“Once in Afghanistan”

RPCVs of Colorado are sponsoring an Anniversary Film Series to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. Tonight the film is “Once in Afghanistan.”

The website for the Colorado Returned Peace Corps states:

Synopsis:  Returned Peace Corps Volunteers recall their experiences as female members of Afghan male vaccinator teams in the late 60s.The women vividly recall trying to convince the women to be vaccinated and their dependence on the Afghan counterparts and the people in the villages. Their stories and photographs go behind the walls where people of completely different backgrounds could recognize one another in spite of their differences. In a world in which messages of hate travel faster than ever before, this is a message of understanding.

There are materials available on line that helps to understand the context of Peace Corps/Afghanistan.  These include:

Walter P. Blass was the first Peace Corps Director in Afghanistan and this is part I of his recollections.


Peace Corps in Afghanistan – List of articles available online at Peace Corps Online by RPCVs and Peace Corps staff.  I found this really fascinating information.


The National Archives has recently posted online some State Department cables. This is one describing programs in Afghanistan, including Peace Corps, during the late 70s.



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  • With due respect, I was NOT the first Peace Corps Country Director in Afghanistan. That honor goes to Robert L. Steiner Jr. whom I replaced in 1966. He started the program in 1962 with a couple of handfuls of PCV’s and by the time I got to Kabul there were some 200 + Volunteers in the country. Bob has been posted to Iran some months earlier to straighten out that program, and Bob McCluskey was the Acting Director in Kabul. I managed the program of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, vaccinators, hydrologists, teachers, accountants, secretaries, even one commercial artist from 1966 to 1968 and was replaced by Ray Feichtmeir.

  • Director Blass,

    Thank you so much for the correction. I had read your memoir on peacecorpsonline.org and just assumed, without checking, that you were the first Director.

    I think it would be great if you would comment on the documentary, “Once in Afghanistan” and the State Department assessment of the program, later than your tenure. You managed such a contingent of medical personnel, that I think your insight would be invaluable.

  • I have recently been in email contact with Mr. Walter Blass, and he has been extremely helpful with my research for a book about three PC volunteers who were nurses in Baghlan from 1968-70. Jo Carter, Nan O’Rourke, Mary Simpson, and Peaches (Georgia) Joyal were part of Group 13. I am still trying to locate the following people:
    Ken Johnson, medical director
    Harry Tillery
    Carter Hoffman
    Kathleen and John (Rick) Lynaugh

    The book is “Little Women of Baghlan,” and more information can be found at the website, http://www.littlewomenofbaghlan.com

  • Dear Joanne, I was a PC nurse In Kandahar, Afhanistan from 1966 to 68. Walter Blass was the country director then with George O’Bannon. My wedding reception was held in the Blass home. I would dearly love to get in touch with Walter. I was in Afghan IIV and my husband was in Afghan X.

    Do you know how I can do this.
    Most hopefully, Sheila (Mclaughlin) Harley

  • Dear Sheila,

    There is a comment right above the one you posted, with the following email, although no name.


    This person states that she(?) has recently been in contact with Bill Blass.

    I had no contact directly with Bill Blass other than what he had posted here on Peace Corps World Wide. He also had an portion of his memoir posted on peacecorpsonline.org.

    Good Luck.

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