In July of 1954, 150 American schoolteachers left Seattle on board the Navy transport, General William E. Mitchell, destination and assignment unknown. The teachers knew only that they had been assigned to the Far East Command, which included the four main islands of Japan and the island of Okinawa. Previous to their departure, these teachers had been interviewed at leading universities throughout the country, screened and selected as representatives of the American Government to a foreign land.
Their departure followed three days of indoctrination in Seattle, during which time they were given opportunity to turn back as they were reminded that they were going to a land of former enemies where human life is very cheap and nature often chaotic. Continue reading
Len Sylvanus McCartney
Superintendent and Principal, Yokohama American Dependent Schools
by: Col. William F. Wollenberg, U.S. Army (Retired)
LOREN SYLVANUS MCCARTNEY
Lieutenant Colonel Loren Sylvanus McCartney, U.S. Army, Retired, was the first Superintendent of the Yokohama American Dependent Schools and the first Principal of Yokohama American High School. Continue reading
Narimasu (Grant Heights) High School, Japan 1952-1954
Heidelberg American High School, Germany 1954-1958
After teaching in Iowa for eight years, I applied for a music position with the Army School for Dependent’s children, hoping that I would be assigned in Europe. After filling out many forms, I finally had a personal interview in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where approximately 25 other music teachers were interviewed that same day. The interview went extremely well and I was pleased with it, but didn’t expect to get accepted. However, on May 5, 1952 I received a letter stating that I had been accepted … but for Japan. I knew so little about Japan, only three words: Mt. Fuji, geisha, Ginza. This was not the time for me to say no” to learn more about another part of our world so I sent a telegram saying that I accepted the position … somewhere in Japan. (One was never given a final assignment until you were actually in the country). Continue reading
COACH AT YAMATO HIGH SCHOOL
In August 1964, I landed at Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. Meeting the plane was Joe Blackstead, Superintendent of Schools. It was then that I learned that I was assigned to Yamato High School. I was told by Principal Olan Knight that I would be teaching social studies, physical education and coaching football, basketball and baseball. This was the year of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The USA basketball team needed a gym in which to hold secret workouts. Coach Iba picked our gym at Tachikawa for these workouts. I volunteered my services to Coach Iba and I was asked to run the shooting charts during the Games. Some of the players on the team were Bill Bradley, Walt Hazzard, Mel Counts and Larry Brown.
The USA team defeated the Russians in the Championship game in Tokyo 73 to 59. This was the sports highlight of my 25-year career in DODDS.
However, this was not my first visit to Tachikawa Air Base. In December 1945, I landed at Tachikawa in a B-25. When World War II ended, I was stationed at Buckner Bay in Okinawa. I had gone through the Battle of Okinawa as a Navy Mo.M. 3/c. After landing, I needed a ride to Tokyo to meet a friend. So I caught a train at the Tachi train station for U.S. military personnel only. However, I made sure no Japanese civilians got in back of me at the train station. I had gone through too many Kamikaze attacks and had been shot at too many times at the Okinawa Battle. I just didn’t trust our former enemy. Tokyo, I found to be devastated by B-29’s. The firebombs had done their job. However, I did notice the only thing left in many of the burned homes was a safe. I never saw so many safes in my life. After a five-day leave, I returned to my base in Okinawa.
Sincerely, Joseph Steffen
P.S. I hope you can use the above for The Early Days Book” for the period 1956-1966. (Report written January 9, 1999.)
Copyright 2004 American Overseas Schools Historical Society
Gathering thoughts for a trip down memory lane that occurred 44 years ago was an experience in itself. My mind was flooded with flashes of people, places and events. I realized my interpretation of these thoughts had been tempered by the passage of time and my own maturation process. The greatest revelation was the role that the years 1950 – 1952 played on the rest of my life.
Becoming a Department of the Army civilian or DAC, all began one foggy February morning in 1950. Arriving at school, my Principal greeted me saying she wanted me to be sure and read what she had just posted on the bulletin board. It was a very official looking letter from the Department of the Army (DOA) announcing the recruitment of teachers for the Overseas Dependent Schools. Continue reading
I arrived in Japan in Sept. 1953 by MATS ship, having courses in survival Japanese as we crossed. Not knowing whether we would be assigned to Florida weather or Alaska weather, it was hard to be prepared. Immediately I was put on a train that night for Misawa AF Base. Culture shock lasted for quite awhile as I wasn’t prepared to be tucked into a sleeping compartment on the train while the Japanese men undressed down to their BVDs in the aisle.
After getting almost settled at our base, several new acquaintances and I took off for Hokkaido to take advantage of the Labor Day weekend not realizing that no meals were served on trains and that 2nd class accommodations on the steamer meant sleeping on a raised tatami mat covered bed” with 100 Japanese tourists. Continue reading
Upon arrival in Japan for my first assignment in 1956, I and others were met by the Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Ed Pino. He inquired how we had enjoyed our thirty-six hour flight from San Francisco. I mention this because we flew in a four-engine prop plane, unlike the jets to be taken on flights to the U.S. just two years later.
We were taken to a Japanese restaurant where we consumed copious amounts of butterfly shrimp amongst other delicacies. It was a very tasty introduction to Japanese cuisine.
August 17,1955 was my date to leave for DEG schools in France. I was certain that I would find my assignment to be one of the isolated one or two-teacher schools that Charlie Tinder repeatedly mentioned while he interviewed me at the University of Minnesota. After our flight, via Flying Tigers to Paris, I was pleasantly surprised to be assigned to Verdun, France. Four of us that met at the Litre Hotel, were to leave by train the next morning. They were Margaret O’Hare, Marion Sather, Marian Carmody and myself. Also on the same train were Robert Miller and another fellow whose name I’ve forgotten. He was transferred out of Verdun early in the year.
I was with the DOD schools only one year of this first ten year period I had been teaching at a Methodist Mission School in Palembung, Indonesia so I hadn’t even heard about the military overseas schools until I came home to Fairfax, Virginia in 1953. If I hadn’t made this trip to Indonesia I would most likely never have had the nerve to go to all the strange places that came later.
I think I was quite timid about doing anything on my own at that time but Indonesia changed all that! This was brought about when friends of mine were going to Indonesia to start a business. They asked me if I would like to go with them and teach there. They always declared that my answer was “Sure, where is it!”. I think they may have figured they might need me to teach their kids too. Their eight year old had been in my first grade class in Fairfax. Continue reading