While expanding Cargill’s coconut oil business, one brave employee proves his dedication to securing reliable supplies of goods for customers
In the mid-1950s, Cargill was seeking new markets to expand its copra crushing business. Copra is the dried meat of the coconut used to extract coconut oil and is used as an ingredient in soaps, medicines, cosmetics and animal feed. Copra had to be sourced from countries outside of the United States, and the company hired a resourceful German immigrant, Jack Hessler, to help. Hessler was no stranger to risky situations: before joining Cargill, he fought in World War II and spent three years in US military intelligence during the Korean War. As a new employee, Hessler was prepared to face most challenges.
A big challenge presented itself in 1958 during a copra-sourcing trip to Indonesia. Hessler was to arrive in the port town of Bitung, meet a Cargill-supplied boat, the M/S Blumenau, pick up a copra shipment and transport it back to the US. But a revolution broke out in Indonesia, interrupting the shipment. The coup leader sent for Hessler, demanding the proceeds from the copra sale be used to support the rebellion. “I was not particularly worried about my safety,” Hessler recalled. “What was on my mind was the Bitung copra and the M/S Blumenau, which was steaming toward Northern Sulawesi (in Indonesia).” Hessler escaped Indonesia by convincing the rebels that he would return with the cash. He warned the Blumenau and saved the copra shipment in the process.
After his successful getaway, Hessler was invited to Cargill’s headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Chairman John MacMillan, Jr., and President Cargill MacMillan, Sr., were waiting to thank him for outwitting the rebels and saving the cargo. As an extra token of appreciation, the leaders presented him with a rare bonus check. Hessler’s story reflects Cargill’s legacy of going above and beyond to ensure that customers will have the supplies they need.