A Selection of Peace Corps Firsts

For those keeping score, here is more data on ‘who’s first?’

On January 14, 1960, Congressman Henry Reuss (D. Wis) introduced a bill for a study of a “Point Four Youth Corps” plan. It is passed.

On June 15, 1960, Senator Hubrt Humphrey (D. Minn) introduces a bill calling for establishment of a “Peace Corps.” It is not passed.

On June 24, 1961, Colombia I begins Training.

On August 30, 1961, The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers departs for Ghana. The 51 Volunteers are serving as secondary school teachers.

On September 12, 1961, Tom Livingston from Woodale, Illinois became the first Peace Corps Volunteer when he took up his post as an English teacher at a secondary school in Dodowa, Ghana.

On September 22, 1961, Congress formally approves the Peace Corps by passing an act.

On November 11, 1961, First marriage between Peace Corps Volunteers: Carol Armstrong and Roger Hamilton in Accra, Ghana.

The first three Volunteers to die overseas were David Crozier and Lawrence Radley in a plane crash in Columbia and David Mulholland of a liver abscess in the Philippines in 1962.

In March, 1964, the Pleace Corps leaves a country for the first time: Cyprus because of fighting between Greece and Turkey.

From March 5-7, 1965, the first national Returned Volunteer Conference held in Washington, D.C.

In 1966, th Peace Corps fielded more volunteers and trainees–a total of 15,565–than it did during any other years.

On November 10, 1977, Carolyn Payton confirmed as Peace Corps Director, the first woman to hold the post.

In November 1978, the first RPCV is elected to the U.S. Senate: Paul Tsongas (D. Mass), a PCV in Ethiopia 1962-64.

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  • John–Malawi got there first PCVs in 1963. They left in 1972, and re-entered in 1979.

    Not sure about being the first to be kicked out.

    For example, Guinea got their first Volunteers in 1964, departed in 1967, re-entered in 1969, and left again in 1971. This, however, I’m sure had to do with country unrest than anything else.

  • When the Peace Corps began, the two years of service included the time in training. Colombia One arrived at Rutgers University on June 25, 1961 and started training at 8:00 AM EDT June 26th. Tanganyika began two hours later on the same day.

  • The first instance of Peace Corps operating in a country where the U.S. military invaded occurred in the Dominican Republic in 1965. Peace Corps adapted and continued its operations throughout the period that the U.S. Marines and the 82nd Airborne conducted military operations, separating the factions of the 1965 Dominican Revolution, until a settlement could be negotiated. They remained until the Dominicans carried out an election of a new government. In the midst of hostilities, Peace Corps nurses along with several other PCVs assisted Dominican Doctors and health personnel in running the hospitals, finding themselves in the position of removing both American and Dominican bullets from wounded fighters. The PCV nurses, who were assigned to a nurse training project, were praised by the Dominican doctors who said they could not have kept the hospitals open without the help of the PCVs. The PCVs valiantly remained in the hospitals even under the real dangers of injury or death, and refused orders from Washington to leave their posts, doing so only many days later after the fighting was over and the hospitals were out of emergency status.

    Steve Honoré
    APCD/DR 1963-1966
    RPCV/ Colombia I

  • To be completely accurate:

    Ghana I departed National Airport August 29, 1961.
    Ghana I arrived in Accra August 30, 1961.
    At arrival, there were 50 PCVs in the group (and we did NOT
    sing the Ghana National anthem in Twi).

    Bob Klein
    Ghana 1961-1963

  • Thanks, Bob…Coates Redmon quotes at length what Pat Kennedy had to say about the Ghana I arrival in her book Come As You Are published in 1986 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Kennedy, who was the staff member for the Peace Corps, said the Ghanian Embassy send-off in Washington, D.C. was on August 31, 1961. The flight took twenty-one hours by a propellor-driven DC-7. It was a Pan American World Airways plane that was repainted Peace Corps Clipper on the fuselage.

    Pat Kennedy says that the group practiced singing the Ghanian national anthem for most of the journey. He says that the rehearsal paid off, and that the Volunteers sang the antheem in Twi to the Ghanians on arrival. Radio Ghana recorded the whole thing, even Ken Baer, speaking in Twi the famous Peace Corps line, “We have come to learn as well as to teach.”

    So, you and Pat have two versions of the same arrival. Typical Peace Corps!

  • First Peace Corps baby: Robin Adesode Danielson born in Sapele, Nigeria May 16, 1962. Parents: Judith Frese Danielson and David Arthur Danielson, who arrived in Nigeria in December 1961, and were high school teachers in Benin, Nigeria after training at UCLA.

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