Johnson, JoAnn K.: 1967-1968 Libya Evacuation

It was the first Monday in June, 1967 when my students and I became aware from our playing field that many fighter planes were flying NORTH across the Mediterranean Sea instead of south into their training area in the desert. By noon we got the word about the Six Day-War as it became known: The Arab-Israeli War. This war was actually fought from June 5-6 until June 10th.

Students who lived off base were kept on base & housed with families, the procedure completed the next day. Each teacher was responsible for their Homeroom students locations. Fortunately, the parents of 2 sisters in my group took at least 12 girls into their home. Placement lists had to be turned into the principal’s office with Allan Peterson, our principal. Thus parents of off base students could be notified. A great number of our students had parents who worked for the oil companies in Libya.

On Tuesday the teachers in the BOQs were to pack a bag, lock up their valuables & report for assignment to another building. Those BOQs units were to to be used for Americans & others living off base. Fortunately, I was flown out before my unit was assigned.

The final grades had to be turned in by the end of the day, Tuesday, because all records were being flown out. The NCA dispensed the seniors from the required minimum days of attendance.

We received no information about how the war was going.

Special orders were given to teachers and other civilians, US or non-US, to specific destinations. We had to authorize a military person to pack us out, the shipment to be sent later. Fortunately, my best friend’s boy friend was an NCO & agreed to pack us out. In the processing center the first question for me was, “Are you pregnant?”. I would guess there was a priority system to evacuate personnel.

My orders, Special orders TB-253, had me listed with 14 others being sent to Zaragoza AB in Spain. Other destinations on the same orders included:
Moron AB & Torrejon AB in Spain, Athens, Greece; Naval Air Station & the Fleet SVS STN in Rome, Italy; Ramstein AB, Rhein Main AB & Bitburg AB in West Germany.

Reporting to the flight line for takeoff, we noticed unshaven pilots knowing they evacuating personnel as fast as possible. I believe they evacuated over 8,000 personnel within the week. We watched the the aircraft we were to board come out of the repair hangar; we speculated whether or not our flight to Zaragoza AB was the test flight.

The time at Zaragoza AB was a short few days for those of us already with orders for our next assignment, my orders being to H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden, West Germany. We were flown to Kennedy Airport in New York City via Madrid, Spain.

After we de-planed and were in the waiting room for connecting flights, a TIME magazine photographer was there to greet us. I managed to stay clear of his taking pictures though some friends were not so fast. The June 16, 1967 issue contained an article about the exodus of Americans from the Middle East including a photo labeled. “Refuges….”. One of our teachers & his family was in the picture.

Schools reopened on Wheelus AB in October, 1967 & many of my friends returned there for another year. Fortunately, my orders for Wiesbaden were cut before in May so had no problem leaving Wheelus AB in my memories.
My shipment of goods arrived in Wiesbaden in April, 1968.

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