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

By Donna Alvah | Go to book overview

6
Young Ambassadors

When the ship carrying the family of Ann and Robert Chase docked in Genoa, Italy, in 1955, four-year-old Debby walked down the gangplank and greeted an Italian policeman with “Buon giorno.” The delighted policeman responded warmly, “Buon giorno, bambina Americana!” According to Ann Chase, her daughter's greeting sparked “a beautiful friendship between Italy and my three children.” During Robert Chase's three-year tour of duty with the Support Command, Southern European Task Force at Camp Darby, the family lived in an Italian neighborhood near the base. Nancy, Debby, and Robbie Chase befriended the Italians who came to their house: the fruit vendor, the garbage collector, the landlord, and the “donkey-ride man.” Ann Chase described her children's encounters with Italians in their neighborhood as “mak[ing] friends naturally … in the ordinary activities of day-to-day living.”1

After World War II, service children's friendship with people overseas served as a resonant metaphor for ideal relations between the United States and other nations. In an article on raising children in military life abroad, service mother Marcia Matthews observed that children's “getting along” with others was a “basic tenet” of American education. An American teacher in Tokyo declared in 1948 that Army children, more than their civilian peers, embodied “world citizenship” because of their experience in adapting to “ways of living radically different from [their] own.”2 Well-behaved, friendly children who because of their youth exercised less social power than adults were considered natural internationalists. As the least threatening group of Americans, they were believed to easily befriend residents of occupied and host nations. Service mothers in particular, and also American educators, promulgated an idea of children as more capable than adults of transcending cultural differences between Americans and other peoples, and of facilitating relations between their parents and local adults. In the minds of Americans, children's ready acquisition of local languages and their enthusiasm for learning about the culture and history of the nations in which they lived modeled foreign relations in their ideal form.

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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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