2007.04.03: April 3, 2007: Headlines: COS - Micronesia: COS - Marshall Islands: COS - Palau: COS - Fiji: COS - Kiribati: COS - Solomon Islands: COS - Tuvalu: COS - Vanuatu: COS - Tonga: Guam PDN: Joe Murphy writes: Early members of Peace Corps brought along ideas of freedom and independence to Pacific Islands

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Micronesia: Peace Corps Micronesia : Peace Corps Micronesia: Newest Stories: 2007.04.03: April 3, 2007: Headlines: COS - Micronesia: COS - Marshall Islands: COS - Palau: COS - Fiji: COS - Kiribati: COS - Solomon Islands: COS - Tuvalu: COS - Vanuatu: COS - Tonga: Guam PDN: Joe Murphy writes: Early members of Peace Corps brought along ideas of freedom and independence to Pacific Islands

By Admin1 (admin) (adsl-70-240-139-254.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.240.139.254) on Tuesday, April 03, 2007 - 8:28 am: Edit Post

Joe Murphy writes: Early members of Peace Corps brought along ideas of freedom and independence to Pacific Islands

Joe Murphy writes: Early members of Peace Corps brought along ideas of freedom and independence to Pacific Islands

"The United States seemed to give up acquiring more land during and after World War II. They didn't get any in Europe and let the Philippines become independent. In fact, most of Asia gained independence. With the idea of Manifest Destiny behind us, you have to wonder what went through John F. Kennedy's mind when he suggested the formation of the Peace Corps. Did he think that sending out thousands of young, bright Americans would allow the islands to become a legitimate part of the United States? The strange thing about the Peace Corps involvement with the islands is that they never seemed to push the American flag on the people. In fact, there is evidence that says just the opposite. It was the Peace Corps members who worked hard to convey to the islanders the idea of being independent. Or, in Saipan's case, the idea of a Commonwealth with the United States. I don't know what the history books will say about all this, but it was my conclusion that Peace Corps volunteers, imbued with the idea of freedom and independence, brought both to Micronesia. Hooray for them. I'm pretty sure that this is what happened in Palau, as well as other places. I would like to know how JFK felt about all this."

Joe Murphy writes: Early members of Peace Corps brought along ideas of freedom and independence to Pacific Islands

Early members of Peace Corps brought along ideas of freedom, independence

Once, a long time ago, the United States came up with the policy of Manifest Destiny. That is the reason that Joe Cruz and 150,000 others on this island are called Americans.

In those days, toward the end of the last century, the United States decided to go along with its European cousins -- Spain, Germany, Britain, Portugal and France -- and get some property. It was at a time when Japan and China were making waves. The idea was to move into the Pacific to stop the Asian nations cold.

The Spanish-American war was fought and the United States acquired Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. World War II developed and we had to bitterly fight for most of the islands, wresting them away from Japan. We then acquired the Northern Marianas. None of this was easy. Then came the United Nations, which assigned most of the islands of the Pacific to the United States under a trusteeship.
This history lesson is a prelude to a topic dear to my heart. The Peace Corps recently celebrated 40 years of service in the Pacific islands.

The United States seemed to give up acquiring more land during and after World War II. They didn't get any in Europe and let the Philippines become independent. In fact, most of Asia gained independence.

With the idea of Manifest Destiny behind us, you have to wonder what went through John F. Kennedy's mind when he suggested the formation of the Peace Corps. Did he think that sending out thousands of young, bright Americans would allow the islands to become a legitimate part of the United States?

To get some answers I went to my good friend, and a former Peace Corps member, Dirk Anthony Ballendorf, the eminent history professor at the University of Guam.

He told me that the Peace Corps arrived in Micronesia about the same time I did, in July of 1966. The best thing about the Peace Corps people was that they were all required to learn the language of the people of wherever they stayed.

The headquarters for the Peace Corps for this area was in Saipan, which was then the administrative center for the Trust Territory. I remember being over in Saipan and meeting some of the early arrivals.

The strange thing about the Peace Corps involvement with the islands is that they never seemed to push the American flag on the people. In fact, there is evidence that says just the opposite. It was the Peace Corps members who worked hard to convey to the islanders the idea of being independent. Or, in Saipan's case, the idea of a Commonwealth with the United States.

I don't know what the history books will say about all this, but it was my conclusion that Peace Corps volunteers, imbued with the idea of freedom and independence, brought both to Micronesia. Hooray for them. I'm pretty sure that this is what happened in Palau, as well as other places. I would like to know how JFK felt about all this.

The official request for Peace Corps volunteers came in 1962. It was William V. Vitarelli, then special assistant to the high commissioner of the Trust Territories, who made the request on behalf of the administration. However, since the Peace Corps was still very new, its priorities were with underdeveloped countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and these requests were filled first.

In 1965, the request was renewed and plans were made to mount a very large program in Micronesia. At the time, Jack Hood Vaughn was the director of the Peace Corps; he was a former U.S. ambassador to Panama. The director of the Far East Division was Dr. Ross Pritchard, and the first Peace Corps director in Micronesia was John Pincetich. There were six Trust Territory districts at the time and each had a district director. Jerry Fite was the director of the Marianas District; Leo Moss of the Yap district; Ballendorf of the Palau district; Robert Gould of the Truk district; Joseph Royce of the Ponape district; and James Huttar of the Marshalls district.

Vitarelli is alive and living in retirement in Honolulu at age 95.

The Peace Corps volunteers worked in a variety of programs: fisheries, education, nursing, physical therapists, lawyers, civil engineers, architects, agriculturalists, and others.

I have always believed it was a great program, bringing young Americans out into the real world to see how the other half lived. It always brought islanders and others a taste of America. Many married local girls and boys. Some were journalists, others were bankers and still others educators.

Volunteers were paid the grand sum of 11 cents an hour. Each one had a $15 monthly living allowance, with all medical expenses provided. At the end of Peace Corps service, each volunteer received a lump sum of money -- around $2,000 each.

When Ballendorf arrived in Micronesia, his daughter Heidi was four years old. His second child, Anton, born in Koror, was the first Peace Corps baby born in Micronesia.

I remember flying into Ulithi in the mid-1960s and was somewhat surprised to see the Peace Corps ladies imitating the topless habits of the natives. I had no problem with that.

Joe Murphy is a former editor of the Pacific Daily News. Write him at jomurph@netpci.com.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: April, 2007; Peace Corps Micronesia; Directory of Micronesia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Micronesia RPCVs; Peace Corps Marshall Islands; Directory of Marshall Islands RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Marshall Islands RPCVs; Peace Corps Palau; Directory of Palau RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Palau RPCVs; Peace Corps Fiji; Directory of Fiji RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Fiji RPCVs; Peace Corps Kiribati; Directory of Kiribati RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Kiribati RPCVs; Peace Corps Solomon Islands; Directory of Solomon Islands RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Solomon Islands RPCVs; Peace Corps Tuvalu; Directory of Tuvalu RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Tuvalu RPCVs; Peace Corps Vanuatu; Directory of Vanuatu RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Vanuatu RPCVs





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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Micronesia; COS - Marshall Islands; COS - Palau; COS - Fiji; COS - Kiribati; COS - Solomon Islands; COS - Tuvalu; COS - Vanuatu; COS - Tonga

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