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

By Donna Alvah | Go to book overview

2
Unofficial Ambassadors

American families arriving in Germany and Japan in 1946 learned that the armed forces considered them part of the occupation mission. An Army representative informed women and teenagers in the American zone of Germany that “You are also serving your country while here.”1 Like official personnel serving abroad, wives and children received orientation and guidance about living overseas and coming face to face with Germans and Japanese. A pamphlet for families in Kyoto, Japan, informed readers that “As a part of an army in the field dependents of U.S. personnel are subject to the regulations which [pertain to] all Armed Forces personnel in this theater. Because of your unique position as members of an occupation force in Japan, it is necessary that you set for yourselves the highest standards of personal behavior.”2 In Germany, spouses and children fourteen and older were to attend a four-hour orientation program in which the Army facilitator told them that

every American man, woman, and child in the European Theater has the
power to do either good or harm to our foreign relations, depending on
his contacts with the Europeans. A thoughtless, careless, selfish, or inso-
lent attitude can make an enemy of a former friend or a future friend. A
sympathetic and helpful manner may bring the opposite result. Let each
one take the responsibility for doing what he can to improve the foreign
relations of his country.3

Both the guide for families in Japan and the orientation for spouses and children in Germany assumed that American families should help to advance the missions of the armed forces in those countries. In referring to spouses and children as “part of an army in the field” and “members of an occupation force,” the Kyoto pamphlet reveals that authorities of the armed forces considered the families of personnel not as external to the military, but integral to it. The orientation program attests to the assumption of occupation authorities that the attitudes and actions of American family members, in their encounters with Europeans, could help or hinder

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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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