bremen-Bremerhaven..

Other ports on the continent were closed and returned to the donor nations as the line of communications was shifted to Germny and Bremen and Bremerhaven were able to handle the incoming and outgoing cargo.

The construction program adopted at Bremerhaven for the period of January to June 1946 called for 423,000 man-hours of labor and 1,210 long tons of supplies, but by June 1946 only 66,710 man-hours had been completed.

Operations
17th Major Port

 

1. A German dock detail at work

2. 17th Major Port officers

3. Liberty ship at Bremerhaven


4. Supplies being unloaded

5. SS Stevenson at Bremerhaven

6. Turning Basin


7. Turning basin

8 . Kaiser Lock
 

 

The German liner "Europa" in the harbor of Bremerhaven, May 1945
 
The German transatlantic line, the S/S Europa, was seized by the Americans in the port of Bremerhaven in May 1945. The Maintenance and Repair section of the 17th Major Port converted the Europa to a troopship and she was used as a US Navy troop transport until 1946, when the Europa was handed over to France in compensation for the loss of the S.S. Normandie during the Second World War.

S/S Europa
Bremerhaven

 

1. S/S Europa

2. S/S Europa

3. S/S Europa


 

Lehe Barracks, Bremerhaven, 1945
 
1946
(Source: Volume I, The First Year, OCCUPATION FORCES series)
On April 15 1946, the Bremen Port Command was discontinued and its primary subordinate command, the 17th Major Port, became the main administrative headquarters for the Bremen-Bremerhaven area.

 

Redeploying Army and Air Force personnel read the Stars & Stripes and magazines in front
of the PX as they wait for their ship back to the US, 1946 (Bill Parrish)
 
(Source: The Second Year, Vol V., OCCUPATION FORCES series)
1. The 17th Major Port and Continental Base Section Sub.Sector No. 4.

With the deactivation of the Bremen Port Command on 15 April 1946, the headquarters of the 17th Major Port, commanded by Col. Edward M. Conner, Jr., became the main administrative headquarters in the Bremen Enclave. The Continental Base Section Sub-Sector No. 4 was activated at this time as a coordinating and inspecting agency of the commanding general of the Continental Base Section, who was charged with area responsibility in the Bremen Enclave.

For administration of community affairs the Enclave was divided into two military communities, the commanding officer of the 17th Major Port being responsible for the Bremerhaven Area and the commanding officer of Sub-Sector No. 4 for the remainder of the area. The Sub-Sector commander was also the commander of all tactical troops in the Enclave and directly responsible to the commanding general of Continental Base Section for security.

Divisional commanders of the 17th Major Port were: Deputy Commander, Col. Paul J. Matte; Director of Administration, Col. Alfred J. de Lorimier; Director of Operations, Col. Herschel D. Baker; and Director of Port Services, Col. O. P. Bragan.

Dependents began arriving in April 1946, and were transferred directly from ship to special trains destined for Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna.

In June 1946 the Port became responsible for processing all female civilians returning to the Zone of the Interior and the Dependents' Hotel in Bremerhaven became headquarters for redeploying dependents,

2. The Bremerhaven Military Community.

On 15 November 1946 the Bremerhaven Military Community, commanded by Col. Merrit E. Olmstead, took over all community activities in the Enclave. This move clarified administrative and operational functions and left the 17th Major Port free to administer port operations. The 17th Major Port and the Bremerhaven Military Community continued to function until the Bremerhaven Port of Embarkation became operational on 15 March 1947.

3. Military Government.

The Bremen Enclave was initially administered by American Military Government personnel unter British policy, subject to approval of the U.S. Military Commander. In September 1946 General Clay and General Robertson modified their agreement of 10 December 1945 and the area which later became Land Bremen came under U.S. Military Government exclusively. U.S. Military Government detachments in the remainder of the Enclave were withdrawn and replaced by British Military Government detachments.

On 2 January 1947 the area under U.S, Military Government was incorporated as a Land government (Land Bremen).

4. The Troop Staging Area.

The Bremerhaven Troop Staging Area, with a rated capacity of 14,000, was redesignated as the 7749 Staging Area in the latter part of 1946. This staging area operated, besides its troop staging facilitles the Dependents' Hotel, the Bremen Emigration Station (redesignated as the 7730th Emigration Station), the War Bride Staging Area, the Pet Staging Area, and the 421 Army Band.

5. Release of Port by Navy.

On 1 November 1946 the U.S. Navy released control of the Bremerhaven port to the Bremen Office of Military Goverment. Although the Navy continued in an advisory capacity, Military Government assumed responsibility for signal towers, sea pilots, harbor masters, weather and storm warning service, barges, dredges, marine security, emergency supplies for ships other than Army transports and Navy vessels, and radio traffic to all ships at sea. The 17th Major Port continued to operate port facilities for U.S. personnel and supplies. Military Government directed exports and imports, Army civil affairs, German civil affairs, and Czechoslovak supplias under agreements with that country.

6. Bremerhaven Port of Embarkation.

The Bremerhaven Port of Embartation (BPE Page), which combined under one command all districts and post functions within the Bremen Enclave and functions formerly assigned to the 17th Major Port, became operational 15 March 1947.


 
1947
(Source: Information obtained by Robert L. Bauer through the National Archives)
Hq. & Hq. Company, 17th Transportation Corps Major Port is redesignated Hq. & Hq. Company, 17th Transportation Major Port effective as of 22 April 1947. Unit will be reorganized at the earliest practicable date by the Commander in Chief, European Command by deleting medical personnel, in accordance with Table of Organization & Equipment 55-110-1 (20 November 1943) w/3 Changes, with an authorized strength of 106 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer, 394 Enlisted Men; reference is made to radio WAR 96690 dated 22 April 1947 - per AGAO-1 322 (22 Apr 1947) WDGOT-M dated 9 May 1947.

 
(Source: The American Military Occupation of Germany, 1945 - 1953)

On May 15, 1947, the Continental Base Section was discontinued. Its major operation, the Bremerhaven Port of Embarkation (BPE Page), which had been created on March 15, 1947, was made a major subordinate command of EUCOM.


Port of Bremen
 

Port operations headquarters at the Übersee Docks, Bremen, 1945
 

Photo of the Übersee Docks taken by an Army Air Corps reconnaissance plane in 1945
 

View of the Übersee Docks from the Operations building, 1945. Vessels in the foreground
belong to a small fleet of Navy watercraft assigned to port operations at Bremen.

 
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