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

By Donna Alvah | Go to book overview

Conclusion

As a family's tour of duty drew to a close, the household prepared for the journey to the next station. On rare occasions, family members left for the United States before the sponsor's tour of duty ended, for instance, when a child finished high school and wished to return to the United States to attend college, a medical condition necessitated the return of a spouse, or a marriage ended in divorce.1 The U.S. military evacuated families from foreign posts during international crises: the outbreak of the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the beginning of the Vietnam War. On June 26, 1950, Dorothy House Vieman wrote to her family that on the previous day North Korean airplanes strafed the U.S. military housing compound where she lived outside Seoul, and that she and another wife and their two dogs waited with their houseboys in a trench dug by the domestic servants for the orders to evacuate. The American wives left almost everything behind, including furniture and pets. Vieman left South Korea and its people with a heavy heart. “This war isn't the North Koreans against the South Koreans. This war is Communism against Americanism, and the pitiful Koreans are pawns in a war which happened to fall within their borders,” she wrote, and defended the U.S. participation in it as “a moral obligation” to defend the South Korean people against the attempted communist takeover.2 The week before the crisis began over nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962, U.S. News and World Report reported that although life appeared to go on as usual for American military families at Guantanamo Bay, wives had packed suitcases and studied evacuation plans. On October 22, President Kennedy informed the nation that he had ordered the evacuation of American families from the base.3

Early returns occurred infrequently, though, and most families remained at their posts for the duration of the sponsor's assignment. As the time to leave approached, they packed their household goods and souvenirs, made arrangements to ship pets to their next home, and said goodbye to their American friends as well as the local people whom they had come to know. Marian Merritt described the weeks preceding her family's

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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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