Unofficial Ambassadors: American Military Families Overseas and the Cold War, 1946-1965

By Donna Alvah | Go to book overview

1
Going Overseas

As World War II drew to a close first in Europe in May 1945, then in the Pacific in August, American women looked forward to the homecomings of husbands and fiancés. On the eve of the Allies' official announcement of victory in Japan, Rosie McClain of Washington wrote to her husband Charles, a Navy man in the Pacific, that “The whole world is full of joy and expressing it in some way or another this evening. I know it's the ending of great suffering and pain of war. Darling, I can't celebrate remembering the one I know can't come back [yet].… God willing, we will be together again. For all our lives, we can be together again.”1 The next day, Betty Maue of Pennsylvania wrote to her fiancé, Ario Pacelli, who was in Italy with the Army: “I pray you're fine and that you have good news about coming home soon, too.”2

At the war's end, Charles McClain, Ario Pacelli, and hundreds of thousands of other service personnel faced the possibility of many more months of overseas duty, far from family and home. In the United States, women complained of family separation and demanded the quick return of husbands and fiancés. “I sympathized with parents still waiting to see their sons, and with the wives and children longing to see their husbands and fathers again,” President Harry Truman recalled in his memoir, “[but] we had an obligation as a leading nation to build a firm foundation for the future peace of the world. The future of the country was as much at stake as it had been in the days of the war.”3

Although the armed forces demobilized millions of service personnel in the months following the war, the United States continued to maintain a substantial military strength abroad, especially in occupied Germany and Japan. But many servicemen stationed overseas after the war's end were dispirited and preoccupied with going home. Some engaged in troublesome behavior that undermined military discipline and disrupted local communities. Days after Germany's surrender, General Dwight Eisenhower privately expressed the certitude that the military would have to enable families to join personnel overseas. By late 1945, military officials who hoped to solve the problems of low morale and quell complaints

-14-

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Unofficial Ambassadors: American Military Families Overseas and the Cold War, 1946-1965
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Going Overseas 14
  • 2: Unofficial Ambassadors 38
  • 3: A U.S. Lady's World 81
  • 4: “shoulder to Shoulder” with West Germans 131
  • 5: “dear Little Okinawa” 167
  • 6: Young Ambassadors 198
  • Conclusion 226
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliography 261
  • Index 273
  • About the Author 291
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