TACHIKAWA, JAPAN, 1947-1948
On a cold, gray, rainy day mid October of 1947, four travel-weary teachers from California arrived at Tachikawa Army Air Base where the 317th Troop Carrier Group was stationed.
After two weeks on a stormy voyage from Fort Mason, San Francisco, to Yokohama aboard the troop transport, M.M. Patrick, and processing at 5th Amy Air Force Headquarters in Nagoya, we were ready and eager to assume our teaching positions as the last group of teachers to be assigned there. At the time of our arrival on the base, the School Board was in session. The presiding officer of the School Board had given orders for us to be brought to the meeting as soon as our suitcases had been deposited at our living quarters, which were in a Quonset hut. Continue reading
Mr. Ron Downing came to Ohio State to recruit teachers for Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. I was delighted to be asked and signed a contract for the years 1956-58. Then I went to Bitburg AF, Germany with Mr. Downing.
Never have I known such camaraderie as the days in Puerto Rico. There is something unique about island living that draws people closer together. We were in our friends weddings, traveled to the Caribbean islands together and joined in all the base activities. The Base was our life – all socializing and sports events revolved around being with our friends there. Continue reading
I was hired by Richard Meyering on July 23, 1946, as an instructor with the Dependents Schools in the European Theater. I was very excited about going to a foreign country to teach.
Eight Michigan teachers left Ann Arbor together for New York City on September 10, 1946. They were Donna Baker, Pearl Baxter, Philemena Falls, Alta Fisher, Constance Morrison, Roberta Snyder, Grace Van Wert and Kathryn Wilkenson. We were scheduled to travel on the General Alexander (I believe that was the name) but it hit a mine on its trip from Germany to New York so we were delayed in New York for ten days until September 20 when we left on the General Richardson. Continue reading
These reminiscences date from the years 1953 – 1954 that I spent working for the Army’s Dependent School Division, Northern Area Command. While all three have to do with my MG” they are not about the car but rather, about the kindness I experienced in Germany.
IN THE NICK OF CRIME
When I returned to my Frankfurt teaching station (Frankfurt American Elementary School) after a Washington’s Birthday holiday observance that I’d spent on a visit to pre-Wall Berlin via rail, I noticed that my MG wasn’t where I’d parked it. (This was in February of 1954.) Continue reading
Reminiscences of my first year teaching with the dependent schools was in, 1955 and 1956 in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany, a former capital city, rich in history, culture and location. It was a wonderful background setting for me to teach a combination of grades two and three.
My sister Nancy was assigned to teach grade one. Six grades were taught in a former shoe factory by a faculty that represented several States, as did the military personnel. The relationship and cooperation of the military families was great for a successful academic year.
Besides teaching, I studied German to add to my list of languages which I used in singing lessons. I gave a fine recital in one of the oldest Stathalle’s of the city that spring. Continue reading
Life begins at 40″ was not the lure which prompted me to ask the St. Louis Board of Education for a “Leave of Absence” in mid-term from my top-pay position as a 19-year-veteran earning $5000.00 yearly. Rather it inspired me to attempt a whole new way of life when the death of my mother severed filial ties, even though it meant nearly a $1,000.00 cut in salary. (I figured transportation and lodging, less income tax would make up the difference.)
Having decided to go, I had to research, “Where is Tripoli?” since all I knew was the song, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli” and the library didn’t yield much more information! I received instructions to bring “lots of formals and swim clothes,” which meant a frenetic shopping spree in mid-winter since it was January when I received confirmation of my acceptance. 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
Memories of Elite First Decade DODDS Teachers”
When I was in college at New Mexico Highlands University, I’d hear “Far Away Places” and in my heart I knew that song contained a secret message for me. So I started pursuing my goal of “traveling in far-away places!” I think it meant Europe.
In 1954, by then a college grad and teacher in Albuquerque, I applied for a job as a DODDS teacher through Washington, D.C. from an article in the newspaper. Beautiful French Morocco, near Casablanca, was my first assignment. Aside from the washing machines in the BOQ’s and colorful Arabs everywhere I turned on base, it was very much like Albuquerque – warm weather, golden sunshine, and cactus plants. Continue reading
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
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