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

By Donna Alvah | Go to book overview

3
A U.S. Lady's World

On November 2, 1960, Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kennedy proposed a government-sponsored “Peace Corps” that arose from a vision of the United States as a humanitarian, democratic world leader desirous of selflessly assisting the poorest peoples of less powerful and privileged nations. The idea excited Americans. Over the next three months, thousands wrote letters asking how they could join, and a Gallup Poll reported that seventy-one percent of those questioned supported Kennedy's proposal.1 The idea of a U.S. government-sponsored body of American volunteers striving with peoples at the grassroots level to better their societies expressed the deep wish of Americans to see their country not only as a militarily and economically dominant power that used its strength to serve national self-interest, but also as a noble, beneficent force for aiding humankind.2

In response to Kennedy's inauguration and the impending creation of the Peace Corps, U.S. Lady editors Alvadee and John Adams wrote in their February 1961 editorial that military wives abroad possessed extensive experience in “volunteer foreign aid” and had already constituted a “Peace Corps” since 1946, when American military families first arrived in Germany.3 The editorial struck a chord with readers. A letter to the editors signed by Mrs. Bob Pennington stated that “wives and children of the military are peace corps 'natural[s].'” In another letter, Marie Nasch declared that American military wives were “LADY 'diplomats'” and “the finest, most gracious Peace Corps any country could ask for.” Nasch entreated Kennedy to use military wives in the Peace Corps: “Put us in the picture, Mr. President. We've been there all this time, but no one has noticed us except our thousands of foreign friends who have said sayonara, auf wiedersehen, au revoir, and what have you, with tears in their eyes.” Nasch, whose husband would soon retire from the military, volunteered her own services.4

Many military wives, like Peace Corps volunteers, tried to embody the post – World War II ideal of “humanitarian internationalism.”5 They sought to establish international alliances based on friendship, coopera-

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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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