Peace Corps At Day One: #12 The Very First PCV

Within the RPCV crowd from those early days there is a lot of joshing about who was first in Training, first in-country, first on the job. Mostly the discussion (argument?) goes on with RPCV from Ghana, Tanganyika, Colombia, and the Philippines. (The rest of us couldn’t care less.)

But for the record:
Colombia I started Training on 6/25/61 (48 Trainees)
Tanganyika on 6/25/61 (35 Trainees)
Ghana on 7/2/61 (51 Trainees)
Nigeria I on 7/24/61 (39 Trainees)
Nigeria II on 9/18/61 (24 Trainees)
Nigeria III on 9/20/61 (45 Trainees)
Sierra Leone on 11/7/61 (32 Trainees)
Philippines I on 7/13/61 (272 Trainees in 4 Training Projects)
Philippines II on 8/25/61
Philippines III on 12/7/61
Philippines IV on 3/29/62
Thailand on 10/9/61 (45 Trainees)
Chile on 7/20/61 (45 Trainees)
St. Lucia on 8/1/61 (15 Trainees)
India on 10/1/61 (26 Trainees)
Pakistan-West 9/15/61 (28 Trainees)
Pakisten-East 8/30/61 (29 Trainees)
Malaya I 10/16/61 (67 Trainees)

We also know that Ghana arrived first overseas, landing in Accra on September 1, 1961, so they can claim that record.

But who was the very first PCV? Who was #000001?

That’s a harder question to answer, but one person, a Volunteer who went to the Philippines, has a pretty good claim to the honor, and thanks to Maureen Carroll (Philippines 1961-63; PC/Staff  DC 1963-68; CD/Botswana 1991-93; PC/Staff DC 1993-99) who alerted me, I found through emails RPCV Pera Daniels (Philippines 1961-63) who lives in Nevada and he wrote to say, “There are many definitions of the “first” volunteer so I am careful in talking about it.”

Nevertheless, this is the story that Pera tells, all these years later, and it is an interesting tale to tell when someone asks: “How did you get into the Peace Corps?”

“In January, 1961,” Pera wrote me, “I had completed all my course work for a BA degree at San Francisco State College.  I took a little longer to graduate than most because I worked full time while going to school.   The brokerage firm that I worked for offered me a full time professional job at that time but I asked them to wait a couple of months so I could see our country.

“I hopped on a Greyhound bus and puddle-jumped across the country arriving in the D.C. area around the end of February or early March.  After a week of sightseeing, I saw an article in the Washington Post that the Peace Corps was opening an office on Lafayette Square.  Curious to discover what this organization was all about, I went to find out.

“I arrived early in the morning, and typical of the Peace Corps organization during those years, there was no office but a building and a moving truck.  As I recall there were two women who seemed to be in charge and they were moving these large boxes from the moving van to the third floor of this building.  Like a true volunteer, I offered to help.  Again, as I recall, there were three others like me, plus a Washington Post reporter.

“After we were interviewed and all the boxes were moved to the third floor, the other three ‘volunteers’ and I talked about what it would be like to join the Peace Corps.  They had all filled out applications before so they talked me into filling one out also.  It seems that the boxes we took upstairs contained all the applications.  So, I went back upstairs, filled out an application and placed it on top of the stack.  I can only assume that the next morning they started to process the applications and mine was entered as the first Peace Corps Volunteer.”

Now, of course, we are left with a new mystery: Who were those other three guys?

13 Comments

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  • John, Your history is just fascinating. Thank you.

    I have a technical question. What is the source for your stats on the first training groups? I had thought for years that if a real history of Peace Corps were ever to be attempted (and it would fill an archive)that the building block would be the history of each training group. I made a FOIA request to get a list of all the Peace Corps training groups. My first answer was bizarre. The so-called training list for Colombia is still posted on peacecorspedia. The list is nonsense. Finally, I received a list of the groups from the mid-ninties forward. The response also said that Peace Corps keeps a list of each training group for seven years and then the list is destroyed.

  • My stats, Joey, come from the Peace Corps 1st Annual Report to Congress for the Fiscal Year that ended on June 30, 1962. I presume that it is accurate. John

  • To clarify the historical record. Colombia I arrived at Rutgers University on September 25th, 1961. It had 81 trainees Training officially began the following day at 8:00 AM and the tour of duty lasted the full two years. Shriver showed up at Rutgers on the first day. The information is in the press and in the National Archives.

    Tanganyika started training on the same day (in Texas) a few hours later.

  • Thanks, Don. That means that the Peace Corps 1st Annual Report to Congress for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1962 is wrong in their Congressional Report. The Annual Report lists two Training Programs: Colombia I, starting 6/25/61, and Colombia II, starting 2/5/62.

    The two programs list a total of 103 Trainees.
    I was sent a photo of Colombia I and counted (I think) 50 Trainees and used that number.

    John

  • John, Thank you very much. I never thought to check the Peace Corps Annual Report to Congress. It may well be that all the training groups for each year are listed in those annual reports. Those reports are public documents and are available in our public library.

  • Don Reinaldo, Your information is incorrect. Colombia I started training in June of 1961. I expect Dennis Grubbs to shortly correct your account.

  • The following comment is copied/pasted from Peace Corps Connect/Friendso of Colombia page/Historyof Peace Corps discussion.

    Mike Wilson was a member of Colombia I.

    Reply by mike willson on September 7, 2009 at 10:56am
    colombia I was the first pc group, as we entered training june 25th, 1961, at 9 a.m. at rutgers university on the east coast. the second group, tanganyika I, also entered training on the same day, but in texas; hence, two hours later than colombia I. ghana I, the first pc group overseas, did not enter training until june 29th. according to more than one of the shriver books, c.d. was one of the first concepts, if not the first. those were the days of the b.a. generalists. training was also conducted at camps radley and crozier in puerto rico very early on. the camps were named for larry radley and david crozier, two colombia I volunteers who were the first pc volunteers to die in service. you might want to contact mert cregger, who was head of the care mission in 1961 when we arrived, for info on what care was doing prior to their pc connection. his email is floydcregger@bellsouth.net. the departamento de accion comunal was led by dr. pizano, and was functioning when we arrived, and many of us had promotores from a.c. working with us.

  • Maybe the way to solve the mystery (at least in an “official” way) is with our PC numbers. Mine was 171452. I don’t know what the 171 was, but we were India 45, and I was #2 on the roster. When I travel, I still wear the thin gold id bracelet I made up for myself in 1967 with that number on the back. I figure that if I end up dazed and confused on some distant tropical beach, someone can look at my wrist and say, “Why, she was a Peace Corps volunteer. Let’s buy that girl a nimbu pani” (or words to that effect).

  • John…you are the best, thanks for this bit of history some of us who are crazy enough that we want to know! But as my dear and close friend Henry Jibaja has said many times…Henry was/is part of Colombia ! and later an APCD in Colombia. Henry said…Ghana was first because they did not complete the same days of training that Colombia and the others did! So, Henry and the Colombia One group will tell you and the world…Colombia One was the first, they will be at the 50th, holding the flag…I hear Colombia One may invite Pressident Uribe to march with them! Thanks…Bob
    Bob Arias
    Peace Corps Response Volunteer/Panama 2009-2010
    RPCV/Colombia 1964-66
    APCD Colombia 1968-73

  • Right , Grubb checking in on the confusing dates…Don Reinaldo is confusing completion of training for Colombia I , September 25 with the start date June 25, 1961. Since I lived in Connecticut ( 95 miles away) I was the first to arrive at the training site in New Brunswick, N.J.

    I am not one of the three guys referred in the Pera Daniels story , but the first vol in Shriver’s words. !! While sheparding Shriver around the PC Training Center in New Mexico in 1964, he kept refering to me as “the first volunteer ” in his remarks to trainees. I tried to correct him, saying I was in the first group, Colombia I and he replied ,” Not to worry, Dennis as far as I am concerned you are the first volunteer whom I remember .”

    God bless him, he can’t remember his family members now!!!

    Dennis Grubb
    Colombia ( 1961-63)

  • In the mid-sixties, I worked with Pera Daniels. He related his stories about having the Peace Corps serial number: 000001. He said that periodically he would be invited to the White House, because of that serial number. What a beautiful person. We worked together in the Naval Supply Systems Command, in work that today seems to be quite irrelevant to the well-being of the world. Later in the mid-seventies I worked for the US Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare. I again found Pera Daniels, who then worked for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. I moved away from DC, but always hoped that Pera was well. God bless him.

  • Pera Daniels was a PCV with the first Philippines group (1961-63) and retired several years ago from government service (Health & Human Services.) He lives today, I believe, in Reno. The first PCVs to the Philippines, as I recall, arrived in Manla in early October 1961.

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